2008 Beijing Olympic Games

The giant ear of corn at the closing ceremony

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Out goes the torch

Beijing's turn at hosting the Olympic Games came to an end last night with a spectacular closing ceremony that, like the opening ceremony, featured a huge cast, people suspended in mid-air, pop stars singing songs of love and friendship, and lots of fireworks.

How did the night of the 25th compare to the 8th? Chris Waugh at the bezdomny ex patria blog writes:

It was spectacular, in some ways even more so than the opening ceremony. Actually, I couldn’t help but wonder if Zhang Yimou had gotten the inspiration by dropping a shitload of acid and spent three days straight reading Dr Seuss and watching Tim Burton films.

That was just the Chinese segment; London, which will host the Games in 2012, was given eight minutes to show its stuff, which turned out to be a flip-top double-decker bus, Jimmy Page rocking "Whole Lotta Love," and David Beckam....kicking a soccer ball.

So there was a lot to enjoy, but like the opening ceremony, there was a lot to complain about, if you so desired.

He Dong, an entertainment reporter and host of a Phoenix TV interview show, cared neither for the ceremony nor the breathless reporter who called him up for his thoughts on the subject. His account of the conversation is pretty entertaining, particularly the dig he gets in at the sartorial taste of a certain members of the leadership.

Superlatives at this closing ceremony

by He Dong

After watching a bit of the closing ceremony, I got a little dazed, and I was almost put into a trance by my mother's steady snoring that accompanied the television.

I continued to watch, going into a stupor.

When the ceremony was drawing to a close, my mobile phone suddenly rang....

I answered it. It was someone in the media, who asked excitedly, "Did you watch the closing ceremony?"

"Hmm....," I rubbed my eyes and tried to wake up. "I'm watching it now. Why?"

"I'd like to interview you right now. OK?"

"No problem."

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Placido Domingo and Song Zuying sing "The Flame of Love"

"What, in your opinion, was the high point of this closing ceremony?"

"It probably was when Brother Domingo led the light-bulb-clad Song Zuying in that jasmine love song...."

"How well do you think they worked together?"

"Wonderfully! There's obviously something going on between them. On the one side there was Brother Domingo, and on the other, light bulb Granny Zu, a pile of glittering jasmine light bulbs calling us to go out and fight!"

"What do you....?"

"This is a spontaneous interview, right? Shouldn't I say what I think?"

"....so, then, which part made the deepest impression on you?"

"Of course it was the scaffolding tower. And all those people on it, wriggling around and speculating on real estate."

"Is there anyone whose performance you thought was decent?"

"Of course: Dong Qing and Zhu Jun [the CCTV commentators]. They learned a lesson about logorrhea from Sun Zhengping and Zhou Tao last time, so for the most part they maintained their right to remain silent so it couldn't be used against them. I propose that BOCOG give them a retroactive "least willing to speak" prize of jasmine-scented jade.

"Hey. Here...."

"You can't publish this?"

"Right. There's no this can get published."

"Thank you."

I laughed as I hung up.

Suddenly, the memory of growing jasmine flowers at home when I was younger returned to me. When you first sniffed them, they'd be just a little bit fragrant, but after a while your nose would be stung by the stench of decay, just like how you can taste the flavor of chicken shit after eating too many eggs.

Also, Brother Domingo's trousers were too low at the waist: they should have been cut so that he could buckle a belt around his chest. That's the way to do it.


The comments section following He Dong's post was fairly lively. Here's one from "Dr. Tingting" (婷婷博士), who found the London segment much more satisfying than Zhang Yimou's spectacle:

Indeed, it was pretty awful.

The scaffold for a firefighters' drill set up center-stage was pretty interesting, with the firefighters whooshing down the lines and then crawling back up again. A victory for fire prevention education puts the whole country at ease.

[Singer] Zhang Ye and the rest of them stood below the tower like ants. You could hardly hear their voices, and then in the end Andy Lau was out of luck again....

Sister Song's costume actually complemented Domingo's black suit quite well. The song was pretty good. It was really gentle. Who'd have thought Zhang Yimou could escape the grand themes and do something so tender and sentimental!

The UK's eight minutes were classic. Those few short minutes of European street art and street culture felt really good. Maybe culture is something nearby, something every resident of a city can take part in. Culture isn't just made up of lofty, arcane things like the compass and printing.

The bus metaphor was pretty interesting. As a crowd of people strove to get on the bus to the London Olympics, a girl emerged and climbed up the human ladder.....Beckham's kick seemed to mean absolutely nothing, but wasn't that simply saying that there's nothing mysterious about the Olympics, that it's just a grand athletic pageant?

ESWN translates some other online reactions that aren't as positive.

Did all the pageantry mean anything? Wu Yan, a science fiction critic, examined the scaffold more closely in a blog post that explained why he felt the closing ceremony was more successful than the opening ceremony:

Why did I like the closing ceremony better?

by Wu Yan

The closing ceremony to the Beijing Olympics was better than the opening ceremony, in my opinion. The opening ceremony was a national-level event that mobilized the country's best arts troupes, but the closing ceremony better exhibited Beijing's essential condition. This was an event put on by Beijing, after all. As a Beijinger, I want Beijing to have face, too!

