It was an opening ceremony only a communist country could pull off. And it was totally awesome. And I mean awesome, which the Oxford American Dictionary says means "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear." I thought the ceremony was part Cirque du Soleil, part military display, and part historic fantasy. Watching it on TV was so overwhelming -- I can't imagine what it must have been like in the actual Bird's Nest. I loved all the little touches, like having the athletes track color across the huge paper.
I suppose it was also an opening ceremony only China could pull off. Thousands of years of Confucianism making even a small child fully aware of his position and obligation in society. Mentally and physically aware of the person next to you, keeping the appropriate distance, subconsciously aware of the levels of respect due to each body. The power of the Chinese philosophy you could see in the flowing display of bodies, like seeing the Emperor of Qin's terracotta soldiers come to life, breathing and moving with discipline and grace. But the cost? Rigid hierarchy promotes bullying and places too much burden on top of those on the bottom of the pyramid. China is the one country where the suicide of women outpaces the suicide of men. Suppression of individual desire is devastating to the human soul.
The worst part of the ceremony? Listening to Bob Costas and Matt Lauer. You have the almost holy aspect of the Chinese presentation, and then you had the juvenile boys' comments of Costas and Lauer -- they really disgraced themselves during the parade of athletes. They just couldn't help themselves, smirking at the Hungarian team's outfits, making snide comment after comment about the African outfits. If the comments had been at least intelligent, I could have lived with it, but it was just the stupid giggling jokes of pre-teens. Terry Wogan on Eurovision was more intelligent. I can't wait for that generation of cynical male commentators to die out.
Which makes me really miss Jim McKay and the old ABC Sports. He had so much heart and so much joy — a real respect for people and their passions. Come back, Jim McKay! Come back! We need you! You're our only hope!