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This dissertation sets out to discover some of the cultural values expressed through the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. The ceremony may be the single biggest event for the production of national culture for international consumption of the 21st century. (Price & Dayan, 2008:185) From winning the bid for the Summer Olympics 2008, the Beijing Olympics turned out to be an opportunity for China to present a reformed image to the world, that of the 'new' China. This dissertation uses a qualitative research method, textual analysis, in order to examine the various cultural values that were expressed through the ceremony. Upon analysing the Opening Ceremony, many aspects of ancient Chinese cultures were identified, which had a profound influence on the content of the ceremony itself. This dissertation contributes to the study of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and may direct further research on ancient Chinese culture.
The Olympic Games are an international sports event in which world class athletes participate in a variety of summer and winter sports competitions. I am fascinated by the Olympics because I like to see how human beings push the physical boundaries further over time. My favourite part of the Olympics is the Opening Ceremony. The Opening Ceremony is the first event of the Games and 'the main source of Olympic cultural value production', (Garcia, 2012:23) offering the host country an opportunity to put forward a new vision of its culture to the world, as it attracts the largest number of audiences across the globe.
With the traditional Greek concept of the balance between 'the body (sport), mind (education) and soul (culture)' (Garcia, 2012:24) the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires the host country to 'blend' the three ideas during the Olympic Games - from the Opening to Closing Ceremonies. Obviously, for athletes their main aim is to win medals, however, for the host country, to win the Games is to 'focus on constructing the cultural values of the event.' (Garcia, 2012:22) The first official cultural programme was introduced in the Sweden Olympics 1912. There were the fine-arts categories where artists, like athletes, competed for medals. Yet, as problems with judgement on artworks continued to rise, from 1956 onwards, the program began to diminish. Until 1992, when Barcelona introduced the idea of a Cultural Olympiad, countries began to use the Olympics Opening Ceremony as an event to present their national identity and culture.
The aim of this dissertation is to find out which cultural values were 'blended' into the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. I have one research objective,
To discover how China uses the Opening Ceremony to represent its country
The main body of this dissertation is structured in five parts. In order to provide a sense of direction, each part is briefly explained.
History of Chinese Culture introduces the three main Chinese belief systems, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, and explains how Chinese culture changes from learning to creativity.
The Welcome Ceremony explicates why the ceremony began on 8th August 2008, 8:08pm.
Artistic Section: The Four Great Inventions refers to paper making, printing, compass, and gunpowder. This part reveals some important ancient Chinese inventions including the Silk Road.
Artistic Section: One World One Dream is the slogan of the Beijing Games. Here, the slogan was interpreted through the use of ancient Chinese inventions.
The Ending of the Ceremony explains the parade of nations, the speeches made by the presidents, the torch relay, and the Olympic Flame.
Please note that, there is an appendix section at the back of the dissertation. It would be ideal for you to refer to it when you come across these smaller numbers,  .
This dissertation contributes to fulfilling the literature gap on the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. So far, the most relevant literature I found is written by Myles Garcia in 2012, named 'Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies', in which he explains the history of an Olympic Opening Ceremony, and presents images on past ceremonies. Regarding the Beijing Olympics, Garcia analyses the design and production costs of the Opening Ceremony, and issues with the slogan of 'One World One Dream'. Like Garcia, this dissertation will contribute to the study of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, but also, to the study of ancient Chinese culture.
The method I have chosen to use is textual analysis, producing 'an interpretation of something's meaning'. (McKee, 2003:4) Textual analysis is often used to answering the classic question, 'Who says what, to whom, why, how, and with what effect?' (Babbie, 2010:333) With my dissertation question, I need to carry out a communication research which makes textual analysis the most appropriate method. I followed the eight steps Margrit Schreier identified for qualitative content analysis,
Deciding on your research question
Selecting your material
Building a coding frame
Dividing your material into units of coding
Trying out your coding frame
Evaluating and modifying your coding frame
Interpreting and presenting your findings
I began my dissertation in the summer 2012 during the London Olympics. This inspired me to base my research question around the Opening Ceremony. Being a university student, I had access to multiple libraries, in which I discovered sources that were invaluable for my research. The library became my main research area; from it, I selected a range of materials including videos, books, articles, newspapers, and websites. One of the difficulties I had during data collection was finding the Opening Ceremony video. The video was very difficult to watch free online because China has banned all uploads on the Internet. As a result, I had to buy the official DVD in order for me to start my research. From the available sources, I focused particularly upon those listed in my bibliography. Not only were they relevant to my topic, but they were all published after 2003, which is five years before the Beijing Olympics 2008. The reason I set a five-year limit because I want to provide up-to-date and recent research, also it reduces my time spend on data collection, allowing me to work more effectively. I am aware that some websites might be biased since 'different cultures make different value judgements.' (McKee, 2003:5) Thus, I will avoid using websites that contain personal opinion, such as forums. I built my coding frame by dividing the texts into three main categories; culture, Olympics, and politics. Next, I tried out my coding frame when I wrote my dissertation plan, and made changes over time as I found that it was too broad.
Validity is a common term in quantitative research. Although I am doing qualitative research, I too will, take this concept into account as I feel that, in proving the validity of my dissertation, it gives my dissertation a meaning. Validity 'is concerned with the integrity of the conclusions that are generated from a piece of research.' (Bryman, 2012: 47) According to Lincoln and Guba, validity can be assessed through 'trustworthiness' which includes,
Credibility, which parallels internal validity - that is, how believable are the findings?
Transferability, which parallels external validity - that is, do the findings apply to other contexts?
Dependability, which parallels reliability - that is, are the findings likely to apply at other times?
Confirmability, which parallels objectivity - that is, has the investigator allowed his or her values to intrude to a high degree?
My dissertation meets all the criteria of being trustworthy. Firstly, my findings are credible because I have used the most recent materials to support my thoughts, and more importantly, there is nothing outrageous, especially in the given context. In earlier published books such as 'Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics' (1993), it has already been established that the Olympics Opening Ceremony provides an opportunity for the host country to showcase its cultural value, image, history and development. It seems to me that it is entirely trustworthy to search for the influence of cultural aspects in the theatricality of the Beijing Opening Ceremony itself and to make the findings subjective since the nature of the ceremony does not contain words and explanations but theatre and visual media. Secondly, my findings are transferable since every Opening Ceremony could be studied in the same way, contemplating the influence of cultural values on the final product. They can be applied to a range of topics in relation to China, such as its image, value, history and modern perception of ancient cultures. Moreover, they can help to map China's culture progression through a historical timeline. Thirdly, my findings are dependable because it may direct further research on the study of ancient Chinese culture and future exploration on the Beijing Olympics, for example, how ancient Chinese inventions affect people's lives today? How successful did China use the Beijing Olympics as a stage? Lastly, my findings are confirmable because they are based on concrete evidence. Through coding, I have matched aspects of the Opening Ceremony to aspects of Chinese culture so that my findings do not contain external bias such as my own opinion.
