Changing China

Giant on the move

Lucky numbers for some at the opening ceremony

By Sean Maguire
August 8, 2008

Ollmpic face logoAuspicious, fortunate, lucky - the 08/08/08 date is supposed by Chinese to bring blessings.

In a gesture of ambitious synchronicity the Opening Ceremony was to have kicked off on that date at 8 minutes past 8pm.

But that proved a digit too far and the jollities are now to start on the hour, launching a 3-1/2 hour extravaganza of music, dance, acrobatics, flag-waving and pomp.

There are other numbers to tell the story of the ceremony, which have been proudly handed out in advance by the organisers. They capture the ambitious grandeur of China’s Olympic adventure, a no-expense-spared, attention-grabbing combination of self-confidence and ingratiation.

Since we are in the stats-rich environment of a sports event (yes the Olympics are also about sport!), here are my top 10 Opening Ceremony numbers.

  1. 179,400 bottled drinks expected to be sold in the stadium. The media get their bottled water for free.
  2. 15,153 different types of costume. That’s a big wardrobe.
  3. 9,000 People’s Liberation Army performers on the stadium floor. China, the world’s most populous nation, has no problem marshalling manpower for big events.
  4. 3,000 Scholar disciples of Confucius are to appear. That’s what the programme says. I don’t know yet what it means.
  5. 800 kilogrammes weight of a paper scroll on the stadium floor. The Chinese traditions of calligraphy and scroll painting figure heavily in the ceremony.
  6. 100 girls playing the pipa, a pear-shaped Chinese instrument.
  7. 58 actors dancing on a model of the world.
  8. 48 hours. The longest continuous practice session for performers. Surely not? That’s an ultra-marathon, not a rehearsal.
  9. 4 inventions that China contributed to civilisation — the compass, gunpowder, paper and moveable type.
  10. 1.7 metres, the required height for the evening’s martial arts performers.

And one statistic that was unlucky — the 16 performers who were injured while rehearsing a particularly complex part of the performance.

PHOTO: A man, with the logo of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on his face, is seen near the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, August 8, 2008. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz


But the biggest number of all is the $43 billion China has poured into these Olympics without, seemingly, blinking an eye about that….I think I’m gong to start learning Chinese.

Posted by Erik Kirschbaum | Report as abusive

The number “8″ was not a lucky number in traditional Chinese history. The number “9″ has been the lucky number for many centuries. For example, the forbiden city has 9999 and 1/2 rooms. “9″ means longevity. The number “8″ became popular only in recent years because of the influence of Hong Kong whose residents speak mostly Cantonese in which the number “8″ is pronouced “Fa”, same pronouciation as the first word of “Fa Cai” which means making money. So please don’t misunderstand the number “8″ as part of ancient Chinese culture.

Posted by Mac | Report as abusive

One bizarre olympic moment. I wanna go to BeiJing. Who will come with me?



Really now !!!
THEATRICAL EXUBERANCE!! HISTRIONICS!! HUBRIS!! give me a d*^~ break.Fortunately for us – you were not attempting to “front” as a fair minded reporter, I bet you were a world class ATHLETE!! like Usain Bolt.
Tell us how you really feel after you return the green monster to the closet.

Posted by Johnny | Report as abusive

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