The Tao – the way of Chinese life.
The verve was astounding, the music intoxicating; the programme as diverse as it can be. For no country is as rich in culture and ethnicity as China – it has around 56 ethnic groups spread over 9,596,960 square kilometres. Over 5000 years of history also makes it one of the world's oldest nations.
Encapsulating the mesmering effect of one of the greatest of Opening Ceremonies in the Games's history was Li Ning, former artistic gymnast and 1984 Games multiple medallist, carrying the torch around the perimeter of the stadium roof, suspended in air before lighting the flame.
Some 80 heads of states graced the occasion. Among Bushes and Sarkozies there was one guest who we all know — Sonia Gandhi. On Thursday, around 300 Olympic-related flights had ferried VIPs, from heads of states to business guests. On Friday, more than 100 flights touched the tarmac in Beijing. Security did not even allow cigarette lighters inside the stadium.
History’s long march
From the invocation of the muses to traditional beliefs, the Ceremony showcased China's march into an era that's slowly but surely evolving into a new world – the world of advancement.
For a nation as steeped as China in diverse culture and ethnicity, there would never have been a dearth of variety.
As we walked into the Bird’s Nest, thousands of spectators had lined up to enter the colossal stadium. Chinese precision was displayed in every aspect and was embodied in the small lights that lined up the alley leading to the stadium. They too had lattice work that resembled the Nest.
Made in China
Adhering to history (2008 is the Year of Rat), the cultural show began with 2008 — 08-08-08 has been one of the symbols of the Games — drummers holding centrestage in the Fou formation that dates back to the day of lore when the Xias and Shiang dynasties ruled this insular world.
As the beat of the deafening drums faded, another momentous occasion in Chinese history was ushered in — the invention of paper. Everything traditionally Chinese including cliff painting, earth pottery and bronze vessel amalgamated in the joyous exuberance of nation waiting for this day to herald a new beginning.
The Ceremony couldn’t have been without a Taichi demonstration – so embedded in their culture. The number once again was 2008.
After more than two hours of the extravaganza, the athletes marched in with Greece leading the way. The loudest cheer was reserved for the hosts. As choppers hovered around the Nest, Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the Games open amid loud cheers from 91,000 spectators.
For once the world became one. There was no unwanted talk of haze, nor was there talk of Tibet. The stadium for once spoke just one language – that of sport.
One world, one dream.