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What does the Olympic opening ceremony mean to you?

Stuart Denman | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

In tonight's programme we'll be reviewing Beijing's Olympic opening ceremony.

stadium_nn_203.jpgAlready the games have provoked protests on a range of issues including human rights, Tibet, political prisoners and house evictions. So what message will the Chinese government be trying to convey at the ceremony? Will it tell us anything about the future direction of China? And do you believe that the Games will create a lasting change in China's openness to the rest of the world?

Let us know your thoughts - as part of our ongoing coverage of China's Games, we'll be reflecting your views on the programme tonight.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    If anyone from the editorial team reads this, they should note that the "China's Games" link in the text above links to a video clip called "Human rights in China" which claims to be 14m33s long but stops after about 10s of musical intro. Says a lot, really!

  • Comment number 3.

    In the end it will depend what you mean by the "Rest of the world"

    Where China rests on the good-bad scale means little or nothing to the vast majority of people round the globe.

    For many it will be whether or not they will still get cheep clothes

    For others it will be how China's growing economic strength will affect them

    And for others their interest in China will peak at the Olympic games and disappear soon after.

    And of course, there are those many, many millions and billions who wont even watch the Olympic games.

    And from the vast population of the world, there will be the very small handful of people that actually worry about China's human rights record.

    I used to record voice overs for Amnesty International's films they made about human rights abuse.

    Although these films were generally well made and heartfelt, it was always a constant struggle to get anyone interested.

    One they made about China many years ago featured public executions. It was meant to shock the Chinese public into thinking about their own situation. Trouble is, most of the Chinese were not bothered by public execution. The film fell on deaf ears.

    It is very important to get the message about issues with China across, but in doing so, whether you are a charity or Newsnight, you must recognise that your "rest of the world" is a very small world indeed!

  • Comment number 4.

    I couldn't care less about the olympics at all. Most of it is "my pharmacist is better than your pharmacist." Pointless.

  • Comment number 5.

    "Russian tanks enter South Ossetia"

    What is really going on there ?

    I was lead to believe that Georgia not only wants to be a member of NATO , but was being lined up for NATO partner status ?

    What are the implications ?

    Mark (Mark Urban), whats your thinking on this ?

  • Comment number 6.

    The IOC was supposed to have handed China the right to hold the Olympics on the understanding their Human Rights improved.
    If anything their Human Rights are far worse, therefore the Olympics should have been cancelled in Beijing by the IOC. AS it stands the Chinese government have won with the world condoning the Chinese government's actions.
    All that has happened is the Chinese people that have the courage to protest have been taken off the streets, arrested and thrown in jail, and possibly tortured?
    I hope the commitee members of the IOC can sleep at night?

  • Comment number 7.

    people are mixing up 2 things

    the olympics fraud of sport

    and that it is set in a one party state.

    what is really being honoured?

    is there nothing better?

  • Comment number 8.

    It is a pity the Chinese are so afraid of spontaneous cheers or boos that they have to teach their people beforehand exactly how they should behave.

    However, it is all of a piece with their regimented society, as it has been for thousands of years.

  • Comment number 9.

    Very nice ceremony, thank you. So perfect, it was boring from the start, really. I just don't see how the expenditure of maybe 100 tonnes worth of fireworks is going to help win the Clean Air Over Beijing battle.

  • Comment number 10.

    To be fair to the Chinese, newsnightjunkie, their culture is considerably different to ours. When River Dance went to Beijing they found it quite difficult that the Chinese audience did not clap between numbers - only at the end.

    But that does not mean they did not love it - it is just their way (and that has nothing to do with the way they are ruled)

    I suspect for the Olympics that the Chinese organisers were all too aware how their normal audience reaction would be perceived in the west and addressed the problem accordingly.

    One of the things that has worried me about much of the reporting of the run up to these Olympics has failed to understand that the Chinese are terribly proud of their culture and want people to see the best of it - but are worried that the west, especially, will simply not understand it.

    This is beyond the political issues of the way they run their country. Even oppresive regimes can have genuine concerns.

    I used to work in studios 2 doors from the then Chinese Embassy (it has moved a few doors up the road in Portland Place since)

    Their short wave transmissions used to interfere with our recordings (this is early 80s). But since their "secret" broadcasts were pretty predictable, we worked round the problem. But one day, they did not end as expected. I had actors, clients, producers all standing around impatiently. Eventually I phoned the Embassy (this was evening). After being told that they did not transmit by 10 different people, I eventually got through to a senior lady diplomat. She told me:

    "The radio operator we do not employ to make the broadcasts that we do not transmit says they will finish in about 10 minutes."

