Posted by: Frederik Balfour on August 25, 2008
I can’t remember 18 days going by so quickly, yet on Sunday, the Beijing Games finally wrapped up with yet another impressive fireworks display—this time without any computer-generated enhancements. And unlike the opening ceremony, there was no lip-synching, and contrary to rumors attributed to the Hong Kong Standard Newspaper, neither 9-year-old Lin Miaoke [the face] nor 7-year-old Yang Peiyi [the voice] were on camera for the festivities. Nor were controversial Chinese gymnasts He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan, Deng Linlin and Li Shanshan featured. The IOC is still looking into whether they competed under the age limit.
But let’s face it, China did an incredible job hosting the Games, and President Hu Jintao had every right to look chuffed after China’s record haul of 51gold medals, especially after Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge described the games as “truly exceptional.” The speeches, were of course, predictable, and after the opening extravaganza, Sunday night certainly had a tough time as following act. I did like the Chinese heavenly drummers with their bicycle helmets and overalls. I was reminded somehow of 1980s band Devo. Chinese crooner Wei Wei did a nice job singing, but was it just my aging TV set, or was she wearing blue contact lenses?
When Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong passed the Olympic torch to London Mayor Boris Johnson, the Brit was dressed in a rumpled suit that looked like he’d borrowed it from his older brother. After the show, a retired Chinese police officer here in Hong Kong who served under the British for more than 30 years told me he how shocked he was by Johnson’s poor grooming and lack of respect for the proceedings.
And of course there was no second act for Olympic hero Li Ning whose eponymous company got the biggest free advertising ever when he did his air walk during the opening ceremony. I did notice the Spanish basketball coach Aito Garcia Rose was wearing a Li Ning shirt during the finals his team lost to the US. Redeem team. It’s not that I recognized the company logo [which looks suspiciously similar to the Nike swoosh], but because I could read the name Li Ning printed just below the logo. I guess the company didn’t want anybody to be confused.
Speaking of dazed and confused, Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page, looked far nattier than Mayor Johnson. But couldn’t the London Olympics organizers could have come up with someone a bit younger. Now, don’t get my wrong, I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Page, and enjoyed hearing his guitar licks of Whole Lotta Love sung by Leona Lewis as much as anyone, but the guy is 64. But then again, the Queen is going strong at 82.
I found it interesting that the London segment of the ceremony also featured performers dressed as ordinary London commuters on bicycles. Ironic really, when you think that Beijing banned many bicycles—at least the ones gathering trash—from its streets during the Games.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. David Beckham booted a soccer ball off the top of a double decker bus. Ho Hum. After the spectacular exploits of Olympians such as Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Guo Jingjing, Beck’s appearance felt anti-climatic.
Speaking of Li Ning, here’s a controversial marketing tactic that got a lot of attention earlier in the games when another team sponsor, Spanish courier company Seur, ran a photo of 15 Spanish players using their fingers to make their eyes more slanted. The ad only ran in Spain, but sure touched off a lot of nerves elsewhere about its racial stereotyping. But then again, Li Ning has run TV spots in China stereotyping Africans, so the knife can cut both ways.
And one last thing here from my Beijing colleague Chi-Chu Tschang.
I just noticed something really funny. I was at the Olympics soccer finals between Argentina and Nigeria on Saturday. Towards the end of the game, the crowd started to chant “Xie Yalong Xia Ke” (谢亚龙下课). Xie Yalong is the head of the China Football Association. The chant “Xie Yalong Xia Ke” literally means for him to finish class or to step down/resign. But a number of the foreigners in the crowds, as well as Argentina’s star player Leo Messi, thought that the Chinese crowds were chanting “Go Argentina!” (which they were but that’s not how we say Go Argentina in Chinese). Zuola has saved a screen shot of the interview Messi gave to the F.C. Barcelona web site here with Messi’s comments. It appears that they have since been edited here.
Here’s a blog item on it.