Saturday, August 14, 2004
It's a wonderful feeling that the Games get to return to its origin, Athens, after more than a century. I planned ahead to make sure that I would get to watch the opening ceremony last night (which was tape-delayed and there was no live broadcast at all in the NBC network.... Works for a prime-time rating, but truly odd for something this big and this important for the whole world...). For all the negative feelings I had and might have in the future for NBC, I'd have to at least thank them for showing the ceremony in its entity, especially during the Parade of Nations. Even though commercial breaks were frequent, I could take a step back and say that at least they kept the breaks relatively short instead of having us all wait around for a long time whenever they came on.... (I know, it's still too many commercials altogether, but I'm just seeing it in a realistic angle here... they're unavoidable in the current setup for TV broadcasting....)
The ceremony itself was very good to look at, with a wonderful display of drumming to start off. The rhythm that supposedly resembles heartbeat worked out great and it was rather involving. It was a nice touch in displaying a drummer at the historic site of where the first modern games took place on the big screen in the stadium and then have a drummer to respond to him, as if to relay the message and the spirit of competition to link up the past and the present.
Next came some symbolic theatrical performances with lots of extremely well controlled wire work, having objects and performers floated about in mid-air gracefully. Then, there was a parade that presented the gradual visual documentation of greek mythology and history of the culture and the Games. The makeup for the people were simply breath-taking, as they looked very much like statues, puppets, and still pictures coming to life, even from a close distance view. It's as if we saw a moving picture book that told the tale of how things went as years progressed.
After the fantastic theater and some well received lazer showings to compliment the presentation along the way, finally it was time for the Parade of Nations. The athletes from 202 participating countries took quite a while to enter the stadium, this time in an order that's different from most of the past Games. Instead of in English alphabetic order, they used the Greek alphabet instead. That made the US much closer to the front than the back, and somewhat difficult to keep track of who we were still yet to see, though it was nice in its own way. Just by itself, the Parade actually would tell us about how history has changed throughout the years, realizing the frequent thought in my mind of "another former Soviet Union/Yugoslavian State" represented some political changes and wars.... (14 countries from the former U.S.S.R. and 5 from former Yugoslavia) On the other hand it was interesting to see a unified Korean team with 2 flag-bearers -- one from the North and one from the South. I could also feel some national pride when the long awaited moment for me finally came. The 25 athelets from Hong Kong (where I'm originally from) made their entrance as the second last "nation" in front of host nation Greece. Even though they're not medal hopefuls, it was a heart-warming feeling to see that "my country" got represented in the game. (Maybe a bit similar to how the Bremertonians feel about the Kirk sisters, but without the chance for glory.)
The ceremony concluded after the lighting of the torch. (I feel for the last guy to have lit the flame as the last leg of the relay... all those people in front of him only had to run a short distance while he had to cut through the stadium from the far end, and then run up quite a few steps on the stairway to reach his destination!) I'm very happy to have witnessed something incredible as such. Beijing will be hard pressed to produce in 4 years' time to at least meet the standards of display we saw the previous day.