'All research work unavoidably has some limitations.' (Ioannidis, 2006:324) With my dissertation, the first limitation I acknowledge is that research quality is heavily dependent on the researcher's skill. To ensure my dissertation is valid, I have to make sure that my findings do not contain my opinion which I found it quite difficult to achieve. At times, I struggled to maintain and demonstrate a non-bias research because I was influenced by other researcher's personal biases. The second limitation I found is that qualitative research is not as well recognised as quantitative research within the scientific field. Take my dissertation as an example, although my findings provide a depth of understanding of ancient Chinese culture, in the science community, they would argue that my findings are not reliable because another researcher cannot achieve the same findings as me.
The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony 2008
History of Chinese Culture
Culture is 'the totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.' (Peterson, 2004:16) Raz observes that 'culture performs two vital functions.' Firstly, 'it structures its members' perceptual and moral world' by giving them meaning to their activities and helping them to make the right choice. Secondly, 'it gives its members a sense of rootedness' enabling them to share a common identity. (Parekh, 2000:95) His observation suggests that culture acts as a bond that ties the community together, and helps to build a stronger society through a sense of belonging. Extending the point about structuring a moral world, it appears that cultural values are 'principles or qualities that a group of people will tend to see as good or right or worthwhile.' (Peterson, 2004:22)
With China, their culture covers a large part of eastern Asia. Most Chinese cultural values come from three belief systems; Confucianism, an ethical system developed by a Chinese philosopher Confucius, Taoism, a religious tradition that promotes living in harmony with nature, and Buddhism, a spiritual belief that focuses on personal spiritual development. All three belief systems emphasise ancient traditional family values and therefore family relationships are prioritised. The family unit seems significant in many cultures, past and present. For example, the Ten Commandments include 'Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.' However, the word, 'relationship', has a different meaning in China. As Confucianism's moral world is based on the 'Classic of Family Reverence', 'filial reverence was a necessary condition for developing any of the other human qualities of excellence.' (Rosemont & Ames, 2009: xii) The term, 'filial', mainly refers to the ruler and father. Although the equality between genders has improved - China has moved from rank 83 out of 102 in 2009, to rank 42 out of 86 in 2012 (SIGI, 2012) as indicated by the Social Institutions and Gender Index, a measure of 'underlying discrimination against women'. Yet, it is still a common cultural occurrence for the majority of Chinese to respect the 'superiors' today - that is to say, the male gender.
Furthermore, with relationships, Chinese people are extraordinarily loyal to China. 'Chinese nationalism demands that all Chinese unconditionally devote their full loyalty to the native Chinese culture' (Fan, 2011:165), including the typical Chinese religious stance. It is a tradition in China to refer to the three belief systems; Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, according to their situations, for example, they refer to Confucianism for political advice, refer to Taoist gods for good luck, and refer to Buddhism for answers about the afterlife. The Chinese do not have a certain belief but look for guidance from different belief systems. Hence, the Chinese cannot only believe in Christianity nor Buddhism because it counts as an act of betraying Chinese culture. To put it simply, 'one more Christian or Buddhist means one Chinese less.' (Fan, 2011:165)
[Image 1. A French cartoon showing how the Powers of the late 1890s (from left to right, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, William II of Germany, Nicholas II of Russia, the French Marianne and the Meiji Emperor of Japan) imagined they could divide the symbolic pie (i.e. China) between themselves, with Qing from China at the back waving his hands in a vain attempt to prevent them from doing so.]
As the image shows, in the past, China was a weak and powerless country. China began to gain power on 21 September 1949, when Mao declared the foundation of the People's Republic of China and announced that 'the Chinese people have stood up!' (Hung, 2010:1) Although China has become an independent country, it was not the end of China's painful modern history. Mao instigated the Great Leap Forward Policy, which aimed to modernize China through rapid industrialization, meaning to demolish the agricultural system. This resulted in nearly 45 million deaths from starvation. When Mao realised the failure of the Great Leap Forward Policy, he launched the Cultural Revolution, aiming to restore communism by removing capitalist. Mao linked his personal ideology with the Marxist-Leninist social theory that, 'cultures are shaped by social classes that are determined primarily by socioeconomic conditions and the relation to economic production' (Hung, 2010:6), without fully understanding what Marx argued. Marx himself argued that communism could not be put into practice until a country achieves the highest stage of development possible under capitalism, in other words, capitalism should not be totally abolished because equality among social classes will not happen until China has a well developed economic system including wage labour and property rights. Mao's actions again, resulted in millions of innocent deaths. Places such as mosques and Buddhist temples were razed and many including monks and teachers were killed in factional struggles, at the hands of the Red Guard . When Mao died in 1976, the Cultural Revolution came to an end. China began to experience positive growth in 1978 when Deng Xiaoping became the leader of the Communist Party of China. He released thousands of political prisoners, reopened all the universities and schools, opened China to foreign investment, and proposed the idea of 'One country, Two systems' where Hong Kong, Macau, and Tai Wan can be an independent Chinese region with their own economic and political systems, resulting in a 'new' China - 'new political and social formations, new identities and subjectivities, and new forms of citizenship and ethics.' (Yu, 2009:1)
Culture changes over time. Changes often occur in response to external factors, such as 'population growth, technological innovation, environmental crisis, the intrusion of outsiders, or modification of behavior and values within the culture.' (Haviland, Prins, Walrath, & McBride, 2008:37) Chinese culture has also moved away from the prioritisation of prescriptive learning, to favour creativity. Haiqing Yudq observes that 'creativity' is the buzzword used by Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs to describe the new Chinese culture. Creativity emphasises 'a new niche in China's innovation and national development, a vantage point to celebrate consumer freedom and artistic expression, and a new way to understand China's transition to a high-end cultural content and service provider in the global trade.' (Yu, 2009:3) Compared to the West, creativity is a new word as Chinese people believe that the primary objective is learning, creativity is an ability you born with, it cannot be developed. Yet, in the West, even for primary school kids, the main objective is to be creative. Although there was a delay for the Chinese to recognise the importance of creativity, it is now perceived as a valuable concept, particularly in the context of this new culture. When China was a less developed country, their income mainly relied on its low cost manufacturing, but now, China has changed its economic direction from manufacturing to the development of its cultural industries. One of the successful companies in the cultural industry is Crystal CG, who participated in both Beijing and London Olympics in the production of 3-D images and digital imaging services. Creativity is the leading way to solidify China's global position and to improve economic growth as well as its image. Creativity being a new culture is, as Keane said, the reason for China's 'great new leap forward'. (Yu, 2009:4)
Although China has reformed, people are still imagining China in the time of Mao. So how can China present their new image to the world? Andrew Morris points out, 'Without the international context there would be no need to create a modern Chinese nation, and without the nation and its need to impress itself on the minds of all modern citizens, no one ever would have thought to organize, participate in, or pay to view institutions like the Olympics or the Far Eastern Games.' (Xu, 2008:36) For many Chinese, the development of Western sports seemed to provide a viable way to promote China to a global power, equating it with the most developed of Western countries. The logic is as follows: 'countries where physical education was widespread were progressive and strong, while physical education was less widespread in weak and poor countries.' (Xu, 2008:61) The Olympics become a path for China to share their success and to prove that they have overcome the painful history with the world.
