Beijing keeps opening ceremony plans under wraps

BEIJING: Plans for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics are already nearing completion but they will remain under wraps to keep the crucial element of surprise alive, according to organisers. 

“We will try to complete the creative plan and technical plan before the end of this year. (Although) naturally the practices or rehearsals haven't started yet,” said Zhu Jing, an official with the Beijing organising committee's public relations office. 

ARTISTIC TOUCH: Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou (right)poses with Steven Spielberg in this April 16 picture.Spielberg will join Zhang in designing the opening andclosing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics. – APpic

China's rulers are counting on the Olympics to present the nation's best face to the world and have set the bar high with a global A-list of talent working on the opening ceremony under the theme of “Civilization and Harmony.” 

“The quality of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games will play a decisive role on whether we can host a special, high-level Olympic Games,” said Liu Qi, Beijing's top Communist Party official and chairman of the organising committee, earlier this year. 

Acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou will direct the ceremony backed by a supporting cast that includes Oscar winning filmmakers Stephen Spielberg of the United States and Taiwan-born Ang Lee, as well as US music legend Quincy Jones. 

They have been drafted in as artistic and cultural advisors along with the director of the successful Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony Ric Birch and multi media expert Yves Pepin, head of the French entertainment group ECA2 who produced the World Cup opening ceremony in Paris in 1998. 

Zhang is a master of historical dramas such as “Raise the Red Lantern” and “Hero” and has also shown a taste for martial arts in “House of Flying Daggers.” 

He is currently working on the world premier of Tan Dun's “The First Emperor,” at the New York Metropolitan Opera, starring Placido Domingo, which opens in late December. 

Zhang, 56, was criticised by some Chinese officials for his presentation at the Athens Olympics closing ceremony in 2004, when he was given an eight-minute slot to introduce the next host city. 

One Chinese IOC member, He Zhenliang, described it as “superficial” and said there was more to China than red lanterns, Beijing opera and Chinese girls playing traditional instruments as depicted by Zhang in Athens. 

The filmmaker is being encouraged to dwell less on ancient civilisations and more on the spirit of modern China, according to some sources. 

Cultural activities at the 2008 Olympics will be designed so that the world can “better understand the reform and opening-up in modern China,” organizing committee vice president Jiang Xiaoyu told a recent seminar in Beijing. 

Secrecy is part of the mystique of opening ceremonies and China intends to keep plans to itself until the ceremony opens at 8:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Aug 8 2008. Eight is China's lucky number, thought to signal wealth and good fortune. 

“We will try to keep the opening and closing ceremonies in mystery until the last moment,” said Jiang. – AFP 

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