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Olympics: Preview Spectacular Opening Ceremony

Friday, August 8, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) — Everything about the Beijing Olympics is on a huge scale and organisers intend to start as they mean to go on judging by their plans for Friday's opening ceremony, a three-hour 'spectacular'.

But the longer the performance, the greater the chance of something going wrong and, having invested so much time and effort in bringing the Games to China, officials will be desperate to ensure their grandiose plans go off without a hitch.

Some 15,000 performers are set to take part, with 29,000 fireworks due to be released into the night sky.

The ceremony is also due to see Chinese pop star Liu Huan, together with British singer Sarah Brightman, sing a specially commissioned theme song in the closing 'artistic' section.

Yet for many genuine sports fans around the world, the opening ceremony of the Games are something of a puzzle, delaying the serious business of competition for little obvious benefit.

However, ever since athletes first walked in behind their flags, which were expected to be dipped before Britain's King Edward VII, at the 1908 Games in London, the opening ceremony has increasingly become an opportunity for the host nation to say something about its culture.

That is all the more true in an era of mass television with China, a country which once prided itself on being closed to prying eyes, now keen to show itself off to a global audience of hundreds of millions.

Given all that, it is no surprise that film director Zhang Yimou, best known in the West for his Oscar-nominated movie "House of Flying Daggers", has been entrusted with overseeing the ceremony.

Zhang explained this week that the event "would showcase "the ancient and long history of the Chinese nation".

He added: "The performance will reflect the cultural aspects of Chinese society and showcase what modern China and its people are all about."

But even before Friday's show starts, carefully-laid plans were upset when a film crew from South Korea's private station SBS sneaked in and filmed a rehearsal and then broadcast parts of it on Tuesday before posting it on the Internet.

However, one thing has remained secret and that is the identity of the person who will light the Olympic flame after China President Hu Jintao declares the Games open.

Basketball star Yao Ming who carried the Olympic torch through Beijing's Tianamen Square on Wednesday, had been tipped for the honour.

But tradition dictates that a person can only carry the torch once in the run-up to a Games.

Officials remained tight-lipped, saying only the flame-lighter had been selected for their "sporting achievement" and "social influence".

Photos AP, AFP and Reuters
Header CBS.com

Posted by Shelia

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