I admit it - I'm a complete sucker for the Olympics. I'm a big believer in the spirit of competition (just ask anyone who's ever played a game against me) and sense of global cooperation that seems to hang over the event. Yes, there are still all kinds of things going on around the world (don't get me started on the situations in Georgia, Darfur or Tibet), but whether it's a good thing or not, when the Olympics come around we try to put those conflicts aside and focus on one common event. It's like a gloabl Christmas - no matter what else is going on, you take a breather to celebrate this one thing and then when it's over you pick back up where you left off. Or maybe not.
I remember when they announced that China would be the host of this year's Olympics. At the time it seemed like it was ridiculously far off into the future, but here we are and I can't believe how the timing has worked out. The last four years have brought a lot of changes in China, only some of which were related to the Olympics. Nobody could have predicted the earthquake in Szechuan province or the way the global economy was shifting to mass production on a grand scale based out of Chinese factories. It's a bit cliche, but China really has been working at making it's place on the world stage and the Olympics are playing a big part in that.
I usually go to bed by 10 since I'm at work by 7:45 to greet volunteers in the morning, but last night I did everything I could to stay up and watch the opening ceremonies. I love the grandeur and massive undertaking that goes into the show and China definitely did not disappoint. 2008 drummers perfectly choreographed, a huge LED screen on the floor and a scrim that goes all the way around the stadium?! UNBELIEVABLE! I enjoy the Parade of Nations - getting to see the contingencies from nations I haven't always heard of dressed in a variety of costumes (the US dress wasn't anything notable this year) - but it does go on a long time and I ended up dozing off at one point. I made sure to perk myself back up for the Olympic torch - always one of my favorite parts because you never know what they're going to do. I remember getting tears in my eyes when Muhammed Ali lit the torch at the last US hosted Olympics, and with all that China had already put into the opening cermonies, I knew it was going to be good. I just didn't expect to see a man fly through the air and run in air around the whole stadium! It was very impressive and I absolutely love the torch design itself - modern yet keeping traditional elements. The pyrotechnics were at time a bit overwhelming (I guess they don't have many epileptics in China?) but beautiful and appropriate. This was a huge celebration!
I haven't gotten to watch any of the events today - I am at work after all and Saturday is hopping with Habitat - but I have heard about a knife attack on some family members of an American volleyball coach. Sad. And yet I don't blame China - it's not like they don't have security! There are other things I'll gladly point fingers at China for but for now I'm going to get sucked into the glitter and slick production that is the Olympics on American network tv. In three weeks I'll get back on my soapbox.