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Giant red corn, a massive satellite dish, or a burn building?

Out of the entire closing ceremony, I'd say I especially liked the frame that stood in the center. So why shouldn't that scaffold have all kinds of post-modern cultural readings?

First, it conveys that Beijing has always been swiftly-developing city, always a giant construction site! By extension, it shows the major contribution that migrant workers have made to the city.

Second, all those events in Beijing were not the work of just one or two people. Showing all those people participating in Beijing construction and having lots of people run back and forth on the stage is an expression of the reality of today's Beijing. In addition, they used Hong Kong style "bun snatching" climbing — what a rollicking sight!

Third, the scaffold and the red-clothed people on it can be taken to be a giant ear of red corn. Beijing's chief farm product is corn. Beijing was promoted during the Olympics, and promoting Beijing's agriculture is something that should be done as well.

Fourth, the colored ribbons shooting out from the top of the scaffold can be seen as forming a giant antenna, representing Beijing's emergence into the high-tech space age. Don't think so? The astronaut training base is here in Beijing. Many major parts of the space program are in Beijing. And the dish antenna is the symbol of space communications equipment. Beijing is heading high-tech, and the antenna is a clue that the director successfully buried in the program.

Fifth, Beijing currently puts out too many pollutants into the environment, and outside pests frequently reduce crop yields. Therefore, having people move up and down the "red corn" like insects could reflect current anxieties over pest control. As the most transparent region in the country, Beijing cannot be expected to only report good news and not bad.

Sixth, the opening ceremony mostly stressed Chinese traditional culture but did not express the mass-participation aspects of the Olympics, so the closing ceremony therefore put popular Beijing sports activities on display, with things like biking and running. Constructive criticism from overseas was taken to heart.

In conclusion, I believe that this closing ceremony was more successful than the opening ceremony because it was more in line with the Olympic spirit, China's national conditions, and Beijing's local color and administration.

I fully affirm this closing ceremony!


Of course, the "Olympic season" continues for another month, but I doubt we'll find this sort of outpouring of emotion and criticism for the Paralympics. It should be a good time to watch some sports, though.

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Beijing Olympics: London 2012 handover blow to British pride 
  For the past couple of weeks it has been possible to feel an unaccustomed glow of pride at the achievements of our athletes at the Beijing Olympics. All those gold medals, fourth place in the league table – who would have dreamt it?
  
  Then came yesterday’s closing ceremony, and Britain’s eight-minute window of opportunity to invite the world to London 2012 as the breathless BBC commentators put it. And guess what? We blew it spectacularly.
  
[snipped. -JM]

I wonder if Jiang Zemin was there to enjoy Song Zuying's singing? Or will she put on a private performance just for him as she has in the past?

i honestly can't say which ceremony--opening or closing--i found to be less entertaining.

i fell asleep during both.

i did at least wake-up, however briefly, during "whole lotta love." robert plant looked a lot hotter than i remembered.

and yes, as He Dong suggests, all male public figures over the age of 40 should hoist their pants around their waists with faux-Valentino style pig-leather belts when proclaiming "the people."

Wow! I never thought of the closing ceremonies as fully representing Beijing.

The Whole Lotta Love Bus didn't work _at all_ on TV, that much is pretty clear.

But it utterly rocked in the stadium. I was there.

When you're looking at the edited highlights reel (which you will no doubt see more times than is healthy if you watch any local TV at all) listen for the stadium audience reactions -- they tell the story of how awesome it was to be there, and how effective one man and a guitar actually was.

On TV you see what the event director shows you, with the cameras he has, pointing at whatever the camera operators are pointing at.

In the stadium, you see the "whole thing" and get to focus on whatever catches your interest.

To put it into the ever-popular "Mastercard" format:

Bottles of water (so you don't sweat to death): 6 kuai
Nose-bleed seats: 800 kuai
Huge impressive "human flame" gantry: Millions of RMB

Playing "Whole Lotta Love" at full volume 50 yards away from the assembled Central Committee: Priceless.

The sight of the 60+ year-old Jimmy Page playing the sexually suggestive "Whole Lotta Love" in front of the entire Politburo was awful - and classic.

Both ceremonies - opening and closing - were unimpressive. Perhaps Zhang Yimou said it best when he suggested that only China and North Korea have the ability to stage such displays. I'm just glad it's all over.

Yet another rumor: people say the scroll that the british(?) athlete(?) hold before boarding is an Imperial Decree of Middle Kingdom to authorize London's legitimacy of next Olympics. Zhang Yimou was obviously eating Tofu of brits.

link


Everyone I know who doesn't really care about US-China relations (ie unbiased) thought it was great. And it kinda was.

I thought the opening ceremony was 10X better than the closing. It was Chinese...and wouldn't have worked anywhere else. But I thought the crowd-motion characteristics that are most spectacular about Zhang's recent movies shined through. As for the closing ceremony, it looked like the typical tacky ceremony that I was expecting (and didn't get) during the opening ... bicycle helmets?! Everyone's got a different opinion -- as I can see.

