And now, for a taste of things to come...
we go. We start with a montage of China landmarks and various
athletes. Is this fluff? Nahh... this is the opening
title segment. I'll let this one slide. There will be plenty
of time for fluff later. Unfortunately.
"It's not the triumph,
but the struggle," say a whole bunch of different athletes.
Uh-huh. Which color medal is it again that they present for "struggle?"
• And the first person we see is... Jim Lampley? Where's
Costas? Nothing against Jim, but the first person we see should
the A-Team. And we don't mean Hannibal, B.A. Baracus, Murdock, and Face.
• Jim says that the Chinese Opening ceremonies will rival
anything Hollywood produces. Unless you count Spielberg, that
his creative input in the Games to protest the Chinese participation
in Darfur. I'm just sayin'.
• Brokaw says it's time for the Chinese people to stand
tall. Well, except the ones the government is beating down. Anyway,
gives us a history of how the Games got to China, and all of the news
stories associated with it this year. This IS about China
and the Olympics, but it's not events, so it's fluff. Be
careful, Tom. I don't want to see a repeat of the last day of
• NOW we get Costas, along with Matt Lauer, telling us
all about the Opening Ceremonies which are coming up. Coming
up 12 hours
ago, that is. But hey, who's counting? We meet Joshua Cooper
Ramo, NBC's China analyst, Andrea Joyce (interviewing beach volleyballers
Misti May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh), and Bob Neumeier (with Kobe
Bryant and LeBron James). So, beach volleyball and basketball.
know what NBC
plans to focus on.
• The presidents come in (Bush and Jintao) and it begins.
A fireworks flare shoots from the upper level of the Bird's Nest
the field where 2008 percussionists playing electric drums start pounding
away. The drums light up as they strike them, and the effect
is sort of like one of those flip
card tricks they
Bowl, except this is surely more expensive. All the drummers
are wearing silver suits. This, of course, means they're from the future.
forming a big electric drum countdown clock, the drummers whip
out the glowing orange drumsticks. I've got to admit,
seeing 2008 drummers playing big electric drums in perfect synchronicity
is pretty cool. It all ends with a barrage of fireworks.
• Wow, speaking of fireworks, it's hard to even describe
this one. As a helicopter flies over Beijing toward the stadium,
fireworks footprints explode over the city on a path leading to the Bird's
Nest. It's very impressive.
• And now, flying people. Didn't we have that in Athens? Well, it
was cool then, too. Here, some acrobats fly near a giant set
of floating Olympic rings.
• A little girl sings! How precious. A bunch of other children carry
in a flag. How precious. Then they hand it over to goosestepping
soldiers. Not so precious, but then they are in China. Then
everybody sings the Chinese national anthem. I can get behind that. Anyone
who's read previous editions of the Olympic Watch knows that
I like people to sing their anthem. Finally, more fireworks! You
can't go wrong with those, either.
• Next a giant piece of paper unrolls and a bunch of breakdancers
use their arms as paintbrushes to create a landscape painting.
If this ever catches on in the U.S. I foresee a lot of defaced
• A bunch of people representing Confucius come out, and
then a bunch of blocks rise up out of the middle of the floor.
announcers tell us this represents wind, but I think it just looks like
we're all about to play a giant game of mahjong. It's a cool
though. It's like a giant version of that little 3-d map
first X-Men movie. And inside all of these blocks? People,
not hydraulics, says Bob. Impressive.
Now a dancer rides on top of a carpet, being carried by several
hundred others. What is the symbolism, asks Bob, of one
person being on top, walking on everyone else being pushed
under the rug? Well,
maybe he didn't ask it quite like that. And it seems a
little strange that China would want to emphasize "one
over many" like
A bunch of men with giant yellow oars come out and do some
synchronized oar dancing. I don't think that's an Olympic
sport, but I could
be wrong. They do their thing underneath the image of the
rolling ocean which is being projected on the giant membranes
over the stadium. Do you
notice how often I'm using the word "giant?" I'm
sure the Chinese knew what they were doing in that regard.
mentions something about how all 15,000 people seem to
know exactly where to go, without wires or radios. Although
practice has something to do with it, perhaps Matt wasn't
paying attention earlier when all of the electric drummers
Matt Lauer, please shut up. "This is a moment we have to ooo
and ahh." Stop telling me how to feel, Matt.
• The presentation skips forward in history from the past
to 1978, says Ramo. Funny that China took a great leap forward
over the Great
• Now a giant number of men are running around the stadium in formation
wearing Christmas lights on their clothes. I know there's supposed
to be some symbolism there, but that's what it looks like to
• The Chinese invented the kite, says Bob as a 9-year-old girl flies
overhead. The scroll, paper, fireworks, the kite. Sure... but
what have they invented in the LAST millenium, Bob?
