(1) CHINA MAGIC(2) 2,008 Drummers Give a Thunderous Welcome ; (1) Most Ambitious Olympics in History Opens with Most Spectacular Show(2) GILLIGAN'S VIEW (3) Triumphant Ceremony on Luckiest Day in Millennium
Gilligan, Andrew, The Evening Standard (London, England)
WITH a heart-stopping burst of fire, what we once called the Bamboo Curtain was raised today on the most ambitious Olympics in history.
Hundreds of pyrotechnic jets pierced the Beijing smog. Exactly 2,008 drummers hammered and shouted a thunderous beat of arrival. Twenty-nine colossal blazing footprints rose into the sky, charged towards the Bird's Nest stadium and fell to earth as the Olympic rings, before rising again. For China, before a TV audience of four billion, this was the luckiest moment in a thousand years.
It is, too, the start of something even bigger than an Olympic Games. It is, or at least is meant to be, the beginning of China's new era of greatness, witnessed and implicitly approved by much of the leadership of the planet. Today in the Bird's Nest there are 10,700 athletes from 204 countries, 91,000 spectators, more than 31,000 fireworks. But for the Paramount Leader, Hu Jintao watching from what looked like an official desk the number that mattered most was the 80 presidents and prime ministers who had come to endorse his nation's apotheosis. It is almost unprecedented for so many international leaders to attend an Olympics opening ceremony.
President Hu today gathered into his Nest George Bush, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Japan's Yasuo Fukuda, Nicolas Sarkozy, representing France and the EU, and a shoal of smaller fry. Sarkozy, for one, said he wouldn't be coming unless China improved its human rights record. It has done exactly the reverse. But there he was, clapping the pageant. China calls; the world, increasingly, comes. "Welcome, my friends," said the giant slogan projected onto the stadium sides. The leaders watched a display of two signature Chinese skills the new one, for technological prowess; and an older one, for the deployment of massed humanity.
Pillars, ornate and beautiful, rose from the floor. Only when they had reached a terrifying height did you notice there were dancers on them. To real excitement from the crowd, hundreds of dancers in fluorescent suits ran out. Suddenly each figure was lit up as they performed a series of intricate synchronised moves, culminating in a 250-member human sculpture of the Bird's Nest. A giant globe appeared, with Chinese dancers, aided by wires, walking all over it. And then we saw that it was the earth. The symbolism seemed pretty clear. Other recent opening ceremonies have struck a note of national reconciliation. …