    My respect for the Chinese went up a thousand fold!

  • Comment number 11.

    Yawn!!!! Yet more sport. Zzzzzzz. Thank God the Proms are on.

  • Comment number 12.

    I loved the opening ceremony, really excellent. Do the Chinese people really want their country to change as much as everyone seems to think? I doubt it. Sure you have to register your protest in advance in Beijing, you also have to do that around parliament here. So hypocritical. Sure it's on a bigger scale, but things start small and just get bigger. And if most Chinese are ok with it, then who are we to force it on them. Just like with Sark, Jack Straw forced democracy on them when they were perfectly happy with the status quo, where's the democracy in that??

  • Comment number 13.

    I felt the opening ceremony was sensational and the Chinese did extremely well - I wasn't impressed though hopw the BBC commentators continually brought up political issues with almost every sentence they spoke. They should have been concentrating on SPORT and giving comments on SPORT and the achievements of each country NOT the political connections - they dampened a lot of what was a mgnificent event.

  • Comment number 14.

    London has nothing to worry about for 2012.
    The most boring opening ceremony I have ever seen.
    Why do the BBC presenters feel the need to continually jabber away? Today's BBC team has managed to surpass even Terry Wogan when presenting the Eurovision Song Contest. They have managed to give me a headache by their non stop verbal diarrhoea.
    At the end, I had to turn the sound off.

  • Comment number 15.

    What does the opening ceremony mean to me? not a's just more whitewash and B*/S*.

    How a government such as Chinas can possibly believe that
    "the rest of the world" will simply revel in the games and not look or think beyond them beats me, having said that, I just wonder how many there are in "the rest of the world" that actually care a jot...

  • Comment number 16.

    I thought that the opening is going to be probably the best part of the 2008 games.We are now going to be bored with athletes strutting around as though they are the greatest. Boring interviews with countless BBC presenters and commentators. I would really like to know what the final bill is for the BBC. All to make some privilged sportsman or woman rich. What is the object of boring people for a fortnight, just think of the audience at any one time. Just those interested in that particular sport. No, I think the games have had their best years, when it was truly amatuer. As for the interviews, what a bore

  • Comment number 17.

    I made my comments but unfortunately did not give my name can you pick up the message that I just gave and add my name Righthon. Thankyou

  • Comment number 18.

    I suggest those so critical of China's human rights might show both more respect and a greater acknowledgement of history. The leading 'western' countries got there by expoliting their own and other countries human rights - Britain/India; USA/black Americans etc etc.
    China has liftem more people out of poverty and is on track to meet its Millenium Development Goals - compare to Africa!
    How long did it take America to respect its black population - segregation was prevalent in my lifetime.
    So less preaching!
    Lets use dialogue and respect to encorage China to have the confidence to improve its human rights.
    Though I greave for Tibet, there are far worse occupations and oppressions, shall I start at Palestine, Chechyna, Burma, etc.
    Lets get it in perspective and engage with China, not castigate them for doing what our forefathers did and worse,

  • Comment number 19.

    The ceremony was spectacular opening to THE WORLDS sporting event. The coming together of sports men and women each with their hopes and dreams in the true Olympic spirit.
    Politics has no place. Let us celebrate the achievements, be enthused by this world party. To bring this back to GREAT Britain. Yes Britain is GREATso no more wingeing after the Mayor of London is handed the Olympic flag on 24th August. Let us get on the job to the hold the GREATEST Olympics when we welcome the world in 2012.

  • Comment number 20.

    How on earth did a wee pipe band from Dundee end up stealing the show from
    the whole of Western Europe in Beijing?

    BBC Reporting Scotland has the story!

  • Comment number 21.

    On the subject. " What does the opening ceremony mean to you"
    2012 - I'm definitely going! I'll find a flight no matter what cost, anywhere will do, as long as the sun is shinning and it's far, far, away from here.

  • Comment number 22.

    PHARMACY AND FAIR PLAY (after 76uk @ 4)

    Nice one 76! That made I laugh.

    My interest lies AFTER the CLOSING ceremony.
    Then we will know just how much bull there can be in a China shop methinks.

  • Comment number 23.

    Huw Edwards ruined it ! why did he get the job he's just an autocue reader

    He really ruined it with his mindless quips

  • Comment number 24.

