OLYMPICS / Olympic Life

And the singer at the ceremony is ...
By Raymond Zhou

Updated: 2008-07-25 08:08


The Olympic organizing committee has just let the cat out of the bag by revealing how fireworks will be used during the opening ceremony. We now know they can display the five rings in the sky, since a fireworks rehearsal is pretty hard to keep hush-hush.

A theme song, however, can be rehearsed in the privacy of a studio or even a living room. That makes it much more difficult to predict who will sing the all-important tune, which will be guaranteed a zillion air plays in the next year.

The CCTV annual gala might well have given us several clues, though.

Olga Borodina

The only two singers who consistently get solo chances are Song Zuying and Peng Liyuan, who are both known for their traditional Chinese image and their so-called "Chinese bel canto" style of singing. But who is the likelier choice? They've never sung a duet and picking one over the other seems unfair. Besides, Forever Friends, written by perennial Olympic theme song composer Giorgio Moroder, does not seem to suit their style.

Dai Yuqiang

Picking from the pop scene is even harder. There are at least half a dozen A-listers, including Liu Huan, Mao Amin, Na Ying and Wei Wei. The national TV station usually abides by the principle of equal opportunity and has them share a song - the latest example is the earthquake relief show. If you push that logic a step further, the theme song may even be sung by a chorus of 100 singers. All the pre-Olympic jingles, including We Are Ready, were recorded this way.

There is little likelihood that popular choices such as Jay Chou and the Super Girls will make the cut. The only known Hong Kong or Taiwan singer with the vocal prowess to deliver a power ballad is Jacky Cheung but he is not exactly Andy Lau or Jackie Chan in terms of his political connections.

What about choosing a foreign singer? That would certainly give the show a touch of "internationalness" and therefore reflect the global aspirations of the host country. Celine Dion would have been ideal - with a song written by Tan Dun and orchestrated by David Foster, such a melody would be a surefire worldwide hit. But the cancellation of her Beijing concert earlier this year pretty much ruled her out of the running. If a foreign singer like Andrea Bocelli or Julio Iglesias were selected, he or she would probably sing with a Chinese partner. Call it the Barcelona way, for which Spaniard Jose Carreras and import Sarah Brightman teamed up for Amigos Para Siempre, a title almost identical to the Beijing theme song.

The last possibility is to have a new face, or more accurately, a new voice. That was more or less the way of the Los Angeles and Sydney Games. The result will catapult the singer to instant fame and it would have a positive spin-off. It would diffuse internal politics by excluding all the A-list stars and it would be the bravest thing organizers could do. So, it is not entirely impossible.

I won't dwell on the choice of the last torchbearer, who will light the Olympic flame. It has been declared a State secret known to only a few people. Liu Changchun would have been perfect - he was the first Chinese athlete to attend the modern Olympics and he did it in defiance of the puppet government in Japanese-occupied Northeastern China. But he died in 1983.

Liu Xiang's coach has ruled out the champion hurdler and anyway, he was the first torch-bearer.

And how will the flame be lit? The possibilities are endless! But consider this: The last torchbearer ignites a high-tech fire phoenix, which in turn flies up to kindle the sacred flame.

The phoenix is the feminine counterpart of the dragon, but unlike the dragon, it has more positive connotations in Western mythology. Since the dragon will reportedly keep a low profile, the phoenix might be better for such a high-profile job. A phoenix rising from the ashes is a symbol whose meaning is shared by both East and West. And what image can better capture China's rise in the last three decades than a phoenix flying up gracefully?

In terms of imagery, the phoenix matches the Bird's Nest like a glove. As a matter of fact, there is a Peking Opera comedy called Phoenix Returning to its Nest. It was created by the iconic Mei Lanfang, who conveyed Chinese-style feminine beauty better than any modern-day supermodel. The very first place where the torch started the domestic leg of its run was Fiery Phoenix Square in Sanya, Hainan province. Of course, a phoenix flying inside the national stadium, perhaps even above the stadium, would need a high-tech helping hand.

The image of the Bird's Nest may inspire a great many ideas. Doves symbolizing peace can fly out into the sky, which, on second thoughts, is not something for a night show. What if it's illuminated? Weather permitting, the shape of the building will not only be a good background, but will be integrated into the artistic concept. A nest is basically home sweet home, but getting in and out of it has Freudian overtones of breaking out and returning to the comfort zone of one's roots. A person's life is such a journey, and so is a country's.

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