Wednesday, August 27, 2008
In the last few days I've talked to a few local friends and colleagues about the Olympics and in particular the opening ceremonies.
And many of them panned it.
"It was nothing special," a girlfriend remarked. "It didn't say much about China."
Others felt the images artistic director Zhang Yimou were cliche and old fashioned.
Granted the people I talked to are from the post 80s generation in their 20s so they can be hard to please.
However many of my media friends from overseas who came to cover the Olympics -- and they have seen many opening ceremonies in their time -- were totally amazed.
They were so impressed by the precision of the performers (PLA soldiers) and the massive scale of the production. They loved the giant globe with people walking upside down and especially thought having former gymnast Li Ning light the torch the way he did was amazing.
Again the finale was panned by my local friends.
"Of course they would pick someone like him to do that," my girlfriend continued. "We all knew that already."
From the small pool of people I talked to, it seems the opening ceremony was more for the outside world than for the Chinese. It was a carefully choreographed sequence of images to show the world what China is about and what it is capable of doing.
And the 25,000 foreign journalists who descended on Beijing to report on the Games thought the people were so friendly and at times overly helpful, that they thought the entire city was like that.
The media village and the areas they worked in, the International Broadcast Center and Main Press Center were really a sanitized view of Beijing and China. It was like living in the Disneyland version of a big Chinese city.
Little do they realize what some locals really think about the Olympics or what living in Beijing is about.
And because people were so busy covering the events, they had little time to escape to see what's really going on in the city -- from people cooped up in their homes watching the Olympics on TV because they couldn't be bothered to deal with the crowds, to the congested subway lines, and not even able to do recreational sports like tennis or swimming because of "security reasons".
The 2008 Olympics created an image of a "harmonious society" and many reporters who parachuted in for the event are leaving with a warm fuzzy feeling.
And that's exactly what the government intended.