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By Christian Holland

I set out to find a writer to critique the Olympics’ opening ceremony. I had heard they were directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou and out-of-this-world visually stunning. But I couldn’t find anyone, at least not on the entire editorial staff of Big RED (there’s five of us).

James Nadeau a frequent Big RED contributor and editor of Our Daily Red said, “Wasn't it on a Friday night? Who is at home watching TV on a Friday night?”

Maybe people only watch for the scantily clad female volleyball players or the high definition images of gymnasts muscles. Leni Riefenstahl knew she was making much more than a movie that would attempt to propagate an image of white supremacy when she filmed nude German Olympians. She knew her young athletic subjects were steaming hot sex objects. China’s up to no such thing, but the grandeur of their display was intimidating.

The conversation went something like this:

Christian Holland:
Did anyone see the Olympics opening ceremony? I heard they were directed by the filmmaker Zhang Yimou over-the-top visually amazing. Perhaps worthy of a column or critique? Were they just the gaudy and ostentatious display of a nouveau rich country or China announcing to the world that "the 21st century is our century"?

Other than Nadeau’s response and a polite “sounds interesting” from our esteemed publisher, I had this exchange with Editor in Chief Matthew Gamber over instant messger:

CH: Do you have any thoughts on the Olympics opening ceremony that you didn't watch?
Matthew Gamber: of other people's happiness by lack
CH: hmmm
MG: CHINA IS SO NICE. who would protest that?
CH: Students for a Free Tibet.
MG: seriously:
CH: seriously.
MG: I noticed that every TV journalist on NBC - was trying to give the hard line to protesters they interviewed - "why you want to do this?"
CH: I wonder if they'll interview the Islamic separatists that attacked the police station early last week.
MG: no, they only interview white protesters
CH: perhaps all the non-white protesters are in torture chambers
CH: but you should also consider that the protesters who can speak English, and are therefore interview fodder, are college students form upper-middle class families (mostly white).

(CH note: What’s the point of giving the press access if they’re going to do such a SHITTY job?)

MG: the opening ceremonies were this dramatic polishing of a delirious past and uneven present
CH: can I quote you, Gamber?
MG: oh - that was the biggest piece of jackassery I have said all week
MG: maybe: a public relations phantasmagoria - polishing over an uneven present with historic fantasy

Gamber was on to something here. Though we probably had low expectations about Olympic art, which is often an international analog of the Ice Capades, we don’t want to be bothered with China’s attempt to blind us with their gleaming gilding.

But hurray for artistic achievement. I’ve only seen an abridged version of the opening ceremony, but I give it a 10. Let’s just hope they improve their human rights record.

Top 100 Offenders: Human Development Index weighted ranking of country's humans rights abuses.

The Official Site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics


About Author

Christian Holland is an aspiring New York City-based essayist who likes writing about how New York City isn't the center of the world. He was executive editor and founding contributor of Big, Red & Shiny, and sat on the publication's board for V2.

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