Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bird's Nest Soup

Like a lot of other people, I watched part of the elaborate opening ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad, as it is called, or perhaps the Third Despotic Olympics, late last week. Take note, tyrants of Beijing: roughly a decade after the Nazi Olympics and the Soviet Olympics respectively, both of those totalitarian states were gone, though I have to add that the Russian Federation seems eager to return to authoritarianism and Soviet-style imperialism, if not the full trappings of the workers' state.

"An extraordinary 15,000 performers were included in the opening ceremony, and almost two-thirds were members of the armed police and the People's Liberation Army, according to reports in the Chinese media," noted the Globe and Mail a few days ago. That only seems appropriate. A police state is putting on a show; why wouldn't police be involved?

Early on, I saw most of the "let 2,008 drummers drum" extravaganza, but went outside to mow the lawn ahead of the part that was supposed to illustrate Chinese history. Were there going to be 888 gymnasts doing a Long March on balance beams? What about 88 dancing intellectuals in dunce caps, prodded along by 888 Red Guard dancers, to warmly recall those spirited days of the Cultural Revolution? I had a feeling I wasn't going to miss anything like that, so I attended to yard work ahead of sundown.

Afterwards, I returned in time to see the dancing on the huge luminous globe, a tribute to the '08 slogan, "One World, One Dream, No Interfering in China's Internal Affairs," and the lighting of the torch, both of which drew heavily on the "flying Chinese" motif established so well by martial arts movies. Despotism or not, I have to give the Chinese their due: it all seemed like a spectacle and a half. For all my disparaging remarks, if I could have teleported to the Bird's Nest to see it myself, I would have, instantly.

Still, the London Games would do well not to ape this show, but instead try for something simpler, more focused on individuals, rather than masses. China's got masses, that's for sure. Western Civilization is about something else.

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