I've just been to the opening ceremony.

I have to keep much of what I saw under my hat as it was an "embargoed" dress rehearsal, of which only 30 seconds of quite general footage has been released.

Since a Korean TV crew filmed a bit of Saturday's rehearsal and stuck it on You Tube (they have a few goes at it to get it right), the Chinese Olympic officials have been very jumpy.

But I don't think I'm giving too much away if I tell you this...


It was all you would expect from a performance directed by film director Zhang Yimou, maker of films such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

Featuring thousands of perfectly-choreographed Chinese men and women, it was an immense demonstration of power and unity - exactly the message the Chinese government is trying to convey to the world about its country, and with a sweeping soundtrack to boot.

One particular sequence near the beginning took my breath away with its noise and ambition, a people on the rise.

In parts, it reminded me of those old muscle-flexing displays at old Soviet tank rallies.

The Chinese fans seemed only too delighted to cheer or clap or start a Mexican wave when requested to do so by the volunteers stationed in the crowd.

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And while all the Chinese people were merrily snapping away on their mobile phone cameras outside the stadium, I did not see one being used inside the stadium (obeying official requests presumably).

It is almost inconceivable to think one could stage a full Olympic opening ceremony rehearsal in front of 40,000 British people, and not expect photo and video sharing sites to be thick with digital shots from it within minutes.

But the Chinese are very obedient people it seems... I couldn't find anything on Flickr after this evening's performance for instance.

After the ceremony was over, the slightly uncomfortable military feel continued, as banks of dancers retreated in left-right platoons across the plaza in front of the Water Cube.


And fleets of sleek black cars with blackened windows were on hand to instantly whisk away dignitaries.

Those looking for surprises in the ceremony may be disappointed - though our rehearsal did not include the lighting of the cauldron or the fireworks and all parts were played by stand-ins, so who knows which celebrities will appear?

But for China-watchers looking for how the country would portray itself to the world, it is fascinating stuff.

Organisers said it would portray thousands of years of Chinese history - though I have to admit some of the imagery was too subtle for me.

Of course, they only have so much room for manoeuvre as many segments of the ceremony are enshrined in the Olympic constitution (which is probably why it goes on for so long) - the parade of athletes, the last stage of the relay and lighting of the flame, the 'artistic routine', the Olympic flag, the IOC president's speech... and the release of doves.

Those hot on Olympic history will know this, but at Seoul in 1988, the doves were released before the flame was lit - and some were promptly burnt to death when they alighted on the rim.

The practice was changed to release the birds afterwards - but apparently this time the order may be reversed.

Crispy dove anyone?

Claire Stocks is the BBC's interactive editor for Olympic sports. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 10:05pm on 05 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    Hopefully, when the BBC show this ceremony, the licence-fee payers will be spared an annoying voice-over from an overpaid BBC hack.

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  • 2. At 10:41pm on 05 Aug 2008, southerncoaster wrote:

    you sounded just like one of those people who are hard to please :) so I don't feel bad for being a little bit harsh on what I just kind of spoiled my excitement for the opening ceremony, hmmmm..., luckily, the NBC reporters are in good spirit

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  • 3. At 00:21am on 06 Aug 2008, Jordan D wrote:

    levdavidovich - whilst they will show the event, they are getting Huw Edwards (Newsreader, commentator of military/royal events) to do the commentary rather than the talented Barry Davies, who was the expert at Opening Ceremonies.

    Anyhow, the brief snippits of the Opening Ceremony seem excellent - I was privileged enough to be at the final dress rehersal of the Opening Ceremony of the Athens Games, and it was an impressive sight to see. Like China, there were no cameras/camera phone, although this was the result of some tight security and proper frisking before entering the stadium complex. If it is as amazing as the burning rings, the draining pool and the man running on the cube, it will be an awesome sight.

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  • 4. At 04:19am on 06 Aug 2008, iewgnem wrote:

    Let's hope they don't get James Reynold to do the voice over, the guy can make giving birth to a new baby sound like someone had just died.

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  • 5. At 08:31am on 06 Aug 2008, eirczhao wrote:

    "Organisers said it would portray thousands of years of Chinese history - though I have to admit some of the imagery was too subtle for me."
    Is it too subtle for you? I guess it is because you do not know much about China. All you say above is just your feeling, you think little with your brain. If you want to make your essay more convincing, go to read more about our country. A person who can only feel can never be a good correspondent.

