On this morning, the day after the spectacular, pyrotechnic launchof the Olympic games, lets take a second to recall who wasexcluded from the party. No not George W. Bush or Vladamir Putin. Bothmen took time away from bombing other countries to attend the dazzling openingceremonies in Beijing. Not Henry Kissinger, who probably attended becauseChina is one of the few places he can fly without risking arrest. Asthe jaw dropping exhibition displayed, what Tom Shales of the WashingtonPost called, "enough fireworks for 100 fourth of Julys", it was Steven Spielberg who was left at home, crying with his Oscars. Spielberg hadagreed to direct these opening ceremonies, which may turn out to have been the most watched television event in the history of the world. And it wasSpielberg who was shamed into breaking his contract when Mia Farrowcalled him "the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games" this past March.
Riefenstahl was of course the visionary Nazi filmmaker who on the behestof Joseph Geobbels directed Olympia the documentary of the 1936 games.It was a rather unfair charge. Riefenstahl, who lived until 2003, wasdespised for her role as a Nazi propagandist. But Olympia was visionary,changing the way sports would forever be filmed. Every opening ceremonysince has owed something to the 1936 games. All their wildly praisedgrandeur owes a great deal to Nazi Germany. Before those 1936 games,there were no grand opening ceremonies and no running of the torch. AsJeremy Schaap wrote in his book Triumph, "The Nazis had taken what hadalways been a rather clubbish, overgrown track-and-field meet and turnedit into the spectacle that even now we recognized as the modernOlympics."
Last night’s opening ceremonies were a continuance of what Schaap calls"the pagan pomp" which have been the hallmark of these openingceremonies since those Berlin games of yesteryear. This has been true ofall the opening ceremonies–taking the bombastic nationalism of 1936and leaving the straight-armed salutes at the doors. What made China’sdifferent though was the extraordinary money and space technology theydevoted to making sure the spectacle could be all it was supposed to be.
As Zhou Fengguang, head of the Engineering Design and ResearchInstitute of the People’s Liberation Army General Armament Departmentsaid to the newspaper Xinhua, "The engineering design at the openingceremony borrowed many of the latest space technologies. They ensuredthe stable operation of thousands of devices." Yes, just as theseOlympic games are ushering in unprecedented surveillance technology tothe world, they are also allowing us to witness the latest in militaryhardware while the war mongers of the moment Bush and Putin, watch inawe, and maybe sign some military contracts on the side. No wonderKissinger wanted a front row seat.