91,000 spectators and I took our seats at the Opening Ceremony, we were all confident that this would be a spectacle that would demonstrate China’s ability to put on an event of military precision. Before the show even began, the preliminary show was enough to impress in itself.
China, I can truly say, you have done yourself proud. Your century-old dream to host the Olympics has finally come true and you were ready to show the world that you can lead even the most developed of nations.
The ceremonies had thousands of performers that highlighted Chinese history and culture, all of which was depicted on a huge scroll the length of nearly one and a half soccer pitches. At the start of the evening, 2,008 drummers welcomed the audience with one of the sayings of the educator Confucious: “Friends have come from afar, how happy we are.” This total spectacle, with rhythmic lights that were activated by each drummer was stunning.
I was lucky enough to see the drummers waiting outside before they entered the stadium.
I was even lucky enough to get a close-up peek of the drums.
Harmony was the over-arching theme of the Opening Ceremony and there was a total of 14,000 performers, 9,000 of them coming from the army and 600 working just to organize the fireworks! 15,153 costumes were worn and the performers rehearsed for 13 months to perfect the night.
It’s truly difficult to put the evening into words. It was a very moving event that demonstrated how amazing humanity can be when we all come together. With an incredible 204 countries and nations entering the stadium, there was a sense that we can all drive toward a common goal and we really are not that different — at least not tonight.
As I watched each country being welcomed into the stadium, it was interesting to see where particular support was voiced. Iraq being the first notable, loud applause, Canada and then the US. The US team is HUGE, it took up half a lap of the stadium. I have to say their uniforms were also the best! A Ralph Lauren designed uniform with a retro feel – it looked classy and stylish. As they entered, the stadium went wild, even cheering when President Bush appeared on the screen! Of course, the largest cheer came when China, the last country to enter the stadium appeared.
So, as I began contemplating leaving and missing the rush of media eager to file their stories, the most incredible part of the show took place. The gold medalist in rhythmic gymnastics, Li Ning, carried the torch and then took off into the air like a bird to the top of the stadium! He then, slowly “ran” around its perimeter to the backdrop of footage from previous Games and the torch being carried through numerous cities. To say it was moving is an understatement. It was truly magical. The torch was lit to the roar of the crowd.
China, I came here with some skepticism and tonight you moved me (and two billion people around the world who watched what you can do). The slogan for these Games is “One World, One Dream” and tonight the world is yours.