Monday, March 31, 2008
The Olympic Odyssey Begins
The Olympic flame for the Beijing Games is in the Chinese capital.
And what a welcoming ceremony the Chinese presented for a non-human object.
The flame, carried in a special lantern, was flown in on a chartered flight from Athens to Beijing and got the red carpet treatment.
A crowd of well wishers were on the tarmac frantically waving Chinese and Olympic flags as the president of the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) Liu Qi carried the lantern down the steps.
Then the flame and a delegation were driven in a specially-painted van to Tiananmen Square.
At the square, hundreds of invited guests watched the ultimate Chinese show -- women in strange lime green costumes complete with fuchsia flowers on their bottoms endlessly twirled plates on sticks, while people in white did an acrobatic routine that included throwing each other through the air.
Some men demonstrated their sword-dancing skills and dancers dressed in minorities costumes danced together like one big happy family.
When they finished the 20-minute show, the van with the flame still hadn't shown up. So there were several minutes of shots with nothing happening.
After some agonizing silence -- blame Beijing traffic -- the flame finally arrived and the rest of the proceedings went ahead, including several speeches by Liu, a representative from the International Olympic Committee and Vice President Xi Jinping.
Then President Hu Jintao had the honours of taking the torch, lighting the cauldron and then passing the torch to Olympic gold medallist Liu Xiang standing in short sleeves and shorts on a breezy spring day. He ran 200 meters with the flame and then that was the end of the broadcast.
Tomorrow the flame begins its around the world trip, starting with Almaty.
You know, the capital of Kazakhstan.