I've been watching the Olympics opening ceremonies since I was a little kid and I don't ever remember seeing one that was as spectacular and breathtaking as this one. Seriously. They are usually some wacky combination of over-the-top wire work and some trippy Cirque du Soleil shit that just doesn't make any sense, even to the people who live in the host countries (I'm still trying to figure out what the hell that Atlanta ones were trying to say). Even without the help of NBC's expert on all things Chinese Culture, Joshua Cooper-Ramos, I was able to kind of get what was going on, or at least I was amazed by what was happening. I could have done without Matt Lauer and Bob Costas take on the costumes throughout, but whatever. Those two took this on as if they were covering the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but at least they had the sense to let Cooper-Ramos take the lead when he had something insightful to say.
I was initially all annoyed that NBC tricked me into tuning in a half an hour early for the event, but the 7:30 - 8 PM timeslot was basically just a pre-show of sorts filled with interviews with athletes I already know way too much about. Thank god for TiVo. I'm not entirely sure how I was able to watch the Olympics and all of the commercials without a nice buffer. (Though I did stop when I spotted an Office commercial where Jim asks Dwight how to get his new event "Slap Face" entered into the games. Pretty funny.)
The massive scope of this event was just mind-blowing. In each of the opening numbers there were 2008 individual people participating, without any overlap or duplication. That is just insane to me. I can't even get five of my friends to pose for a picture. Getting more than 2000 people to work together to do wild formations is just amazing. From the drummers who did the countdown with their drums lit better than most of the ticker signs that run in NYC to the little moving boxes that looked like they were computerized because of their machine-like precision but really had people underneath them forming raindrops or whatever. It was just a sight to behold. And they took advantage of some technology, raising the rings off of the floor with an LED screen (or LCD, I get those confused), displaying a gigantic open book of images on the ground and having a globe rise out of the floor with people tethered to it and running around it. I may be sadistic, but I was kind of wondering if Sarah Brightman would fall... or at least wobble as she stood at the top, but alas, she remained steady and sang.
Even the parade of nations was more interesting than normal. Instead of alphabetical order, the nations were introduced by the length of the Chinese characters which meant that the United States was somewhere in the middle and Australia was close to the end. Nice to keep me on my toes. Hungary won the prize for the oddest outfits. The looked like they were attacked by flowers on the way to the game, but otherwise fine. The much hyped Ralph Lauren designed Team USA ensembles looked to me like everything else in his Polo line, but I'm no Tim Gunn, so what the hell do I know. While the Olympians were trodding in, they crossed an ink pad of sorts and tracked their footprints across a gigantic painting which is going to be displayed somewhere (I'm sure they said where at some point, but it was late and I was tired.)
I did get a little bored hearing about some of the American athletes (and the mere mention of the "Redeem Team" makes me want to vomit). I would have rather them spent more time on the super hot guy that carried the flag for Croatia. I've suddenly developed an interest in handball. He's something to look at for sure. Goran Visjnic may need to move aside as he's no longer the hottest Croatian guy on my TV. But the tearjerking moment, that I wasn't expecting, came when Chinese hero Yao Ming entered the stadium with a pint sized little kid next to him. I know Yao is tall, but this tot didn't even reach his waist. Apparently this adorableness is 9-year-old Lin Hao and he is a survivor of the recent earthquake tragedy that struck parts of China. He's a hall monitor and went back into the rubble to help some of his classmates survive. He was smiling and missing a patch of hair and I just couldn't stop the waterworks. He stole the show.
This was all capped off by the single most insane torchlight ever where a former Chinese gymnast was raised up to the gigantic screens that run the perimeter of the now famous birds nest arena and ran around the entire thing with the screens lighting up, practically unfurling, behind him showing scenes of the torch's journey to Beijing. This proceeded until he finally reached the gigantic torch (which appeared out of nowhere, and hadn't been there 30 minutes prior) and he lit it setting off a massive fireworks ceremony that made the entire city look like it was all on fire. Beautiful. Beat that London! You've got four years to figure it out.
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