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  • 6. At 09:01am on 06 Aug 2008, Frieston wrote:

    Typical self-pride Bristish tone. What a shame!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • 7. At 09:14am on 06 Aug 2008, RL wrote:

    Relax, Ms Stocks. It is just a game opening ceremony.

    If you feel offended by watching Chinese performance, give your ticket to me, I would be delighted.

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  • 8. At 09:18am on 06 Aug 2008, Claire S - BBC Sport wrote:

    Eirczhao, you are right. I'm afraid I do not know much about China - but I am trying to learn.
    My comment was not a criticism - why take it as one? It was an admission of my own ignorance and therefore reluctance to cast judgement on 2,000 of years of Chinese history as displayed in dance and music - when I know little about it.
    There were lots of little nuances I would love to have had explained to me - though when I wandered into the public seating area I was very swiftly asked to move out.
    Despite China's powerful position in the world, the majority of the many millions who will be watching on TV globally, will be in the same boat as me.
    I shall be watching again on Friday for the real thing (Huw Edwards and Carrie Richards are commentating for TV in the UK, Nick Mullins for Radio5 Live). But maybe I need to find a Chinese friend to watch it with - and hopefully begin the (slow process) of my enlightenment!

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  • 9. At 09:19am on 06 Aug 2008, RL wrote:

    BBC really need to get rid of those old fashioned, subjective, bitter tone, overpaid BBC journalists.

    BBC needs younger professionals with multi culture background to renew BBC's image.

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  • 10. At 12:04pm on 06 Aug 2008, SaturdayObserver wrote:

    Is there an Olympics Free edition of the BBC website for those of us who are boycotting this event?

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  • 11. At 12:41pm on 06 Aug 2008, tonyjb77 wrote:

    People. This is a blog from a journalist.. not from the Beijing Orgainsing Cttee.. A journalist's jobs in the free world means not swallowing what is put before them without question or doubt.

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  • 12. At 1:04pm on 06 Aug 2008, Jordan D wrote:

    Claire - can you let us know why a newsreader is acting as commentator for the Ceremony?

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  • 13. At 2:09pm on 06 Aug 2008, quiethighflyer wrote:

    It does appear that some people take any form of comment or analysis on China, be it fair, negative, or just different to what is produced by the State, as personal criticism of the whole of China.

    I for one am looking forward very much to the opening ceremony, I'm sure it will be an amazing spectacle. But you can't host the Olympic Games, the biggest sporting event in the world, and expect everyone to be in complete agreement with you, and not offer any critique or comment.

    I can't imagine how they would cope with the negative attitudes of some of our own media here in the UK regarding the 2012 Games!!

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  • 14. At 4:47pm on 06 Aug 2008, Yeiiii wrote:

    Another judgemental soul!

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  • 15. At 05:31am on 07 Aug 2008, EdgarJi wrote:

    We Chinese should really chill and accept different people come from different background and have different opinions, and that's a good thing.

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  • 16. At 10:16pm on 07 Aug 2008, changriu wrote:

    I am not sure what the author tries to achieve with this article - spoil the real ceremony for us or do I assume correctly you do not have tickets for the opening tomorrow??

    I am from Europe and I have lived in Beijing for a year. One thing that is so evident (and I am sorry that it is not really covered in your article) is how visible the passion and pride of the chinese people for these games / their culture is - hopefully the BBC will cover more of that side in the next few weeks!

    I am personally very excited to watch Ao Yun (unfortunately only on television) and I am sure it will be a fantastic event!

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  • 17. At 06:45am on 08 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    "they are getting Huw Edwards (Newsreader, commentator of military/royal events) to do the commentary rather than the talented Barry Davies, who was the expert at Opening Ceremonies."

    Ah. That's not as bad as it could be. At least Mr. Edwards has good diction. I feared that we may be made to suffer one of the shouty, screamy five-live people.

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  • 18. At 07:35am on 08 Aug 2008, cxmzsw wrote:

    At 12:04pm on 06 Aug 2008, SaturdayObserver wrote:
    Is there an Olympics Free edition of the BBC website for those of us who are boycotting this event?

    you are so funny, there are huge links on BBC website which are nothing to do with Olympic, why would you bother to click this link and even post a message? no one forced you, right? hypercrite.... LMAO

    well i am getting used to that every BBC news reader is acting like either a grand judge or god(goddes), but so get over with their words, they are just fake actors or actress

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  • 19. At 07:36am on 08 Aug 2008, cxmzsw wrote:

    jealoucy is the worst personality

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