Giant on the move
Lucky numbers for some at the opening ceremony
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.
- 179,400 bottled drinks expected to be sold in the stadium. The media get their bottled water for free.
- 15,153 different types of costume. That’s a big wardrobe.
- 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.
- 3,000 Scholar disciples of Confucius are to appear. That’s what the programme says. I don’t know yet what it means.
- 800 kilogrammes weight of a paper scroll on the stadium floor. The Chinese traditions of calligraphy and scroll painting figure heavily in the ceremony.
- 100 girls playing the pipa, a pear-shaped Chinese instrument.
- 58 actors dancing on a model of the world.
- 48 hours. The longest continuous practice session for performers. Surely not? That’s an ultra-marathon, not a rehearsal.
- 4 inventions that China contributed to civilisation — the compass, gunpowder, paper and moveable type.
- 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