Friday, August 8, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympic Games - Musings

A record 205 countries took part in the opening ceremony to the Beijing Olympics when it took place at 8pm local time today (1pm BST).

The organizers were confident it will be a spectacular curtain-raiser to what will be judged one of the great Olympic Games.

Competition in 16 of the 28 sports begins tomorrow. Players in the football tournament, which is already under way, will also take to the field. Seven golds will be available on day one of the Games.

There are nearly 11,000 athletes competing for more than 1,000 medals in 302 events. China is fielding its biggest ever Olympic team with 639 athletes competing in all 28 sports for the first time, in a bid to top the medals table.

There has been growing concern about the poor quality of the air in Beijing but the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, declared Thursday that athletes would not be at risk.

China has spent $22 billion on hosting the Olympic Games - three times more than Greece did in Athens four years ago - and when the opening ceremony was staged no expense was be spared. It featured 15,000 performers and 29,000 fireworks.

Under the guidance of the film director Zhang Yimou, the three-hour ceremony began at 8pm on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008 - eight is a lucky number there.

It ended with the lighting of the Olympic flame. There is no sign of a cauldron on the steel structures of the iconic "Bird's Nest" Stadium, the focal point of the dazzling array of new facilities that have been built here.

Despite worldwide protests over China hosting the Games because of its human rights record, about 80 heads of state, including George Bush, Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Sarkozy, will join 91,000 spectators at the ceremony.

The order of countries in the parade will be dictated by Chinese characters rather than European alphabets. Attempts to persuade South and North Korea to march as one, as they did in 2000 and 2004, have failed because the two governments were unable to reach agreement.

Security was intense and the weather was the biggest threat to the smooth running of the opening ceremony. The last week has been dominated by concerns over the smog that continued to hang over the city yesterday, but the problem could now be rain, which is forecast to be falling for the next few days.

I know of many people who refuse to have anything to do with the Olympic Games let alone the Olympic Spirit. Yes, these are troubling and serious times that offer a clear and present danger to the everyday Joe: worldwide economy, fuel, food, disease, etc. But in the tradition of the Olympic Games, I think it's truly amazing to get all these countries with their exceptional athletes in a friendly spirit of competition all under one roof. Think about it - nobody can get along, but here we are playing (or trying to play) nice together.

The ones I know who don't like the Olympics have various reasons such as they have no clue how to think globally - as if they are the only ones on the planet, or they disagree with China's human rights record, or even they are suffering severe bouts of paranoia with the whole new world order thing.

Well, we are not the only ones on the planet. Americans don't rule the world and everyone isn't Christian and democratic, loves red, white and blue, hot dogs and apple pie. Get over it. Such a limited view of the world is, well, either ignorant or arrogant. And while China has it's share of understanding what human rights is in a communist society, give them time. Just about every country on earth has done the same. Read world history so I won't have to rehash it for you. And the New World Order? Well, it's coming whether you like it or not, but in doing so, the world ushers in dramatic and swift changes that will finally culminate in what I believe will be the appearance of the Messiah. I know it's strange - a scientist talking about the end of the world and the Christ coming back to pull out a can of whoop-ass on evil and saving humanity from it's own sin and (well deserved) destruction, but it's what I believe, so deal with it. Anyone who is familiar with good ol American football knows nothing good will happen unless you can get that pigskin through a mean defensive line for 100 yards. Folks, we haven't even come out of the huddle yet.

I am really looking forward to the gymnastics, equestrian and swimming - 3 of my favorite events from the 1996 Atlanta Games. Fun times in the town Sherman burned!

So sit back, grab a loved one and enjoy the games; revel in true-to-life, reality TV, and root for your team. Otherwise, go find something constructive to do for the next 16 days.


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