It was ok, not incredible. All the people at the beginning with bike helmets on but no bikes looked silly. In fact, everything before the teams ran on was pointless & silly. I really enjoyed seeing the athletes from around the world so jubilantly mix together. The opening was about China, the closing about world fraternity, what the Olympics should be about. The Chinese were pretty subdued compared to everyone else. If there was ever a time to open up. Kaiser Kuo says Olympic tears show Chinese aren't emotionless. Well. the failure to party at their own party says different. I worry about their health, keeping your feelings bottled up is not good for you. Maybe they think they were preserving face, nonsense. Later, there were too many songs, some of which were written excruciatingly badly (Beijing Beijing, wo ai ni). The background music was always too Miss World or CCTV New Year Gala, The tower was impressive at first but over milked. The opera singers obviously didn't get along. I'm sure they could have thought of a more dramatic way to turn off the flame. Despite all those minor complaints, watching the people from all countries all having such fun uninhibited fun together made it heart lifting and all worthwhile. Someone should have told the Chinese team how important it was to fully join in the revelry. People around the world will remember them as stuck up or something.

"Culture isn't just made up of lofty, arcane things like the compass and printing."

Outstanding remark. Distills into fourteen words (or, if you're fussy, 23 characters) everything that was pompous and turgid about the opening and closing ceremonies.

I still enjoyed watching them, though. What can I say? I'm a sucker for cheap manipulation and VFX.

I thought the entire closing ceremony thing was just weird. I mean like really weird like WTF? Reminded me of lumpa lumpas at time, then an occult ritual, then a message to the aliens... Just weird and triped out (sort of)...But some of it was kind of cool. For the British part, I think their message is pretty damn clear!

How so? First, they come in on this red double decker bus, with London - Beijing -London sign, signifying that the globalists elites are planning on bringing the communist Police State system to Britain (big brother is watching. 7-7!!!). The symbolism here is western communism to China, then back again to the 'free' west, thus completing a cycle.

Then, the moods gets a little bit darker: the music, the lighting, all. Then the little girl steps on the backs of the people, i.e. on the backs of the people the Elites will rise! And into the BUS, which turns into a freakin TANK (signifiying the New Order. The police state! The people shall be crushed!) Then the pop star chick rises out of a plum of fire, signifying a rising missile! WWIII!

This ties back into later part of the show, the tower. The way the tower looked was like an explosion! Pay attention to what the Globalists are telling you!!!


It was watching the Dinner is served! skit with Lumiere in Beauty & The Beast.
I needed two days to digest it before I could belch up my thots.
The wardrobe person should be sentenced to a lifetime of cheap polyester outfits. What could be more severe in consumerist,label-driven modern China than that?
Domingo's soprano partner was dressed as though she had been released from the magic spell of the witch.
The chorus of divas were in colours that were like MidAutumn Lantern fest come early.
The saving grace was their beauty and talent; they were the blooms of Chinese womanhood.
That's the thing with director Zhang. Give him a big budget and he delivers a hit with a sledgehammer blow.
The London segment was clueless as Gordon Brown.
Where were the London bobbies, beefeaters, Palace Guards, Shakespearan characters, boy bands - even a pearly queen or two?
The world wanted English pomp and pageantry but what it got was the drabness.
English understatement is one thing, shooting yourself in the foot is another.
The commentator couldn't resist a low blow at China. He noted that the flags were fluttering,altho there wasn't a wind. ``They like to make things up in this country,'' snicker, snicker.
Talk about ungracious. Don't suppose medallists and supporters mind seeing their flag flying proudly, though, real wind or not.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I liked London's intro, except for the Jimmy Page/David Beckham part (even though I love Led Zep). At least it was contemporary and cool, and not trying to just impress viewers with the weight of Britain's history. Not emphasising history was also a good way to differentiate it from the Beijing Games - something that is a smart attitude from a marketing point of view.
Why they chose David Beckham and whole lotta love I don't know, though.

The Closing Ceremony was incredibly boring and I, like He Dong, was put to sleep during it. The one thing I noticed was that during the London segment, one of the wheelchair users got out of her chair, danced around, then got back into her chair, that sort of shocked me. Shouldn't London be criticized for using "fake" handicapped people?

What happened to the injured dancer rehearsing for the Opening Ceremonies.
Chinese people seem to be expendable?
Somebody update us about her condition?
Is the Government paying for her care, etc.

The ATHLETES are always the highlight of any Olympics. Congratulations to the Olympians!Having watched the FAKE portrayal of ... "ecstatically happy" Chinese is an oxymoron in itself given that they conned and tricked the World by pretending to showcase themselves as something they CLEARLY are not. Bigger does ... not mean better!! Whether you like it or not, Athens 2004 set the bar high and was truly the epitome of the Olympic Games from which even the Chinese BORROWED artistic elements i.e. in BOTH(!!) of THEIR ceremonies. Greece can indeed be delighted because ... imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I'm just glad the stupid thing is finally over.

I bet someone's got a large hole in their pocket, lol.

At least the Beijingers on the Beijinger gets a few buildings, so tis all good?

Beijing Beijing is beautiful song in the
Finally ceremony of Olympic games 2008 .

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