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Opinions fly now the Games have begun

By Jules Quartly | China Daily | Updated: 2012-08-01 10:43

Opinions fly now the Games have begun

While CCTV presenters seemed bemused and moved by the creativity and humor of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, one of my colleagues was knocked out by the segment when the "Queen" was pushed out of a helicopter by James Bond and parachuted into the stadium, pink bloomers exposed to the watching world's billions.

"I can't imagine that happening to any of our leaders," he commented.

The show was a nation defining itself, focusing on the average man and women's rights, with stolen lesbian kisses, folk traditions and weighty social issues like healthcare. It appeared to cause one of two reactions in the United Kingdom: knight the director, Danny Boyle; or castigate him for producing a socialist ceremony.

"The most lefty opening ceremony I have ever seen - more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?" tweeted the Conservative lawmaker Aidan Burley. His party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron responded by calling the opinion "idiotic". Which it was.

Here, the micro-blogosphere was just as colorful and the reactions just as diverse.


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There were a number of comments about the closing song by former Beatle Paul McCartney, who sang Hey Jude. And while the selection appeared to be just a rousing finale, the lyrics - "Take a sad song and make it better na na na na na, na na na, hey Jude" - did cause a frisson in China. The song has been variously cannibalized to refer to Mao Zedong's general Zhu De, and even Deng Xiaoping. One clueless commentator even thought Sir Paul had stolen the song from songbird Stephanie Sun. Enough said.

Others compared the cost of Beijing's 2008 Olympics and the relatively cut-price British version. While it is estimated that China spent an estimated $100 million on its Opening Ceremony, the UK is thought to have stumped up about half of that at $42 million.

While some Chinese went online to complain about the respective burden on taxpayers, a vocal majority was patriotic. "Although London cost less and was more environmentally friendly, I have to say it fell far behind Beijing in terms of creativity and scale. Money is power," tweeted Johoshua, from Shanghai.

Also from Shanghai, "First Fresh 15 Again Flavor" contrasted a performance in London "that showed respect and paid tribute to individuals" to the "uniformity and collectiveness" of Beijing, which he/she characterized as "tiny human beings submerged in a sea of people".

There were also a few unkind and politically incorrect comments comparing the London Olympics mascot to a one-eyed monster with a blissed-out face.

Personally, it was a blessed relief when the politics and pomp gave way to sports and the simple equation of winning and losing, individual excellence and team effort. The drama of it all.

Some snapshots for me, so far, include the archery heats, in which the Russian women's team narrowly beat Chinese Taipei in the elegant and iconic surroundings of Lord's cricket ground, and a large Russian woman in the stands who held a toy bear to her ample chest cried uncontrollably with happiness.

Or the men's gymnastic team final, which China almost inevitably won. The battle for second place went down to the wire and the Brits thought they had it, but a last-gasp appeal from Japan snatched the silver. A few boos from the naturally partisan crowd, of course, but general celebration all round.

I hope the British Olympics will be just as successful in their own way as the Beijing Games were four years ago. "Building a peaceful and better world though sport and the Olympic ideal" is such a good idea.

Meanwhile, I was in the elevator the other day (we Brits call it a lift) and I must have been wistfully looking at a bank advert promoting its credit card, using the Olympics: "Fleeting happiness, just for you."

The picture was of a European-looking gymnast, jumping in the air, reaching for the sky, eyes on the prize and so on when my reverie was broken by someone else getting in, who gave me the once over and asked where I was from.

"London," I said.

"Shouldn't you be there, rather than here," he asked.

I wish I was. It looks like a great party.

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