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Beijing seeks best of the best for Olympics
By Yu Yilei (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-02 01:32

Sydney was sensational.

Athens was amazing.

Will Beijing be the best?

The Athens Games's opening ceremony was a tableau of 3,000 years of Greek history and culture. But it wasn't all ancient lore; modern technology was allowed centre stage, too, with a greeting from astronauts in space and lasers lighting up five rings of flames in a pool of water.
That's what the organizers of the city's 2008 Olympics Games are hoping for in their opening and closing ceremonies.

Yesterday the organizers began searching for proposals and plans that will mark a truly memorable beginning and end to the upcoming Games. The opening and closing ceremonies are the most eye-catching parts of the Games and are always seen as a major criteria of each city's success.

"We open the door for all talented individuals and organizations to come up with proposals for splendid opening and closing ceremonies," said Jiang Xiaoyu, vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).

Acceptance of submissions for the two ceremonies began yesterday and ends on July 31, the BOCOG announced.

Surprise, secrecy, showbiz and synchronization are all ingredients for spectacular ceremonies.

The 1996 Atlanta Games had all of those - and drama, too - when "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali held the torch aloft during the opening ceremony. The legendary boxer and 1960 Olympic boxing champion, visibly shaking with symptoms of Parkinson's disease, was cheered enthusiastically by the enormous crowd.

In Athens, there was a glimpse of things to come at the Beijing Games when the closing ceremony featured an 8-minute Chinese performance by internationally acclaimed director Zhang Yimou. The creator of such films as the visually-dazzling "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" is likely to play a role in the 2008 Games.

Proposals should cover all key aspects of the ceremonies including igniting the cauldron, the athletes' parade, the symbolic release of doves and artistic performances.

Those that personify the unique features of the Beijing Games and China's cultural heritage are likely to win favour. The BOCOG will then set up a panel to make the final selection.

Anyone interested in taking part in the historic event is welcome; but foreign nationals or organizations are required to team up with Chinese citizens or organizations to participate.

The BOCOG will also invite well-known individuals and organizations to contribute their ideas and has also promised to solicit feedback from ordinary citizens.

Jiang said each participant has an equal chance. "There is no bias here, everyone is equal."

Potential candidates may download the request for proposals from the BOCOG official website - www.beijing2008.com and are required to deliver the proposals no later than 16:00 (Beijing time) on July 31, 2005.

The plans for the ceremonies are expected to be finalized no later than May 2007.

Jiang said it is hard to predict how much the ceremonies will cost, but the figure will not exceed that of Athens, whose organizers spent around 81 million euros (US$105 million) on the opening and closing ceremonies. It was three times the figure for the Sydney Games and the highest in Olympic history.

"We will ensure that there will be enough money to make the ceremonies wonderful, but we would like to do so in a prudent manner."

The ocean-themed opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and the one inspired by ancient Greek mythology at the 2004 Athens Games won high marks around the globe; and the world is anxiously waiting to see what Beijing, the centre of an ancient Oriental civilization, will present.

Jiang said the BOCOG is trying to work out a way for experienced foreign companies to also get involved, so the programme will be appreciated by both foreigners and Chinese.

"We are not concerned about culture or talent," Jiang said. "I think the biggest problem is how to find those (foreign) talents and let them interpret Chinese culture in a modern and international way."

The opening ceremony is scheduled for August 8, 2008 and is expected to last four hours. The closing ceremony will close the Beijing Games on August 24.

(China Daily 03/02/2005 page1)

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