Before China won the bid for the Summer Olympics 2008, they failed the bid for the Summer Olympics 2000. One of the reasons for the failure is because China wanted to use the slogan, 'New Beijing New Olympics', but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) worried that using the word 'new' may give a wrong perception that China is changing the Olympics into something 'new'. This suggests that the IOC has set strict principles for the host country to follow. With the Opening Ceremony, there are essential features such as the dove of peace, the Olympics flame, and the parade of nations that must be put in. China cannot present the 'new' China they want as the Olympics is not a blank canvas to showcase cultural values and power status but a well formulated event. Another reason for losing the bid is because of political issues - failure in meeting the minimum human rights standards. Although there are human rights policies in China such as freedom of speech, religious freedom, and freedom of the media, but in reality, the Chinese people are not getting their rights, they are 'not free'. Chinese police have been sending thousands of people that 'they did not like' to the labour camp 'for up to four years without a trial or a judge's review.' (KLTV, 2013) According to Samuel Huntington, the failure of the bid suggests that 'China and its politics remained unacceptable' (Price & Dayan, 2008:383) from the West.
In failing the bid for the Summer Olympics 2000, China was incentive to reform. China made two major changes. Firstly, China developed Mao's ideology of capitalism to 'socialism with Chinese characteristics'  (Price & Dayan, 2008:146) and attempted to revive the Chinese nationalist spirit. Secondly, Chinese authorities made positive changes such as reformation of the death penalty system, and extension of freedom for foreign journalists. Competing against Istanbul, Osaka, Paris, and Toronto, on 13 July 2001, Beijing won the bid for the Summer Olympics 2008 and promised to deliver a green, high-tech, and people's Olympics, with the slogan, 'One World One Dream', which are a creative solution to their failed bid. Furthermore, with IOC's rejection for the Summer Olympics 2000, China understood that it is important to show core cultural values in a positive way in the Opening Ceremony. From the promises China made, it shows an eco-friendly, forward thinking China.
The Welcome Ceremony
The whole ceremony lasted over four hours with five sections; the welcome ceremony, the artistic section, the parade of nations, speeches made by the Presidents, and the torch relay and the Olympic flame. The Beijing Olympics 2008 has a huge impact on China as the New York Times reported, 'China believes it will stand as a respected member of the world community, a position it has long felt the West has denied it.' (Xu, 2008:243) China tried hard to project an international image of a high-tech country. For both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, China used the newest weather modification technology to avoid rainfall becoming the leader in this advanced technology. Additionally, from using advanced technology, it presented 'China's ability to be both a technological pioneer and a producer of reliable technology, and to transform the perception of China from a low-cost industrial support system for the global information economy to a major player.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:286) The important message here is, to redefine the label of something to be 'Made in China'.
The Welcome Ceremony began on 8 August 2008, 8pm, with 2008 fou drummers. Fou is an ancient Chinese percussion instrument, and a standard instrument in Confucian ritual ensembles. These ancient drums were merged with light-emitting diode (LED) elements allowing it to glow in the dark. Throughout the ceremony, many ancient elements were re-used in new contexts. This shows a vital point that, China has managed to implement a creative solution to open up Chinese culture with the world so that everyone can feel their connection with China. The drummers were split into two groups forming two rectangles. They played some fast drum sequences for seven minutes and in the last sixty seconds to the opening time, 8:08pm, the drummers used their drums to form large digits for countdown.
The countdown begins
[Image 2. The countdown begins]
The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony began on 8 August 2008, 8:08pm because the number eight is considered to be a lucky number as it sounds like a Chinese word, ba, for fortune. In Chinese culture, numbers contribute heavily to their good luck and happiness in life. Each number has their unique meaning such as the number nine, 'it is pronounced the same as another word, jiu, which means a long time or long life.' (Mah, 2008:4) With this traditional culture, many Chinese people are willing to pay extra for their license plate, telephone number and home address in order to have the 'lucky numbers'. In Chengdu, a city in South-West China, 'the telephone number 8888-8888 sold for more than US$250 000' (Mah, 2008:7) and in Hangzhou, a city in Eastern China, someone 'offered to sell his licence plate A88888 for over one million yuan.' (Mah, 2008:7) Most of the Chinese superstitions come from their history and are very different compared to the West, for example, with colours, the Chinese view red as lucky whereas the West view it as dangerous. Some may think that Chinese superstitions are irrational beliefs but it has been an important part of Chinese culture for centuries.
After the sixty seconds countdown, a trail of 29 fireworks in the shape of footprints was set off. The 29 footprints marched from the central of Beijing into the national stadium representing the past 29 Olympics. As the last footprint marched into the stadium, the Olympics rings were lifted by 20 apsaras. In Buddhist mythology, an apsara is 'a female spirit of the clouds and waters.' (Biddulph, 2006:254) They are beautiful female beings who serve the gods. With 20 apsaras lifting the Olympics rings, it made the rings 'float' in the stadium. The Welcome Ceremony ended with 56 children marching with the flag of China in their hands as a nine year old girl named, Lin Miaoke, sang 'Ode to the Motherland', a famous patriotic song. The 56 children represent the 56 ethnic groups of China which signify China is a multi-ethnic state. The flag of China was handed over to eight Chinese soldiers where the flag was raised. According to BBC News, Lin, the 'smiling angel', mimed the song. The actual singer was Yang Peiyi 'who was not allowed to appear because she is not as 'flawless' as nine-year-old Lin.' (BBC News, Aug 2008)
Yang Peiyi (L) and Lin Miaoke
[Image 3. On the left is Yang Peiyi who sang and on the right is Lin Miaoke who appeared in the Opening Ceremony.]
China wanted the Opening Ceremony to be perfect and needed 'a girl with both a good image and a good voice.' (BBC News, Aug 2008) From choosing Lin, it presented an image of a flawless China. Perhaps, the issue of face value was the reason why China used Lin. In Chinese culture, face value refers to the reputation and social position of a person, so if someone 'lose face', it means 'losing prestige by tolerating an attack on one's honor, dignity and reputation.' (Monfret, 2011:11) Equally, if someone 'gain face', it means they are recognised by others through their status and appearance. With the Opening Ceremony, everything had to be perfect because China wanted to 'gain face'. The Chinese believe that 'both social status and public image are extremely important (conversely, social failure is a great shame).' (Monfret, 2011:12) Therefore, if China allowed Yang Peiyi to appear in the ceremony, it would ruin their public image which will be a great shame.
Artistic Section: The Four Great Inventions
The artistic section began with a short video introducing the four great inventions; paper, printing, compass, and gunpowder. These inventions represent Chinese's achievements in science and technology mainly because 'they had a prominent position in the exchanges between the East and the West, and acted as a powerful dynamic in promoting the development of capitalism in Europe.' (Deng, 2010:14) After the video, a giant LED scroll opened up in the middle of the stadium. Through a projector, some Chinese arts were beamed onto the scroll. At the centre of the scroll, there is a piece of white canvas paper, presenting the first great invention, paper. Paper was first produced using mulberry and other plant fibre during the Han Dynasty . Before paper became popular, the Chinese wrote general information on bones, shells, and bamboo slips, and important messages on silk. Paper is and was one of the key inventions in global cultural development since many items today including money, checks, newspaper and cereal box are made out of paper, and more importantly, 'Writing was the absolutely essential effort to bring the earth into social beingâ€¦Without writingâ€¦all those days of walking, looking, and searching would have had no social meaning at all.' (Mueggler, 2011:87) Paper enables written communications to be stored.
A group of black costumed dancers came out and danced on the paper. Before the performance, the dancers had their hands dipped in black ink, so while they danced, their trials were left on the paper as they used their arms as brushes, forming an ink wash painting. Bertrand Russell pointed out that 'In art, they (the Chinese) aim at being exquisite, and in life at being reasonable.' (Lin, 2010:50) Art has played an important role in China since the earliest dynastic period. As previously mentioned, the three major religions and philosophies in China are Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. These three belief systems, all emphasise on the importance of nature which is to pursuit 'harmony between Man and Nature and the harmony among people, building up a harmonious society and achieving harmonious development,' (Fu, 2008:20) as a result, the Chinese have many thoughts on the power of nature, making landscape paintings one of the highest form of Chinese art. At the ceremony, an ink wash painting was shown, not only was it the best painting, but it was there to highlight the point Russell made, the Chinese are exquisite in art.
Although the Chinese are exquisite in art, the freedom of expressions in China has 'always been under, a personal sort of government, the rule of the gentleman.' (Lin, 2010:51) In 1942, Mao insisted to deliver his famous 'Talks at the Yan'an Forum on Literature and Art', 'in which he identified the goal and function of act as the propagation of Marxist-Leninist ideology in order to serve the interests of the proletariat.' (Lu, 2004:99) He believed that all literature and art should be revolutionary, that is, all artistic work must show an interest of the Chinese revolution, for example, a painting that blackens the enemy. All artistic work should also be national as Mao claimed 'we oppose both the tendency to produce works of art with a wrong political viewpointâ€¦' (Lu, 2004:99) and serve the mass, that is, to draw in direct and simple formulas. The art work standard dramatically decreased as they were linked to the political state rather than creativity. The Communists were unable to shake off the influence of Mao's Talks until the end of the 1980s. Although the freedom of expression today is much greater than in the time of Mao, artistic work is still under the government control. Recent examples of government control include Ai Weiwei, a Chinese contemporary artist, who was arrested for being openly critical of China's human rights. This again, demonstrates the reality that, the Chinese are 'not free'. According to Tim Hancock, Amnesty's UK campaigns director, 'The Olympic values have been betrayed by the Chinese governmentâ€¦They must release all imprisoned peaceful activists, allow foreign and national journalists to report freely and make further progress towards the elimination of the death penalty - or risk permanently sullying the legacy of the Olympics.' (The Telegraph, July 2008) China wanted to present itself as an open and stable nation, and having everything under control is not the way to pursue it. Feasibly, Russell was right that, the Chinese are exquisite in art, but with the government control, the Chinese will only be able to express their creativeness to a certain extent.
After the introduction of paper and ink wash painting, the LED scroll was moved aside. Three thousand men dressed in Zhou-era clothing with bamboo slips in their hands walked into the stadium representing the 'Disciples of Confucius'. The Chinese believe that Confucius had three thousand students, but only seventy-two of them had mastered what he taught. Confucius' teachings were recorded and passed on to many generations of disciples. The most famous books Confucius wrote are known as the 'Four Books', they are, 'The Analects, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, and The Book of Mencius.' (Zhou, 2005:iii) At the ceremony, the three thousand men read out two famous quotes from The Analects,
'Is it not delightful to have friends coming from afar?'
'All men are brothers within the four seas.'
The first quote is a greeting from Confucius to his students. With the second quote, by saying 'within the four seas', Confucius means north, south, east, and west, which means all men in the world are brothers. The two quotes were read to welcome the foreign visitors and to send out the message that, no matter what your race, class, or religion are, we are all one family - which directly links to the slogan, 'One World One Dream'. Confucius' teachings are highly valued in Chinese culture, and today, 'it is even discussed in Western circles because of its global impact on the diversity of cultures and their worldviews.' (Samovar, Porter, & McDaniel, 2010:146) From reading the two quotes, it presented a friendly and harmonious China.
The 'Disciples of Confucius' were then split into four groups and sat in the corners of the stadium giving space for the 897 movable type blocks to perform, presenting the second greatest invention, printing. 'The invention of paper and the improvement of ink led to the advance of block printing.' (Deng, 2010:23) Like paper, printing helps to spread knowledge, and more importantly, it helps to preserve art works as George Rowley, a contemporary American scholar state, 'The Chinese way of looking at life was not primarily through religion, or philosophy, or science but through art.' (Wu, 2011:64)
[Image 4. The movable type blocks present the Chinese character, å’Œ.]
The blocks formed the Chinese character, å’Œ, in three different Chinese scripts; Bronze inscription, Seal script, and Kai Script . The word, å’Œ, means harmony which connotes in the concept of 'People's Olympics'. In addition, the movable type blocks formed a model of the Great Wall, an ancient Chinese architecture, with growing plum blossoms, exhibiting the real picture of Beijing in February. Being one of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World' , the illustration of the Great Wall, served as a national icon of the Chinese nation and its culture. Although there are real plum blossoms growing around the Great Wall, it has a unique cultural connotation. In Chinese culture, the plum blossom, the orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum, are named 'the Four Noble Plants' because the Chinese believe that the characteristic of these plants have something in common with human virtues, for instance, 'purity (orchid), uprightness (bamboo), and humility (chrysanthemum).' (The Epoch Times, 2011) Plum blossoms symbolise strength and display the quality of 'never give up' as it is a flower that opens in the cold winter, and with its five petals, each petal is a symbol of 'longevity, prosperity, health, virtue, and good living.' (The Epoch Times, 2011) At the ceremony, the combination of the Great Wall and plum blossoms clearly presented the spirit of the Chinese nation. At the end of the performance, the performers came out of the blocks to reveal themselves and waved happily at the audience. From revealing themselves, it indicated that these blocks were not controlled by computer but the efforts of 897 performers. This made the whole stadium clap.
A short scene of Chinese opera was played and the LED scroll was placed back in the middle of the stadium. An ancient Silk Road was exhibited with a female dancer dressed in Tang-era clothing dancing on it. The term, Silk Road, refers to 'the collection of Eurasian roads and trade routes that connected the Mediterranean Basin in the west to China in the east.' (Moore & Wendelken, 2010:16) The Silk Road opened during the first century BC, mainly used for trading Silk, and as the road expanded, the East and the West used it to exchange culture, including the exchange of musical instruments, medicinal plants, and religious ideas which brought China out of its 'splendid isolation'. (Moore & Wendelken, 2010:45) Buddhism was broadly accepted by scholars of China in central and South-West Asia, making it the most associated religion with the Silk Road. 'While Buddhism undoubtedly brought new ideas into Chinese culture, China also shaped the Buddhist traditions that were to prevail in East Asia.' (Moore & Wendelken, 2010:49) The exchange of religion led to many debates, such as the misinterpretation of the original doctrine, and whether Buddhism took over China or China took over Buddhism. Not only Buddhism was spread along the Silk Road, Christianity too, was brought to the Silk Road because the Chinese thought that 'Nestorian Christianity, as a variant form of Buddhism.' (Moore & Wendelken, 2010:96) However, Christianity did not survive long in China, 'it vanished quite completely with the decline of the Tang dynasty.' (Ong, 2005:128) The Silk Road definitely is one of the outstanding achievements of the ancient China due to its contribution to their economic, culture, and religion progress. Though the Silk Road is no longer in use, by putting it in the ceremony, it reminded the audience about the movement of cultures in ancient times and that, China is a major player in the global trade of goods and service both in the past and present. The Silk Road represented a powerful and globalised China.
This was followed by a boat journey, presenting China's rich history of navigation. Hundreds of men held big oars and dressed in blue representing the sea. They formed formations of a junk, an ancient Chinese sailing ship, while maps of Zheng He's seven voyages were beamed onto the scroll with a man in the middle holding the third great invention, the compass. The earliest of the four great inventions was the compass which was made during the Qin dynasty. Zheng He was an explorer who travelled around South-East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Somalia, and the Swahili coast between 1405 and 1433. He was the first to use a compass as a navigational aid and led the Chinese to discover the New World - even before Christopher Columbus. Before the invention of the compass, 'There were no navigational tools beyond the celestial bodies of the Sun, Moon, and stars.' (Krebs & Krebs, 2003:334) The compass helped the Chinese to determine geographical position which expanded their knowledge of the world map, and benefited the trading route of the Silk Road. In addition, the compass benefited the Chinese to build their houses facing the south as 'Feng Shui' has a great cultural value in China. 'Feng Shui (pronounced fung shway) is the ancient Chinese art of improving every part of your life by enhancing your environment according to the principles of harmony and energy flow.' (Kennedy, 2010:1) As stated before, all of the three core Chinese belief systems emphasis on the importance of nature. Consequently, 'Feng Shui' is highly valued since it is 'the study of the relationships between the environment and human life.' (Kennedy, 2010: 12) The Chinese believe that in accepting the principles of 'Feng Shui', it helps them to live in harmony with nature, respecting the resources the Creator gave.
Another short scene of Chinese opera was played. Chinese opera is one of the greatest artistic achievement in Chinese culture as it shares 'a basic artistic format combining music, singing, speech, dance, and postures in order to narrate a story, each genre distinguished itself mainly by the local tunes and dialect it used in singing and speech.'(Jiang, 2008:7) Traditional Chinese opera evolved until the Yuan dynasty. 'There has been no radical change from the Yuan dramas to the Chinese operas of today' (Ong, 2005:143), apart from the involvement of women. In the past, men played both male and female roles and excluded women, but now, women are included and some even play the male role. The first half of the ceremony ended with an ancient Chinese tune, Chun Jiang Hua Yue Ye, æ˜¥æ±ŸèŠ±æœˆå¤œ, and fireworks, the fourth great invention. Due to the belief of Buddhism, the majority of the Chinese believe in life after death, hence, the ancient alchemists had an idea of an immortality drug. In mixing various substances together, it 'led to the accidental discovery that the application of heat to a mixture of sulphur, nitre (potassium nitrate) and carbon would cause an explosion.' (Ong, 2005:170) At first, the Chinese used gunpowder in wars to frighten enemy away, after a period of time, they realised that gunpowder could take life, evolving into many different inventions including the cannon. Ironically, the Chinese were introduced to 'a more effective use for it only when Western nations brought their soldiers and gunboats to China at the end of the nineteenth century.' (Ong, 2005:170) Gunpowder is an important invention since it changed the way of warfare, and increased the Chinese's knowledge of chemistry at the time. Fireworks were set throughout the ceremony including the 29 footprints in the previous section.
After the day of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, there are many challenges to the four great inventions. According to Zhao Feng, Vice Curator of the China Silk Museum, 'the former Four Great Inventions no longer fully represent the highest level of ancient China's science and technology.'(Beijing Review, 2008) He argues that paper, printing, compass, and gunpowder were named the four great inventions about 400 years ago by the West due to its usefulness to them at their time. He believes that the four great inventions should be bronze, silk, porcelain, and paper and printing - paper and printing are merged into a single one, because these are the highest science and technology inventions in ancient time. However, Li Ning questions the need to redefine these inventions, and explains that 'Even if we don't classify silk, bronze and porcelain into the top four inventions, every Chinese still knows their importance.' (Beijing Review, 2008) Furthermore, Le Yi explains that the four great inventions were named because they bring changes to social structure; paper and printing helped the spread of knowledge, the compass contributed to the Age of Discovery, and gunpowder changed the way of warfare. Silk and porcelain 'did not bring great changes to social structure or power', they were only 'luxurious products for the rich.' (Beijing Review, 2008) The ceremony focused on the Four Great Inventions because it has a core Chinese cultural value in China, and represents China's contribution in the field of science and technology, as Mo Yanfeng concludes, 'it's not shameful that the Four Great Inventions were named by Westerners, instead, it shows they are great not only because they promote China's progress but also because they influence the world.' (Beijing Review, 2008)
Artistic Section: One World One Dream
The second half of the artistic section focused on its slogan, One World One Dream. One World One Dream is simple, easy to remember, and reflects 'the universal values of the Olympic spirit - Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation, and Dream.' (Fu, 2008:20) Through the slogan, it voices the hopes of 1.3 billion Chinese that China will hand in hand with the rest of the world to create a better future. However, Jacques DeLisle disagrees and re-words the slogan as, One World Different Dreams. He believes that the Olympics are about sports, as well as politics, and points out that China's dream do not consist with the Olympic ideals.
Firstly, China uses the Olympics as an opportunity to present itself as a developed and powerful country. He explains that China used Beijing's steady economic growth as a powerful material guarantee for winning the bid, and linked 'Beijing's ability to host the Olympics to the regime's central policy of promoting economic development.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:19) To achieve the goal of presenting a 'new' Beijing, China spent over $3 billion on new facilities and maintenance work on famous architecture such as the Temple of Heaven, and another $40 billion on its transport. This also relates back to the section of 'History of Chinese culture'. In renovating Beijing, it helped China to achieve the slogan they wanted, 'New Beijing New Olympics'. Although this idea was unaccepted in 1993, from winning the bid for the Summer Olympics 2008, China had the official rights to renew Beijing. The 'new' Beijing 'focused on three areas - New Beijing Landmarks, New Beijing Culture, and New Beijing Lifestyle' (Daniels, Ho, & Hutton, 2012:191) presenting a new, open and contemporary China.
Secondly, the Olympics can 'portray China as politically stable and orderly.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:22) After the failed bid for the Summer Olympics 2000, China understood that they need to change their tactics towards the issue of human rights. This time, China sent people including Ai Weiwei into exile to reduce the foreign condemnation, and used their power to control the Chinese's behaviour. This has been reported by the Japan Economic Newswire, 'They shut down factories and limited driving for IOC visitors in 2001, creating unusually clear skies and quiet streets.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:24) Furthermore, according to the BBC News, a number of campaigns have been launched to 'civilise' the city. (BBC News, Aug 2007) The Chinese Olympic Committee believed that the Beijing Olympics are about sports and improving the moral quality of its citizens. The Chinese did not want to 'lose face' in the Olympic Games, so they tried hard to improve public manners. In Beijing, university students were hired to teach fans how to react in football matches, a 'queuing day' was set on the 11th of each month, and the slogan 'Take part, contribute and enjoy yourself by welcoming the Olympics, being civilised and behaving better' (BBC News, Aug 2007) appeared in the media across the city. From improving the quality of the Chinese people, it presents a stable and orderly China.
Thirdly, the Olympics can return China to 'international respectability and normal membership in the global community.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:25) China was aware that there were serious concern on its human rights and environmental issues, thus the Chinese Olympics authorities promised the Olympics decision makers that China will promote human rights and make changes in core areas including freedom of the press, particularly for foreign media. In addition, they will adopt the international 'green' standards and followed the United Nations Environmental Program. Compared China to previous host countries, they had greater official media coverage and extra public resources partly because 'they seem vital to the regime's Olympic story that China is a responsible and respectable participant in an increasingly important aspect of the international system'. (Price & Dayan, 2008:28) In hosting the Olympics, it brought China's one and a half century of humiliation to an end.
Lastly, the Olympics can present a 'globalized' China. (Price & Dayan, 2008:29) The Chinese consumers strongly prefer foreign brands, for this reason, numerous internationally famous brands opened in Beijing's shopping areas, and had 'the Swiss from Herzog and de Meuron' to design the Beijing National stadium. In addition, Chinese celebrities who helped to promote the Beijing Olympics such as basketball star Yao Ming, and movie actor Jackie Chan, 'whose appeal goes far beyond the Chinese world and much of whose fame comes from accomplishments in non-Chinese settings.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:31) Allowing foreign countries to enter China is a step in a journey of an open country. China may have 'different dreams' but the changes they made does have a positive impact to the world.
The second half of the artistic section began with the famous pianist, Lang Lang, playing the Yellow River Cantata with a 5 year old pianist, Li Muzi. They were surrounded by hundreds of performers dressed in bright green clothing forming 'human waves', representing the 'yellow river', the second largest river in Asia. The performers arranged themselves forming the shape of the Dove of Peace and moved forward and backward as if the wings were set into motion.
