Friday, 8 August 2008

The Opening Ceremony

It started at eight and I wasn't late. How could I be late. I’d come to Beijing for this very date. The Olympics started big time at eight in the evening on the eighth.

This hour was chosen because eight is the luckiest number for the superstitiously minded basically because the the number eight sounds like the word for prosperity.

Sounds good to me. Four by contrast is the unluckiest number because it sounds like the Chinese word for death.

And do you know what…I’m in building four at the hotel complex.

Despite all the lucky numbers going for it, nothing about the opening ceremony was left to chance.

The cast of thousands who participated in the four hour extravaganza had been preparing for months. Five thousand years of Chinese culture were projected to us during the show.

The artistic director behind it all was Zhang Yimou and he’s no Johnny-cum-lately.

He’s the man who infused art house opacity with translucence. What does that mean?

I'm not entirely sure but it seems to sum up his output such as Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern and the Story of Qiu Ju.

They were heavy with symbolism. I mean weighty. I remember watching Raise the Red Lantern when I lived in south London. I went to see it at one of the many art house cinemas that used to inhabit the city in the late 1980s.

The screen was sufficiently large so you could appreciate the symbolic moments.

The film was building to a crescendo of catastrophe and when some red dye spilt onto a white linen sheet, you just knew woe was a-coming.

That 58 year old Yimou had his hands on the wheels of our drive into wonderland was reassuring.

It turned out to be a visual feast. But then there was too much at stake for it to be left to something like luck.