The giant ear of corn at the closing ceremony


Out goes the torch

Beijing’s turn at hosting the Olympic Games came to an end last night with a spectacular closing ceremony that, like the opening ceremony, featured a huge cast, people suspended in mid-air, pop stars singing songs of love and friendship, and lots of fireworks.

How did the night of the 25th compare to the 8th? Chris Waugh at the bezdomny ex patria blog writes:

It was spectacular, in some ways even more so than the opening ceremony. Actually, I couldn’t help but wonder if Zhang Yimou had gotten the inspiration by dropping a shitload of acid and spent three days straight reading Dr Seuss and watching Tim Burton films.

That was just the Chinese segment; London, which will host the Games in 2012, was given eight minutes to show its stuff, which turned out to be a flip-top double-decker bus, Jimmy Page rocking “Whole Lotta Love,” and David Beckam….kicking a soccer ball.

So there was a lot to enjoy, but like the opening ceremony, there was a lot to complain about, if you so desired.

He Dong, an entertainment reporter and host of a Phoenix TV interview show, cared neither for the ceremony nor the breathless reporter who called him up for his thoughts on the subject. His account of the conversation is pretty entertaining, particularly the dig he gets in at the sartorial taste of a certain members of the leadership.

Superlatives at this closing ceremony

by He Dong

After watching a bit of the closing ceremony, I got a little dazed, and I was almost put into a trance by my mother’s steady snoring that accompanied the television.

I continued to watch, going into a stupor.

When the ceremony was drawing to a close, my mobile phone suddenly rang….

I answered it. It was someone in the media, who asked excitedly, “Did you watch the closing ceremony?”

“Hmm….,” I rubbed my eyes and tried to wake up. “I’m watching it now. Why?”

“I’d like to interview you right now. OK?”

“No problem.”


Placido Domingo and Song Zuying sing “The Flame of Love”

“What, in your opinion, was the high point of this closing ceremony?”

“It probably was when Brother Domingo led the light-bulb-clad Song Zuying in that jasmine love song….”

“How well do you think they worked together?”

“Wonderfully! There’s obviously something going on between them. On the one side there was Brother Domingo, and on the other, light bulb Granny Zu, a pile of glittering jasmine light bulbs calling us to go out and fight!”

“What do you….?”

“This is a spontaneous interview, right? Shouldn’t I say what I think?”

“….so, then, which part made the deepest impression on you?”

“Of course it was the scaffolding tower. And all those people on it, wriggling around and speculating on real estate.”

“Is there anyone whose performance you thought was decent?”

“Of course: Dong Qing and Zhu Jun [the CCTV commentators]. They learned a lesson about logorrhea from Sun Zhengping and Zhou Tao last time, so for the most part they maintained their right to remain silent so it couldn’t be used against them. I propose that BOCOG give them a retroactive “least willing to speak” prize of jasmine-scented jade.

“Hey. Here….”

“You can’t publish this?”

“Right. There’s no this can get published.”

“Thank you.”

I laughed as I hung up.

Suddenly, the memory of growing jasmine flowers at home when I was younger returned to me. When you first sniffed them, they’d be just a little bit fragrant, but after a while your nose would be stung by the stench of decay, just like how you can taste the flavor of chicken shit after eating too many eggs.

Also, Brother Domingo’s trousers were too low at the waist: they should have been cut so that he could buckle a belt around his chest. That’s the way to do it.

The comments section following He Dong’s post was fairly lively. Here’s one from “Dr. Tingting” (婷婷博士), who found the London segment much more satisfying than Zhang Yimou’s spectacle:

Indeed, it was pretty awful.

The scaffold for a firefighters’ drill set up center-stage was pretty interesting, with the firefighters whooshing down the lines and then crawling back up again. A victory for fire prevention education puts the whole country at ease.

[Singer] Zhang Ye and the rest of them stood below the tower like ants. You could hardly hear their voices, and then in the end Andy Lau was out of luck again….

Sister Song’s costume actually complemented Domingo’s black suit quite well. The song was pretty good. It was really gentle. Who’d have thought Zhang Yimou could escape the grand themes and do something so tender and sentimental!

The UK’s eight minutes were classic. Those few short minutes of European street art and street culture felt really good. Maybe culture is something nearby, something every resident of a city can take part in. Culture isn’t just made up of lofty, arcane things like the compass and printing.

The bus metaphor was pretty interesting. As a crowd of people strove to get on the bus to the London Olympics, a girl emerged and climbed up the human ladder…..Beckham’s kick seemed to mean absolutely nothing, but wasn’t that simply saying that there’s nothing mysterious about the Olympics, that it’s just a grand athletic pageant?

ESWN translates some other online reactions that aren’t as positive.

Did all the pageantry mean anything? Wu Yan, a science fiction critic, examined the scaffold more closely in a blog post that explained why he felt the closing ceremony was more successful than the opening ceremony:

Why did I like the closing ceremony better?

by Wu Yan

The closing ceremony to the Beijing Olympics was better than the opening ceremony, in my opinion. The opening ceremony was a national-level event that mobilized the country’s best arts troupes, but the closing ceremony better exhibited Beijing’s essential condition. This was an event put on by Beijing, after all. As a Beijinger, I want Beijing to have face, too!


Giant red corn, a massive satellite dish, or a burn building?

Out of the entire closing ceremony, I’d say I especially liked the frame that stood in the center. So why shouldn’t that scaffold have all kinds of post-modern cultural readings?

First, it conveys that Beijing has always been swiftly-developing city, always a giant construction site! By extension, it shows the major contribution that migrant workers have made to the city.

Second, all those events in Beijing were not the work of just one or two people. Showing all those people participating in Beijing construction and having lots of people run back and forth on the stage is an expression of the reality of today’s Beijing. In addition, they used Hong Kong style “bun snatching” climbing — what a rollicking sight!

Third, the scaffold and the red-clothed people on it can be taken to be a giant ear of red corn. Beijing’s chief farm product is corn. Beijing was promoted during the Olympics, and promoting Beijing’s agriculture is something that should be done as well.

Fourth, the colored ribbons shooting out from the top of the scaffold can be seen as forming a giant antenna, representing Beijing’s emergence into the high-tech space age. Don’t think so? The astronaut training base is here in Beijing. Many major parts of the space program are in Beijing. And the dish antenna is the symbol of space communications equipment. Beijing is heading high-tech, and the antenna is a clue that the director successfully buried in the program.

Fifth, Beijing currently puts out too many pollutants into the environment, and outside pests frequently reduce crop yields. Therefore, having people move up and down the “red corn” like insects could reflect current anxieties over pest control. As the most transparent region in the country, Beijing cannot be expected to only report good news and not bad.

Sixth, the opening ceremony mostly stressed Chinese traditional culture but did not express the mass-participation aspects of the Olympics, so the closing ceremony therefore put popular Beijing sports activities on display, with things like biking and running. Constructive criticism from overseas was taken to heart.

In conclusion, I believe that this closing ceremony was more successful than the opening ceremony because it was more in line with the Olympic spirit, China’s national conditions, and Beijing’s local color and administration.

I fully affirm this closing ceremony!

Of course, the “Olympic season” continues for another month, but I doubt we’ll find this sort of outpouring of emotion and criticism for the Paralympics. It should be a good time to watch some sports, though.

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