    Cut Huw Edwards some slack guys ..... and Hazel Irvine was doing well until the Oman team entered the stadium and she said (on the day S. Ossetia was overrun with tanks):
    "Oman is the only country whose name begins with O!" NB 'Oestereich' was not amused I guess by that comment either?

  • Comment number 25.

    I live in Beijing since 10 years and during that time have seen enormous progress being made in all aspects of life for the Chinese people. No nation on Earth has moved so fast nor have they ever moved so many millions our of poverty in such a short time. Of course there are still problems and human right abuses but we must let the Chinese deal with it ...they are getting there. Huge, huge efforts have gone into these games .. let them enjoy this show of 'we are now a part of the whole world'. I feel George Bush and his ilk are the LAST people on the planet to preach about human rights. Why does no one talk about the TWO MILLION Iraqi refugees wandering without shelter/jobs/money/future in Jordan and Syria .. or other human rights abuses in the world caused by the West in days gone by .... 2 million Irish died in a terrible famine in the 1840s while the richest nation and neighbour stood by and did nothing ... just one example. Talk about the pots calling the kettles black!

    Sylvia in Beijing

  • Comment number 26.

    What does it mean to me? What most items about sport mean..yawn..yawn.

    Of course the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony was spectacular and fantastic and must have invoked pride to those involved, but is it a cost-effective way of letting citizens have pride in their country?

    For a start, it now means that London will have to try to achieve something even more spectacular, having already spent millions over budget on construction to date. Even worse for any other 'developing' nation to be handed the chalice and have to commit huge funds in trying to compete in the provision of spectacular buildings, facilities and razamataz: let alone the fruitless cost of trying to win events that statistically must be beyond them in terms of population size and training costs.

    And all for the glory of a few individuals, because many of my colleagues agree that they feel no particular pride in the winning of events by citizens who hardly represent their culture or race: that's right, I said race, because we still have some pride left in our own culture, what's left of it after the onslaught of alien cultures.

    So maybe we might bring home another medal or two and award a Knighthood again to somebody who manages to cross the finishing line a nanosecond ahead of the others.

    It's not the individual amateur affair (like the great Wilson) that I enjoyed reading about in my boyhood; and it doesn't invoke pride, only grief at the excessive expense and emphasis on sport and general competitiveness that has taken over from humble achievement during the past decades. Guess I've become a grumpy old man, but I've earned the right to my opinion.

    Perhaps later BBC can do a calculation of the total cost incurred for each medal UK may have won?

  • Comment number 27.

    Strangely, I like many people of this country are as pleased as punch that the Olympics are coming to London.

    There really is not the expectation of matching the Chinese opening ceremony - not in style at any rate. That was very much a superpower style ceremony with superpower resources.

    The beauty of being British, of course, is that it is NOT reliant on being any sort of race. The British have never been just one race, but a good old mixture, as any geneticist will tell you. And as for culture, I think you will find different cultures the length and breadth of this county stretching back hundreds of years.

    And thanks to the British Empire and later the Commonwealth, we have a long history of people from many different backgrounds representing this country in different ways, including fighting for it.

    So, hillsideboy, maybe you and your colleagues would like to check your knowledge of history first before making near racist comments

  • Comment number 28.

    I am usually one to heed all the criticisms made of China, however I was watching the tens of thousands in the stadium and the countless millions outside the stadium cheer on the Chinese team and the Olympics in general and I thought to myself: "What exactly are we protesting against? The right of the Chinese people to celebrate their culture and heritage? Who are we to take this away from them?". Anyone could argue that the CCP does not deserve the honor to hold the games, but the same cannot be said of the Chinese people, particularly their athletes who have consistently topped the medal tables. Had the opening ceremony played like typical CCP propaganda, I'd be the first to switch off. This was not what I saw. However, it was the sheer support of the Chinese people that I found captivating. Are we here in the west making the argument that these millions of Chinese people are all brain-washed tools of the CCP. I am not one to heed such racist arrogance.

  • Comment number 29.

    After watching the opening ceremony I think London should say to the OC 'listenguys I think we are in over our heads here and our people are starting to kick up about council tax raises and to be honest ours is going to look like a day out in Bognor after Beijing, so can we have our money back and give it back to the Greeks' We don't do big ceremonies, we cannot even fund the NHS, our shools are crumbling, out transport is the most expensive yet worst in Europe so why the hell did we ever apply in the first place? Paris should have been given 2012, we are about to become the laughing stock of the world.

  • Comment number 30.

    I thought the ceremony was absolutely fabulous. When else does the entire world unite in a cultural celebration of something positive? Hopefully there will be some good external influence to help improve China's position on human rights.