• Tai Chi! Yeah... let's slow it down for the ladies.
• The projected images on the membrane! They're insane! Insane
in the membrane! Insane in the brain!
Says Matt, "If you like a dozen tai chi masters, how about
2008 of them?" Who's directing this, Peter
• Matt's said more than once that
all of these performers have no marks on the floor to guide
them. I don't know what he's watching, but my HDTV clearly shows marks
all over the floor. Maybe he needs to get out of the booth.
• ER has another season? Is that still on? Who knew?
• A (giant) ball rises up out of the floor, representing
Earth, and a bunch of people run around it suspended by cables
as we celebrate
China's taikonauts. It sounds kinda stupid, but it really
looks cool. And then, as Sarah Brightman and Chinese singer Liu
Huan sing on
top of the globe, more (giant) fireworks outside the Bird's Nest.
Bob gushes that the show so far has been a stunning "achievement." Hmmm... "stunning" I
will grant, but "achievement?" Tell you what,
give me the $40 billion that the Chinese have spent on
the Olympics and I'll
bet I could put on a stunning show, too.
• The Parade of Nations! Greece starts, and then we're in alphabetical
order by the CHINESE alphabet. Which means, you never know
who's coming next, so you'd better pay attention.
• Turkmenistan's president personally approved their jackets. He
should have studied harder. They got the Olympic rings wrong.
• Kudos for NBC here. Not only are they showing the population
and number of athletes from each country, but they're also showing
the flag and location, using a nifty little spinning 3d
They also have a ESPN-Bottom-Line-like graphic showing
you which country is coming up next. Very nice.
• McDonalds. A team of losing kids gets mocked by the
trophy-holding winners until the losers' parents show up with
The winners then look sad and drop their trophy. Is this the message
we want to send our kids? "Yeah, you're a loser, kid. Have
• Bob has an interesting fact about Israel president,
Shimon Peres. Peres has a hotel close to the stadium because
ceremonies will finish after midnight, which will be the Jewish Sabbath.
Since it's against his religion to be driven on the Sabbath,
he'll have to walk back to the hotel.
• As each country enters the stadium they're greeted by
dancing Chinese cheerleaders. They walk around the stadium
passing through the middle, where they then walk over a paint-covered mat
before leaving their footprints on a (giant) piece of paper. Their feet
make multi-colored footprints. It's a very nice effect
• Cuba gets a big cheer. Commies cheering commies!
• Oh, Canada! The hosts of the next Olympics (2010
dissed by Bob, who points out that Canada won zero golds
in either Montreal (1976) or Alberta (1992). That's a cold
• Iraq enters the stadium to a big cheer. George Bush claps. He should.
Why else do you think they're there?
• Iran enters right after and gets booed. The Chinese aren't big
fans of them either.
Hungary's flag-bearer is Zoltan Halmay. Zoltan?
Isn't that the thing that made Tom Hanks "Big?" Noooo...
• More kudos for NBC. I know it's all in the preparation,
but even with that knowledge it's still impressive how breezily
Bob Costas can spill out facts about each country like he's just
a conversation in your living room. Although, I guess in one matter
of speaking, he is.
• Equatorial Guinea enters and Bob and Matt talk about
Moussambani being one of the best stories of the Sydney
Games, because he could just barely swim. Look, I'm a great believer
in the spirit of competition,
but a crowd giving pity cheers to a half-drowning swimmer
isn't something I consider a great story.
• As Sudan enters, Bob and Matt talk about Joey Cheek.
Cheek, the U.S. speedskater who won gold in Turin (Torino, if
NBC), has been protesting against the Chinese
support of Sudan.
In retaliation, the Chinese wouldn't grant him a visa to
let him in the country to support the U.S. team. Bob rightly
on the spot for
violating the Olympic spirit. Bad China! Bad!
• Matt comments on the cheerleaders, who have now been dancing for
over an hour, but are as energetic as ever.
• Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, waves to his
country's team as they enter. As far as I can tell, they all
around the track without surrendering. Kidding! I kid!
• Russia enters. Vladimir Putin waves and manages not
to shoot anyone. Russia, on the other hand spent this morning
That's the Olympic spirit! Invade
another country while
everyone is watching the opening ceremonies!
• The United States enters and everyone cheers, including President
and Laura Bush. At the beginning of the broadcast, Bob
said that this was the first time an American president had attended an
opening ceremonies outside of the U.S. I wonder why. A photo op like this
should be a easy call for any president.
Of course, we
stay with the U.S. longer than any other team. Why? Because they're you're
team! This is not a bad
you're from the U.S., this is who you should be rooting
for. It's not that hard.
• Zimbabwe enters the stadium. By the time they circle the track,
all of the Zimbabwean dollars in their pockets have become
worthless. Thanks, Robert Mugabe!
