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Kristi Heim: The World in China

Seattle Times reporter Kristi Heim explores a changing China on the world stage.

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August 24, 2008 7:30 AM

Closing ceremony: Chinese youth culture and a double-decker bus to London

Posted by Kristi Heim


If Beijing's opening ceremony was full of tradition, its closing was meant to carry China into the modern world and hand off the games to London.

What passed for modern in China was a little odd: 200 Chinese drummers in gold bicycle helmets, riders on "wheels of light" circling the stadium and "bouncing and flying men" wearing silver body suits and special shoes that propelled them high into the air. Young women in sports clothes played the erhu, (a traditional stringed instrument) to accompany a pop song.

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After athletes entered stadium, I noticed Lauren Jackson and Yao Ming exchanged a big hug on the field. The atmosphere was all youthful energy, with athletes mingling around in center of the stadium.

The Games that set 38 world records and 85 Olympic records were then handed off to London when a bright red double-decker bus drove into the stadium, peeling away to expose a garden.

Singer Leona Lewis emerged on a platform through the middle of the bus, and then the guitar chords of Led Zeppelin began. Jimmy Page appeared and played a rousing duet of "Whole Lotta Love" with Lewis. Too bad no one in the crowd seemed to recognize him. David Beckham emerged next to them and kicked a soccer ball into crowd. Placido Domingo and Jackie Chan both sang on stage later.

This time the ceremony was mercifully short, not as impressive or sweeping as the opening, but fitting in its own way. As the stadium screens were transformed into airport departure signs, and an airplane ladder rose into the night sky, I realized this time I would be more than happy to board.

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