    I think the Olympics are just what London and the UK need! For two reasons (i) to prove that we can stage a magnificent mega event to be proud of - and I'm sure we will and (ii) the opportunities to regenerate run down areas of the capital, to think big and to make a solid investment for our futures. We need to invest in these areas anyway, so why not invest under the aegis of the biggest global marketing tool that exists? Yes, it may add a lot to our taxes but if we allow small minded petty concerns to rule us forever, London and the UK will drift into the background of world consciousness and we'll fall behind both spiritually and economically.

    Finally, as regards BBC coverage of the opening ceremony, I thought some aspects of it were excellent, but I really wish someone would ask Hazel Irvine to be quiet for just a few minutes every day. Her inane comments (eg Countdown/Carole Vorderman/the location of her coming holiday) were quite out of keeping for such a important world cultural event. Maybe Terry Wogan can get away with making fun of the Eurovision Song Contest, but Hazel is hardly Wogan, and the Olympics surely can't be compared to the ESC.

  • Comment number 31.

    I don't understand why there is any expectance of change in China? Was there any change in the US? No. There was unfair treatment of blacks before and after the games were heldnin California and in Georgia. There was and is racist profiling by the police, more blacks are in state and federal prisons and more are executed.
    Where has the Games caused change?

    Cruel and unfair treatment will only stop when the citizens put a stop to it. No miltary force is greater than the power of the people.

  • Comment number 32.

    As a Chinese, I find the opening ceremony spectacular and entertaining on the surface. But when I think about the authoritarian repression in China and the government's totalitarian approach to orgnising this Olympic, all these extravaganza showing China's "harmony" and "openess" looks hollow.

    It was just nationalistic showing off, and the Communist Party is manipulating the Chinese nationalism to legitimize its grip on power.

  • Comment number 33.

    China is our big nextdoor neighbour and the sounds of fou(chinese drums )rumbled across the Himalyas at Nepal. It indicates China will go for the drumbeats of One World One Peace .The people are grounded in ancient floor of tradition and culture but modern China spacewalks to touch the flame of One World One Dream. The morning of Summer Olympics has only shown the day of Spring of peaceful and prosperous China . The Olympic torch has passed the top of Mt Everest.This pinnacle of Himalayan glory shadows Nepal as the sun rises in the East,but it shines Nepal with ethereal golden hue as the sun sets in the West.Now that it has been sanctified by the Oluympic torch , we feel the East will meet the West here with olympian harmony and peace, for the Everest is the symbol of Asian culture and civilization.

  • Comment number 34.

    My post #1 has just been removed for breaking the house rules despite containing no objectionable language, I can only assume its sentiment was considered offensive to the IOC and/or the government of the people's republic of China. I'll try again using more measured words.

    "What does the Olympic opening ceremony mean to you?"

    How far the IOC have sold out Olympic ideals and how limited their intelligence to have awarded the games to the odious government of the People's Republic of China.

  • Comment number 35.


    Gurubear (#3)

    "It is very important to get the message about issues with China across, but in doing so, whether you are a charity or Newsnight, you must recognise that your "rest of the world" is a very small world indeed!"

    To whom is it 'very important'?

    The 'very important message' appears to be that some NGOs and their on message subscribers don't approve of the type of government (Democratic Centralism) and laws in the PRC. But as the function of liberal-democratic (free-market) Human Rights 'NGOs is precisely to put 'non-governmental' pressure upon non liberal-democratic regimes to adjust to Western liberal-democratic ways, who exactly is bringing politics into the Olympic Games? Of course, it isn't liberal-democratic governments, as NGOs are Non-Governmental Organisations, and well, 'free'.... And as you say, the "rest of the world" is a very small world indeed!" and we are making ourselves smaller and smaller all the time, bar immigration.

    Should this not prompt pause for thought on the long term demographic consequences (intentional or not) of the politics of freedom and Human Rights?

  • Comment number 36.


    handsomeBarryrichard (#6) "The IOC was supposed to have handed China the right to hold the Olympics on the understanding their Human Rights improved....I hope the commitee members of the IOC can sleep at night?"

    I suspect they will, but doesn't the following disturb you (and others voicing similar sentiments)?

    "We are not in a position that we can give instructions to governments as to how they ought to behave," Hein Verbruggen, head of the IOC's coordination commission ....
    "We don't want to be, as the IOC, involved in any political issues," he said. "It's not our task. We are here for organizing the Games."


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