• Egypt enters, but none of their athletes like
• The cameras cut to the U.S. team walking across the
colored stamp pad in the middle of the infield. That painting
is filling in
• The Netherlands arrives, which gives Bob his first chance
to reference Pieter van den Hoogenband. Pieter van den Hoogenband! Pieter
van den Hoogenband! Ahh... I'm already in 2004
• Georgia enters, and Vladimir Putin manages not to shoot any of
them. However, we never actually see them make it all the way
around the track, so you never know.
• As other international athletes get their picture taken with Kobe
Bryant in the infield, Matt lets us know that there's been
a digital camera revolution. Thanks for the tip, Matt. Maybe later he can
tell us about the internets. I hear it's a series of tubes.
Ooooo.... Matt scores! While Portugal enters, he and Bob have a
discussion about the Olympic "ideal," and Matt says that "it's
not the triumph, it's the struggle." Way to work in NBC's
• Cameroon enters and it makes me want cookies. Oh wait... that's
macaroons. Never mind.
• North Korea enters, and all of them manage to make it around the
track without starving to death or nuking anyone. You know,
Kim Jong Il invented the Olympics. He had to... he was so
ronery and sadry arone.
• Mongolia overruns the Beijing stadium! Oh wait, there's not enough
of them. They did make it past the Great Wall, though. You
know, for such a celebrated landmark, it's really quite a failure.
• That was 16 minutes of programming without a commercial break.
Very nice. We should be getting close to the torch lighting.
I've already made my
prediction about how that's going to happen. We'll
see if I'm right. Hopefully I'm not.
• Bob lets us know in advance that the reception for the Chinese
team will be not just enthusiastic, but ecstatic. Really? I
never would have expected the home team to get an ecstatic reception,
• Matt cites statistics saying that the German team has been slipping
in the medal count, so they'll be resorting to East German
training tactics. Egad! They DO have some manly-looking women.
• And now, China. 91,000 people boo! Psh! Right. Of COURSE
they cheer as Yao Ming leads the China team into the Bird's Nest.
they seem pretty enthusiastic, but I don't know if they're
• Ooo... a SkyCam shot over the crowd! That was pretty cool.
• The Office. Slapface. Oh yes.
• The footprint painting now becomes a podium for all of the higher-ups
to use in their official pronouncements.
The Chinese Olympic rep says this should be a "green" Olympics.
That's pretty big talk for a country where it's common to wear
• Wow. Some of these Chinese fans are so ecstatic that they look
• Hu Jintao opens the games by shooting a Tibetan
Just kidding! Instead, they open with a spectacular fireworks
burst over the Bird's Nest.
• Ladies and gentlemen! The Olympic flame! I think we can safely
assume that no protestors will be here to try to snuff this
• The torch makes its usual lap around the stadium, passing from
sports star to sports star until it reaches the final man
who... WHOOSH! He's all cabled up and zooming to the sky! He's Livin'
On A Prayer!
So Chinese Bon Jovi starts rising toward the
membrane and... OH NO! Did the torch go out?! No, no, no... it just looked
It's still lit. Now he's at the membrane and... AHHH!
HE'S FALLING! No, no, no... that was on purpose. Now he's fake-running
cables whisk him around the stadium. So is Mr. Livin'
A Prayer all the way around yet? No, he's halfway there.
Couldn't help myself.
• "I wonder how long it took him to train for this," says
Matt. What? Holding a torch and fake running? I'm guessing
it wasn't that hard.
• Although pretty, the run around the stadium takes entirely
too long. Finally, Chinese Bon Jovi reaches the appeared-from-nowhere
which looks like a (giant) coiled spiral of stainless steel.
He lights a fuse in front of him and a trail of sparks spirals around
the torch, setting it ablaze. At the same time, every square
block in the entirety of Beijing explodes into a spray of fireworks.
Literally. It's... well, amazing. And if it looks this
spectacular on TV, I can only imagine what it looks like if you're
there. Of course, this is only going to add to their poor
air quality, but what a way to go.
So, an impressive start. Only eight minutes of fluff. But then,
the really hard-core among you could argue that all of
the Opening Ceremonies are fluff. Take that naysaying elsewhere,
mister, or we'll sic the Chinese authorities on you. And that's
really unfair to them, given that they really need to spend all
their time cracking down on other protestors.
A note for the next three days: On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday,
I'll be out of town. I will have a laptop with me and I will
be doing some short updates, but I won't be going into the full
detail that I will for the remaining 13 days of the Beijing Olympics.
So you've been warned. Still, the Opening Ceremonies were very
entertaining, and I'm excited. Join me, won't you, for an overdose
of Olympic goodness! See you tomorrow!
On to Saturday, August 9