China and the Olympics

Whatever your opinion on China or the Olympics, there is no doubt that international attention is focused on China, Beijing, and the Chinese.  It’s a great opportunity to check your biases at the door and take a look into a country that is often misunderstood by many.

As I watched the Opening Ceremony, I was amazed at the sheer impressive grandeur of the spectacle.  And what a spectacle, it was.  I just wish I had HD.  Of course, hardly any other country in the world has the economy or numbers to pull of such a show.

I did appreciate how Zhang Yimou, famous for films such as Red Sorghum, and Raise the Red Lantern, integrated 4 famous Chinese inventions into the ceremony.  Gunpowder was in abundance with the fireworks.  A gigantic Chinese scroll unfurled in the stadium to represent paper.  Movable type was impressive animated with huge blocks in the middle of the field.  And then the compass was also central in the last section of the performance.

It’s a performance that was very grand.  I find this grandeur is in line with how the Chinese have been doing thing these days ranging from the arts (movies like Curse of the Golden Flower and Hero) to architecture (like the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium and the Beijing Opera House).  Every thing seems to be done in the “Go bold, or go home” kind of thinking.

Sometimes, grandeur is a little cheesy, but I think Zhang Yimou pulled it off very well for this ceremony.

It’s important to throw aside all biases and just take in the opening ceremony and the Beijing Olympics as a great chance to learn more about China and Chinese culture.  As with all Olympics, TV stations will carry out cross-cultural segments to introduce the host country and host city to people.  Obviously, for a network like the CBC, it’s mostly a view of a Canadian interpreting what they see in China.  What more can a Canadian in China do?  All the same, I think it’s valuble to watch those segments.  In fact, I like watching those segments more than watching the sports some times.

I can’t say all these cultural segments will all be culturally accurate, but at least it gets the conversation going.  And getting a conversation, not a tirade on politics, going will help to keep us learning about enigmatic China.


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