This Igorot's take on the Beijing Olympic Opener

Saturday, August 9, 2008

( Photo credit: Getty Images )

BUMMER: Olympic Opening Ceremonies NOT covered live in the United States!

Thursday night Chicago time, I was excitedly checking NBC's schedule the next Friday morning (Aug 8 evening, Beijing time) for coverage on the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympiad. Advertisements on the network promised that the Olympics would start at 7:30am ET. Now that I think about it, they were right. They didn't lie. What they failed to impress on me, their viewer, was that there was no live coverage of the Olympic Opening ceremonies. Let me say that again - THE OLYMPIC OPENING CEREMONIES WOULDN'T BE SHOWN LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES! I even arranged my meetings that morning so they won't start earlier than 10:30am, and I woke up earlier than usual not to miss a single minute of the ceremonies and all I had to contend with were some yadda-yadda-yadda on the early Chicago news showing a correspondent in Beijing saying the opening ceremonies were about to start in a few minutes. Thats if you were in China or in any other country but the US. Viewers in this country will need to wait 12 more hours...

Finally, they did cover the opening ceremonies. I guess I expected a non-stop, uninterrupted coverage like I witnessed in Singapore during the 2000 Sydney Games. WRONG! Beautiful pageantry was interrupted by commercial advertising. It was reported that the NBC network will rake in a record $1 billion in ad revenue for their Olympic coverage. (Read here.) I guess that's what this is all about - money! There are 18 days of Olympic coverage. The opening ceremonies is for a mere 3-3.5 hours. Couldn't they have shown all their ads in the other days of coverage other than the opening day? Millions of viewers would have been delighted and that's worth more than their ad revenue.

On a side note, people will be crazy to fly with United Air. The airlines showed at least 3 ads during the opening ceremonies. That advertising will most likely be paid by their passengers.

My Affair with the Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Growing up in Sagada in the early 80s, there were no television. My first exposure to the Olympic Games were through Betamax tapes of the 1984 Los Angeles Games. After that, I watched every Olympic opening ceremony on live (or almost live) telecast. I was in high school when I watched the 1988 Seoul Games at our boys dormitory in Diliman. 1992 Barcelona was viewed at our apartment in V. Luna. 1996 Atlanta Games was at the Narra dormitory in UP. 2000 Sydney was viewed at the Tan-Chong towers in Singapore. And 2004 Athens was from our residence in Batasan.

My excitement has been building for more than a week. It would also be the first time for me to watch the ceremonies in high definition TV. And I am in Chicago, a city that is bidding to host the Olympics in 2016. So you can just imagine my disappointment at not being able to watch the coverage live. I'm sure that with their satellite reception, my relatives in Sagada were able to watch the show earlier than I did.


Let's get it over with - the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympiad is simply the best ever! Kamamayatan, kagagawisan - maid maka-abak! (Nicest and greatest ever, no one comes close.) Since 1988, the opening ceremonies I've watched increased progressively in quality and awesome-ness; with perhaps, the exception of the 2004 low budget Athens show. I will not try to describe it, for it is beyond my powers to describe. I'm sure the next one in London will attempt to come close, but I highly doubt that it will be able to. This kind of show can only be produced by the Chinese, that country in Asia that is amongst the first civilizations to be established and that currently holds 1/5 of the world's population. It does help that they had a $100 million budget. (One would argue if this is the best use for this money, but then, let's not go there.)

Plenty of images that I will treasure from the ceremonies - the 2008 drummers doing the countdown, the huge scroll, the tai-chi masters, the waterfall and dolphin projections, the floating dancers, the 29 fireworks / giant steps, the multiple firework displays, the human boxes, the umbrellas with children's faces, the boy with Yao Ming on the parade of nations, the wonderful synchronization that only the Chinese can produce, the breathtaking lighting of the Olympic torch - simply superb.

After watching the ceremonies, my wife and I had this feeling that China showed the world its true power - no one can beat 1.5 billion people representing their best. Perhaps then, its time for my boys to learn Chinese.


I suppose there's a silver lining to the delayed Olympic telecast. (Okay, I admit that much.) For one thing, I was in a very relaxed mood with the work over for the day and no pressures to deal with. Also, the commentators did a very good job and some of their quips, particularly during the parade of nations had us grinning / raising our eyebrows / laughing out loud.

These are some of their quotes in my own words:

  • "Let's be diplomatic and say that some people have different styles." - on a European country's hideous choice of floral uniforms
  • "They don't know what Vladimir Putin already knows." - on the Russian delegation referring to the Georgia - Russia armed conflict that was developing at the very same time
  • "Imagine coming to a stadium with 91,000+ people. It's like, hey, they have 20,000 more people here than our whole country" - on the delegation from Andorra, a country with a population of 70,000+
  • "He should enjoy the opening ceremonies. His Olympics will not last long." - on the flagbearer of a South American country who is a badminton player and drawn to play a Chinese world champion in the first round
  • "With all that money, they still don't have a gold medal." - on the delegation from Monaco
  • "They've won more medals in the international Math Olympiad." - on the delegation from Vietnam
  • "If there is an opening ceremonies trophy, it should be retired just now" - while watching a Chinese champion gymnast fly through the air to light the Olympic torch

Finally, let's all enjoy the Olympic Games. This is the first time I've recorded the opening ceremonies, and its such a nice feeling knowing I can always play it back.


Anonymous August 24, 2008 at 8:04 AM  

Hehehe. I enjoyed reading this.

Anonymous August 30, 2008 at 2:41 AM  

how about, "the Philippines' flag bearer is another boxer, Manny Pacman, but he's not joining the olympics, he probably thought..." haven't caught the rest of the comment. Anyway, that was the comment when almost all the flag bearers (if not all) were olympians.