Let the Games begin

Beijing 2008

August 08, 2008|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

It can bring some to tears. It can leave others shaking their heads wondering what they just saw. But anyway you look at it, the opening ceremony of an Olympics is a spectacle. In today's case, a 31/2-hour spectacle. So, in an attempt to allow you to prepare for the show, here are some things you should know.

THE BASICS

Countries: 205

Athletes: 10,700

Sports: 28

Gold medals: 302

Venues: 37

Press: 5,600

Broadcasters: 12,000

Volunteers: 70,000

THE POLITICS

You make a political statement when you attend - or don't attend - an Olympics Games. U.S. President George W. Bush will be at the opening ceremony along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Those who said they wouldn't come are Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Now why is Bush there?

The Unites States is going to bend over backward to not anger the Chinese. In short, the U.S. wants China to vote for Chicago when the 2016 vote is held next year. China has a lot of power in the International Olympic Committee. China might consider it an insult if Bush were to pass on the Games.

WHAT TO EXPECT

The opening ceremony has a pretty specific script until the host country takes over and tries to show its history in dance, music and theater. Here's how it goes:

1: The president of China, Hu Jintao, will be greeted by IOC President Jacques Rogge and Liu Qi, the head of the Beijing organizing committee.

2: The athletes march into the stadium, with Greece going first and China going last. Everything in between is alphabetical.

3: Liu Qi will speak. Jacques Rogge will speak. And Hu Jintao will declare the Games open.

4: The Olympic anthem is played and the Olympic flag is raised.

5: The torch enters the stadium, and they try to fool everyone as to when the flame will be lit. Usually the final torch bearer will quietly appear (it's always a secret) and he or she will light the flame, sometimes in a spectacular fashion.

6. The pigeons are released, hopefully nowhere near the flame as several were roasted in 1988 at Seoul.

7. An athlete takes the Olympic oath followed by an official.

8. The national anthem of China will be played.

9. A show that is supposed to eat up the majority of the 3 1/2 -hour opening ceremony commences.

WHO IS LIKELY TO LIGHT THE TORCH?

The early favorite was Yao Ming, perhaps the biggest star in the country, but he carried the torch Wednesday. If it's an athlete, look for Zhang Yining, a gold-medal favorite in table tennis. But, for something different, don't be surprised if they bring out a child from the earthquake leveled region of the country.

WHAT'S IN THE SHOW?

It will likely try and condense 5,000 years of history by using 15,000 performers to tell a story. The performance is put together by noted filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Sometimes the storytelling is rather obtuse, which is why an explanation is made available to the media. You didn't really think they are that smart at NBC, did you?

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