Hope springs eternal, and after watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, I have renewed hope in the future of the world.
The first Olympic Games ever on Chinese soil opened with a tour de force production that cost a reputed $300 million--50% more than the making of the film Titanic. And I believe it was worth every penny.
I have never seen such a spectacle. Or a statement.
As the world's most populous country with 1.3 billion people, China made the most of it's opportunity to make a renewed first impression on the world. In terms of showcasing the country's cultural history with ancient drums, it's artistic heritage with gymnastic scroll writing on one of the world's largest LED screens, it's place as the birthplace of fireworks, it's arrival in the modern world and emergence as a world superpower, and the role of its children through representation of every ethnic group that makes up China and the showcase of Sheishei--a nine-year old boy who heroically saved two other children earlier this year after the destructive earthquake in Western China, these Olympic Ceremonies covered it all.
But even more powerfully, these opening ceremonies make a statement of China's political might. The largest spectacle ever. The most expensive games ever. The most regimented in terms of what the country achieved through repressive and mandatory English Classes, pollution control, precision and unification of the Chinese people who derive a sense of pride and yes, honor, from how the world perceives these games. The government of China steamrolled all this over the world's largest population of people, and the people, for the most part, fell in line. That's scary and inspiring all at the same time that China can flex such muscle--either in a display of culture and beauty as the Opening Ceremonies were, or in Oppression of Tibet or even in War.
And yet, never have I been more hopeful for world peace. China is trying to become a modern country. China is already an economic giant. And now it appears, through their Olympic Ceremonies, and through the theme of these Olympics: One World, One Dream, that perhaps China wants not just to be a major player on the world stage, but just maybe China wants to take its rightful place as a world leader. It is true that there are policies in China that most of the world denounces. And yet, China has been making strides by leaps and bounds since President Nixon visited China in the 1970s, approximately 35 short years ago. When the United States declared independence, we still permitted slavery. Slavery was not abolished until almost 100 years later, but even today we still struggle with racial and sexual prejudices and inequities. If we were not the United States of America, perhaps we too would be regarded as a country that violates basic human rights.
The bottom line is that no country or regime is perfect. Countries are made up of governments of imperfect men and women. Change comes slowly. And maybe I'm a little naive. Maybe the Beijing Olympic Games are more show than substance. But I don't think so. China has a history reaching back thousands of years. They have always looked inside with little regard to the rest of the world. The effort they have put into building world class facilities for these Olympic Games to put on a good show for the world, and more impressively, the effort they put in showcasing the cultural beauty and history of China in the Opening Ceremonies demonstrates, to me at least, that they care very much about how the world perceives them as a nation.
I am impressed. And I believe we are all going to learn a lot more about China over the next sixteen days. And that inspires great hope in me.
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Thanks for reading.