BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing’s Olympic opening extravaganza drew rave reviews on Friday from media around the world awed by rich displays of Chinese culture that eclipsed controversy that has surrounded the city’s hosting of the Games.
“An eight became a perfect 10 in Beijing tonight”, the website of the Sydney Morning Herald declared. With eight the luckiest number according to Chinese, it was no coincidence the Games started on August 8 at exactly 8 p.m.
“The world may never witness a ceremony of the magnitude and ingenuity as that which opens the 2008 Olympics,” it said.
A spectacle of sight and sound, the ceremony featured colorful dances, tightly choreographed drumming and barrages of fireworks up and down city streets.
London’s widely read Evening Standard ran the headline: “China Magic”, and said the “most ambitious Olympics in history opens with most spectacular show”.
“For China, before a TV audience of 4 billion, this was the luckiest moment in a thousand years. It is, too, the start of something even bigger than an Olympic Games. It is, or at least is meant to be, the beginning of China’s new era of greatness, witnessed and implicitly approved, by much of the leadership of the planet,” wrote Andrew Gilligan from Beijing.
“Marvelous. Too Marvelous,” gushed Italy’s Leonardo Coen on the website of the Rome-based daily La Repubblica (www.repubblica.it).
For some, the show drew attention to China’s strengths and the Olympic sports after a politically charged run-up to the Games that saw protests and accounts of human rights abuses grabbed headlines.
“‘Friends who come from far, how happy we are to have you here,’ was the message of greeting to the world, even the part of the world China has had harsh criticism from,” wrote Elio Girompini, a correspondent with Italy’s top daily Corriere della Sera (www.corriere.it).
“And in a stroke it made the latest polemics about Bush’s words on human rights slide away.”
German state broadcaster ARD said the Chinese organizing committee had been trying to produce compelling pictures for television viewers.
“Because in the run-up it was often not the great sporting event that dominated the news flow but the political situation in the host nation,” ARD wrote on its website (www.ard.de).
Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the ceremony celebrated “not the economic giant growing to threatening size but a nation with an ancient culture, fascinating sounds and traditional pictures.
“Not the shocking severity of the dictatorship but what a strictly organized country can achieve if it puts in infinite effort,” it said on the website www.faz.de.
To the Los Angeles Times, the show, directed by Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou, was not a welcoming ceremony for a resurgent China rejoining the world stage.
Rather, it was “about China for at least the next 17 days becoming the world stage. The Chinese, accustomed to humiliation, real and perceived, by foreigners for centuries, are secure enough these days that they were willing, even eager, to share the spotlight.”
Additional reporting by Paul Virgo in Rome, Robert Woodward in Beijing, Katherine Baldwin in London, Iain Rogers in Berlin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence