Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics Part 2 - Opening spectacle

WHAT a spellbinding moment. The Bird's Nest Stadium became a tapestry of stunning visual show that sets a new benchmark for future hosts.

The four-hour spectacle came to a conclusion in typical Chinese style ala Jet Li. Li Ning, love handles et al, floated to the sky and lit the Olympic cauldron in the land that gave birth to Zheng He, or here in Malaysia he's commonly known as Laksamana Cheng Ho.

Athens too was memorable.

And Doha as well.

I wrote this following piece three days after the impressive opening ceremony of the Doha Asian Games in 2006.

DOHA, the tiny capital of Qatar, burst into a spectacle three nights ago and I must count my blessings to have witnessed it.
The lighting of the Games cauldron was simply extraordinary, dramatic and pure dare-devilstuff.
For those who missed the opening ceremony of the 15th Asian Games shownlive over RTM and Astro, it was a journey of dazzling tapestry of Islamic and Asian history, a night of the 1,001 nights.
In the most anticipated moment of the night, Mohammed bin Hamad binKhalifa Al-Thani, captain of the Qatari equestrian team, astride an Arabian thoroughbred, galloped a flight of stairs with one hand, while holding the torch on another. Not once but thrice the horse showed signs of struggling to reach the top, drawing gasps from a section of the 50,000-odd crowd, among whom were world leaders Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Abdullah Salleh (Yemen) plus International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge and FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter.
One could only shudder at the thought of the horse, dubbed the HeroHorse by the team behind the opening ceremony concept, collapsing near the pinnacle to the music composed for the occasion by Malaysian-born Chong Lim.
Thankfully it did not happen. It was just apprehension on my part. The whole spectacle was pre-ordained to go down in history, perhaps as memorable as the moment when the crowd held their breath as Paralympian archer Antonio Rebollo shot a flaming arrow 80 metres from the floor of the stadium to light the cauldron in Barcelona Olympics 1992.
But while the whole world was transfixed on what was unfolding at theKhalifa Stadium, the athletes - without whom "the Games of Your Life"would mean little - were fighting the chilling weather and rain.
Positioned at an uncovered area after the march past, all they wanted to do was to go back to the Athletes' Village after a long day.
Drenched and freezing, the athletes and officials pushed the security officials and rushed to the buses placed quite a distance away. In the pandemonium, some of the athletes and officials, according to witnesses, fell. Malaysian athletes, dressed in cheongsam and kungfu dress, kurta and our national dress the baju Melayu - were also part of the commotion.
They left the Athletes' Village as early as 3pm, took part in the march past and came back around 1am, way past their bed time. The contingent prayed hard that none of the athletes who got wet needed more than some paracetamol.
Perhaps fearing the backlash, the daily chef-de-mission meeting on Saturday was cancelled. Ah, well ... anyway while sports is supposed to be the unifying factor, the contingent wore different dresses to depict the melting pot that isMalaysia. But the contingent were supposed to be projected as one, solid unit. That they are all Malaysians, and that sports transcends racial barriers.
After all the authorities went to great lengths to ask the rakyat to come up with the Harimau Malaya design. But alas, perfection is never of this world. To err is human after all. Even a pure bred gelding - built for strength and endurance - came close to fluffing his lines.

1 comment:

Othman Abu Bakar said...

Rizal,

Malaysia'a turn will come one day. We should put our thinking caps on now for this big event.

In the meantime, we should start producing world class athletes. At least, when the Olympics lands on our shores, we are assured of at least several gold medals from
badminton, bowling, hockey, silat (by then?), and maybe a few other sports.

Our Hang Tuah, and his 4 "brothers", will be our Zheng He equivalent of China. We were once the masters of South-
East Asia.