Sunday, August 10, 2008

That was Cool

I have to say, as much controversy as there is surrounding this Beijing Olympics, the Opening Ceremonies that kicked off the "fortnight" of competition was spectacular. My two year old stood up on the couch and tried to play right along with the 2,008 drummers that moved in perfect sync. My five year old was blown away with the dancers, the lights, the fireworks. It was all staged with impeccable precision and grace.

The Parade of Nations can be a little tedious, sure, but it's still fascinating in its own way. Did you see the hideous dresses worn by the Hungarian women? The outfits worn by the Americans, which were designed by Ralph Lauren? When my husband and I were at the Salt Lake Games in '02, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting someone wearing one of those Roots hats the athletes wore to the Opening Ceremony. They were somewhat reasonably priced at $25. The retail on those driving caps that Kobe, Lebron and the other 700+ U.S. athletes were rockin'? $55! And the Polo shirts (with extra large Polo pony logo, of course)? $125! Unbelievable. Then again, we're still convinced there was a giant conspiracy amongst the people of Park City, Utah to convince all us gullible tourists that we simply MUST have a $125 wool & fleece blanket to endure the frigid temps at the Opening Ceremony there...which we just ended up schlepping around with us because it actually made us sweat on top of our coats, hats, scarves, ski pants, and long johns. They totally saw us coming, huh?

And then there is the whole Olympic Pin phenomena. There are pin enthusiasts wherever you go at an Olympic Games, and most of those are actually pretty inexpensive (Average price, about $8). In Utah, the most sought after pin was in the shape of Jello, which is apparently the most popular dessert in the state (OK...) But in Beijing, NBC's trying to sell a $60 limited edition pin. That's crazy. It's amazing what people will buy, isn't it?

On another note, did everyone hear the story of the nine-year-old boy who entered the stadium with Yao Ming and the Chinese athletes? He survived the recent earthquake in China, which leveled his elementary school. 20 of his 30 classmates died. When pint-sized Lin Hau got free of the rubble, he actually went back in for two classmates. Asked why he would do such a thing, his answer was "I'm a class leader. I'm the hall monitor, and it's my job." If this doesn't at least put a lump in your throat, you are made of stone.

And then the torch lighting. Now, I have to say, the Chinese gymnast Li Ning being hoisted up to the scrim and then "running" around the upper ring of the Bird's Nest (the central stadium for the games, it actually looks like a bird's nest) was neat, but it kind of dragged on. I enjoyed the way he lit the flame and the visual spectacle of it twisting around the cauldron, but it can never hope to top two of the previous Olympic torch lightings in my mind. One, of course, was Mohammed Ali, racked with tremors from Parkinson's, walking slowly to the cauldron in Atlanta. I'm pretty sure I cried for about an hour. The other, for sheer coolness, had to be the athlete who shot the Olympic flame with a bow and arrow to light the cauldron in Barcelona. I don't think anything will ever surpass that, so they can just stop trying.