[Image 5. The Olympic Truce Logo]
Since 1920, it has been an official part of the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony to present the Olympic Truce. The Olympic Truce Logo is 'symbolised by the dove of peace with the traditional Olympic flame in the background.' (Olympic.org, 2012) In the Opening Ceremony, the Olympic flame should be lit at the back followed by the release of the doves. The release of the dove represents 'the IOC's ideal to build a peaceful and better world through sport' and the Olympic flame brings 'warm friendship to all the people of the world through sharing and global togetherness.' (Olympic. Org, 2012) However, this does not apply to the Winter Olympics because it was thought that the weather would be too cold for the birds to fly. In many cultures, birds symbolise 'the freedom and transcendence of the human spirit as it was released from the body in ecstasy of death.' (Dreyer, 2007:30) And the dove was chosen because it was sacred to 'the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.' (Dreyer, 2007:30) With the Beijing ceremony, the order in presenting the Olympic Truce was rearranged - while the dove was presented here, the Olympic flame was presented as an ending to the ceremony. The two were separated perhaps because of the accident which happened in the Seoul Olympics 1988. When the doves were released, many of them flown into the flame leading to an unexpected end of the ceremony.
To finish, the performers formed the lattice structure of the Beijing National Stadium while a girl flew over the stadium with a kite. The kite is an ancient Chinese invention, and was first used by the army to signal warnings. The kite in the stadium did not only remind people it is the earliest flying invention, but a symbol of the dream - the Beijing National Stadium represented the Beijing Olympics, and the girl happily played with the kite above the stadium indicated that the Chinese people's dream had come true.
The attention moved to a woman playing Taiji. The music in the stadium got louder and louder, and in a sudden, soft music was played with a group of school children drawing on the LED scroll - this group of children is the same group of children who represented the 56 ethnic groups of China in the previous performance. While the children were drawing, 2008 performers came out and played Taiji. Taiji is an essential concept of Taoism, similar to God in Christianity. As mentioned earlier, most Chinese cultural values come from Taoism, a religious tradition that promotes living in harmony with nature. Taoism sends out many important teachings 'that can apply to any situation or culture, whether human or inanimate.' (Horwood, 2008:4) For example, 'those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know' meaning those who know do not speak because they are thinking and those who speak without thinking often does not know. Taiji has a huge impact on Chinese sports culture as it connects the Chinese sports spirit from ancient to modern time. In ancient China, Taiji was seen as an internal art focus on the internal human body such as circulation. Then, it changes to the strength to fight, and today, Taiji has been accepted by the West as a 'health and leisure activity, providing balance, grace, and a clear state of mind to those studying its various techniques.' (Horwood, 2008:i) The 2008 performers arranged themselves and formed a circle surrounding the 56 children, presenting the Taiji symbol.
[Image 6. The Taiji Symbol]
The Taiji symbol indicates the interaction of two energies; the black side is called Yin, and the white side is called Yang, 'Yin symbolizes the passive side of nature, and yang represents the active side.' (Kennedy, 2010:15) The Chinese believe that a person should hold a balance between Yin and Yang because it changes your emotional status, for example, if you are too overly Yin, you might feel depressed, and if you are overly Yang, you might feel angry. There are a dot of the opposite colour within the sides, here, it sends out the message that, there is darkness within the light and light within darkness, therefore, 'nothing is 100 percent yin or 100 percent yang; all things contain relative amounts of both yin and yang energy.' (Kennedy, 2010:15) As previously stated, 'Feng Shui' helps the Chinese to live in harmony with nature. In essence, 'all the Feng Shui cures you discover are ways of balancing the yin and yang within you and your environment.' (Kennedy, 2010:16) Taiji has a significant impact on the Chinese cultural value of sports and martial arts. It promotes peace and health, and with the Taiji symbol, it reminds people that through competition, it enhances the quality of one's life. The two performances ended at the same time, and the drawing was lifted. Another ink wash painting was shown, however, this landscape painting was added with a smiley face at the top corner representing the sun. The painting was drawn by a group of children may suggest that their Chinese art culture has been carried on to the next generation and with the sun added to the painting, again, the combination of new and old elements illustrated that the new Chinese culture, creativity.
A few astronauts arrived onto the scroll, symbolising Chinese space exploration. The well known names in the history of space exploration may be NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, yet, many nations have joined the game including China. In the past few years, 'China's space program, run by the China National Space Administration, has emerged as a third major player in the world of international space exploration - and one with keen eyes toward the future.' (Phillips & Priwer, 2009:314) From presenting astronauts at the ceremony, it showed that China is now technologically advanced enough to join the Game. Not only were they accepted to participate in the Olympics, they have reached a new height in space exploration allowing them to take part in the International Space Station in a few years time as Jean - Jacques Dordain, head of the European body told the reporters that 'I am in favour of seeing how we can work together with Chinaâ€¦It will take some steps, but it will come, I am sure.' (Parabolic Arc, Mar 2012) The Chinese believe that in sending astronauts into space is another way for China to be recognised as a global and powerful nation.
The LED scroll opened up, and a giant glowing Chinese lantern rose, representing the Earth. 58 acrobats walked around the 'earth' with Chinese singer, Liu Huan, and British singer, Sarah Brightman, standing at the top of the lantern, singing the Beijing Olympics theme song, You and Me. Beneath the lantern, there were 2008 performers each holding an umbrella. Umbrella is an ancient Chinese invention. Due to the weather in China, umbrella was first invented as a sunshade to protect skins. It was later developed to be waterproof to use in the rain. At the time, umbrellas were a fashion accessory and regarded as a symbol of high social status. At the ceremony, all the umbrellas opened up showing 2008 children smiling faces from around the world. Here, the message that, no matter where you come from, we are one family, was sent out again. The artistic section ended with fireworks in the form of smiley faces and the 56 children representatives entered the stadium for the third time to welcome the athletes.
[Image 7. Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan at the top of the lantern singing with 56 acrobats walking around it and 2008 performers standing with an umbrella each showing children smiley faces.]
