Director Zhang Yimou says show has plenty of surprises in store
The chief director of Beijing 2022’s opening ceremony has told fans to expect a unique experience – including a “groundbreaking” cauldron lighting method – at the Bird’s Nest stadium on Friday.
Zhang Yimou also directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Games, making the 71-year-old the first person to direct both the Summer and Winter Olympics ceremonies as Beijing makes history as the first city to host both editions.
“It’s a great honor to direct the opening ceremony for the second time,” Zhang said. “I hope to make a good impression and create some wonderful moments that will go down in history.”
A renowned Chinese filmmaker, Zhang has been nominated three times for the Academy Award for best foreign language film.
The scintillating opening ceremony of the 2008 Games added to his prestige. He also masterminded Beijing’s eight-minute handover performances at Athens 2004 and Pyeongchang 2018.
Zhang said he never thought of taking the easy option and merely repeating the highly rated 2008 masterpiece.
“I think a lot of classics cannot be duplicated,” he said. “They happen only once. Of course, we know that we cannot repeat Beijing 2008, so we are striving to be different from it.”
Besides incorporating characteristics of the Winter Olympics and winter sports in the opening ceremony, Zhang said the theme will not be the same as the 2008 show.
“In 2008, the Olympics were a brilliant stage and a chance for our country to show ourselves,” he said. “In fact, there are plenty of pages across our 5,000-year history that we would like to present to the world-our civilization, our history and how we got to where we are today.
“It’s different now. China’s status in the world, the image of the Chinese and the rise of our national status-everything is totally different now.
“In the wake of the pandemic, the world needs a new and strengthened vision, and that is people of the world coming together to face difficulties and looking forward to a bright future.”
That is reflected in a change to the Olympic motto, with “Together” added to “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.
Zhang said he is determined to present a “different and unique” opening for the 2022 Games. “The era is different, and so is the public’s perspective,” he said.
Simplicity the key
The opening ceremony will be in keeping with Beijing’s efforts to stage “simple, safe and splendid” Games.
The number of performers has been cut from 15,000 in 2008 to 3,000; the ceremony will last less than 100 minutes due to the cold weather and the pandemic.
However, the quality will not be affected by the reduction in quantity.
“Being simple, just as in martial arts films, is like a master’s sword,” Zhang said. “All his spirit is focused on the tip of the sword, and the power of his stab is different. It looks like a very simple stab, but with fateful power.”
One of the most anticipated parts of the opening ceremony is the lighting of the main cauldron. Zhang said his team has come up with “a bold idea” for this element of the show.
“This time, the lighting method will certainly be different,” he said. “It’s a major reform of the opening ceremony. It will be unprecedented in the 100-year-plus history of the Olympic Games.”
Zhang hinted that the design was in line with the concept of environmental protection and low-carbon emissions.
“I think it’s totally innovative, and people will be surprised,” he added.
For the people
Zhang said the public’s participation is “a major goal” of hosting the Games and, therefore, is also important for the opening ceremony.
“Not just athletes and professionals winning gold medals and achieving amazing things, but getting more people to participate in sports,” he said. “It’s always about the people.”
In the seven years since Beijing’s successful bid, China has fulfilled its promise to engage 300 million people in winter sports.
The opening ceremony will also be characterized by diversity, with some performers coming from schools and grassroots arts groups.
“I think the expressions of happiness, health, spirit, self-confidence and inspiration are very important,” Zhang said. “We also emphasize participation in many ways this time.”
Zhang said the pandemic has brought about changes in the world, with China facing a new and complicated international situation. That’s why he hoped to present the genuine thoughts and feelings of the Chinese people on the Olympic stage.
“What the Winter Olympics show is the Chinese people’s confidence, pride, love and affection for the people of the world,” Zhang said.
“If we can showcase that in an artistic, emotional and subtle way through the opening ceremony, people can see the real inner thoughts of Chinese people. That will be very meaningful.”- CHINA DAILY – XINHUA