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2008 Beijing Olympics: Behind the opening ceremony


Ten years ago, at the National Stadium in Beijing, also known as the Bird's Nest, China impressed the world with its opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The extraordinary feat came after months of planning. There were more than 2,000 meetings and at more than half of them "we couldn't figure out what to do," said Cai Guoqiang, the visual and special effects director behind both the opening and closing ceremonies.

The entire effort occupied multiple floors and was similar to "commanding a war," said Chen Danqing who led the planning and designing for the team directing the ceremony.

Over 15,000 people were involved in the performances, with not even one carrying the same task as the others. When asked about the responsibility on his shoulders, opening ceremony director Zhang Yimou said: "If you fail, you don't know how to face your compatriots. You will feel disturbed form your whole life because you fail the whole country."

"A director always needs to set up his own team, but you can't have that at the (opening ceremony of the) Olympics. You have to work with independent individuals and communicate with everyone to let them know who you are and what you want. That's not easy," said Wang Chaoge, member of the creative team for the opening ceremony.

The results awed the world, at a time when China was opening up to the rest of the world.

"When humans get together, a magnetic field will be created. When tens of thousands of people go to a stadium, no matter for the Olympics, Super Bowel or a concert, the magnetic field they create will make you feel excited. By putting a lot of people together, it will make them feel proud of their great nation. That’s who we are, we get together to show ourselves to others. It's a strength," said Zhang about how he felt about the accomplishment.

Ma Wen considered the opening ceremony as one of the most important moments for Chinese culture. "It took so many years for the world change the conception about China and the opening ceremony is one of the turning points," said Ma.

Chen Danqing called his daughter who was in Japan at the time. She said that the opening ceremony was rebroadcast three times in Japan and called it "the first time for China to show freely the country's culture and history to the whole world."


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