The Ending of the Ceremony
In all Olympics Opening Ceremonies, it is official to include the parade of nations, the speeches made by the presidents, the torch relay, and the Olympic flame. As previously explained, this is an essential part and must be put into the Opening Ceremony. In the Beijing's parade of nations, Greece athletes marched out first as they were the host for the previous Summer Olympics, and the host country of this ceremony, in this case China, entered last. The rest of the athletes arrived in name order. The names were sorted by the number of strokes in Simplified Chinese characters. After 204 nations were introduced, the head of the Beijing Olympics committee, Liu Qi, gave the first speech welcoming the athletes. The second speech was made by Rogge, the President of the Olympic Committee, who emphasised the rejection to enhancement drugs, and appreciated the Chinese for their efforts, 'For a long time China has dreamed of opening its doors and inviting the world's athletes to Beijing. Tonight that dream has come true. Congratulations Beijing.' (BBC News, Aug 2008) The last speech was given by the President of China, Hu Jintao, who announced the opening of the Beijing Olympics, 'I declare the Games of the 29th Olympiad open!' (BBC News, Aug 2008)
Fireworks were set and eight famous Chinese athletes , entered the stadium with the Olympic flag. The flag was passed on to the Chinese soldiers. When the soldiers raise the flag, 80 multinational children sang the Olympic anthem in Greek. After hours of performance, the Olympic flame finally entered the stadium. Li Ning, being the final athlete to run the relay was hanged by wires so that he can run along the walls of the stadium. The projector beamed videos from previous torch relays one step ahead of Li Ning, forming a path. At the end, Li Ning lighted the large cauldron in the stadium, and more fireworks were set including the shape of the Olympic rings. The Opening Ceremony ended at 12:09am, 9 August 2008,
Photo: Li Ning makes his way to the cauldron
[Image 8. Under the spotlight, it shows Li Ning running to light the cauldron. Behind Li Ning, there are videos playing from the previous torch relay.]
To recapitulate, my dissertation question is,
What are some of the core Chinese cultural values that were expressed through the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony?
And my dissertation aim is,
To discover how China uses the opening ceremony to represent its country
The core Chinese cultural values were,
The three belief systems; Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. In the ceremony, the cultural value of Confucianism was expressed by the 'Disciples of Confucius' who read out Confucius' teachings, Taoism, was played by 2008 performers where the principle of Yin and Yang was presented, and elements of Buddhism was put throughout the ceremony including the 'apsaras' who lifted the Olympics rings, the landscape painting, and the Silk Road.
The concept of living in harmony with nature. The theme, nature, has been repeatedly presented as the Chinese believe that, men is a part of nature, accordingly, men and nature should stay together in harmony.
Traditional Chinese superstitions such as numbers and 'feng shui'. The Chinese believe that certain symbols and signs will generate good luck. Although today's science and technology may give us the answer we are looking for, but everyone has some superstitious belief even if someone who claims they have no superstitions are likely to do a couple of things they cannot explain, for example, a student uses the 'lucky pen' for an exam. Evidently, the Chinese superstitions are valued highly as with a modern China, the ceremony was still chosen to begin on 8th August 2008, 8:08pm, because eight is considered to be a lucky number.
The concept of 'face value'. The Chinese tries to avoid 'losing face' since it means the lost of social status, reputation, and trustworthiness. Every part of the ceremony must be 'perfect' because it will help China to 'gain face', giving them a better image.
The Four Great Inventions - one of the main themes of the Opening Ceremony. Paper, printing, compass, and gunpowder all made remarkable contributions to the culture of mankind.
The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony greatly presented the concept of unity. Zhang, the ceremony's director, said 'North Korea is No. 1 in the world when it comes to uniformity. They are uniform beyond belief! These kind of traditional synchronized movement results in a sense of beauty. We Chinese are able to achieve this as well. Through hard training and strict discipline.' (ESPN, Aug 2008) Throughout the ceremony, mass scale performances were presented. The ceremony began with 2008 fou drummers and ended with 2008 performers opening the umbrella clearly showed, the Chinese spirit of unity and vitality. Some argued that the ceremony is 'an upscale version of a North Korean group calisthenics performance' and that 'overly large with too many people involved and was devoid of content and human nature.' (Taipei Times, Aug 2008) However, one cannot deny that the message of a harmonious society was delivered. The ceremony represented the future of China with the architectures, the high tech visuals, and the pyro-techniques that was built on an ancient traditional culture.
China used Lin Miaoke, the girl who mimed the song to represent the face of China, perfect and flawless. It's the unfortunate reality that the ceremony turned into an authority game, as Jacques DeLisle states, One World Different Dreams. In analysing the ceremony, I realised that China only presented sports in the performance of Taiji which contradicts to the traditional Greek concept of the balance between 'the body (sport), mind (education) and soul (culture)' (Garcia, 2012:24) With a four hour ceremony, China mainly presented its history of invention and mass scale performances, and made weak links to sports. It makes me think differently about the purpose of the Olympics Opening Ceremony - does different principles apply to different countries? If yes, then the Olympics are not a fair game. In addition, I realised that, 'While many of China's past inventions were undoubtedly incredible in their time, the Chinese, as a rule, failed to go the distance.' (Ong, 2005:169) The Chinese stopped inventing and innovating in the Qing dynasty, and perhaps, this is the reason why China was a less developed country before.
China failed the bid for the Summer Olympics 2000 mainly due to the failure of human rights standard and environmental issues, though these policies are improving, but during analysing the ceremony, there are two problems which I strongly feel that the Chinese government needs to pay serious and immediate attention to it.
I could not watch the Opening Ceremony online was a surprise. As a new and open country, freedom of press should exist. 'China's restrictions on media access are well known, and coverage of its continued restrictions contributes to a picture of China as a country that violates human rights.' (Price & Dayan, 2008:354) According to Ashley Esarey, the Chinese Communist Party 'exerts near complete control over the country's 358 television stations and 2,119 newspapers - the primary media available to more than one billion Chinese citizens.' (Esarey, Feb 2006:4) The Chinese government cannot limit freedom. The Chinese will not develop their thinking if certain information is eliminated.
When I was watching the parade of nations, the Chinese athletes caught my eyes. I wondered about the life of a Chinese athlete, and I found this. In 1980s, China's sport system gradually evolved under the free market system. 'Although the sport governance system has been reformed considerably in the last two decades, the governments at all levels still has extensive control of sport operations in China.' (Li, Maclntosh, & Bravo, 2011:209) The Chinese athletes who competed in the Beijing Olympics were trained at ages five or six. The government takes 'potential' athletes to one of their sports academies where they would grow up. Given China's one child policy, taking children away from home is a great sacrifice for the parents. China needs political reforms to create sports that are free from government contro