Creative flame lights up Games

By LEI LEI | (China Daily)| Updated : 2022-02-06

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The Olympic flame burns inside the unique snowflake-shaped cauldron outside the National Stadium following the completion of the 2022 Winter Games opening ceremony on Friday night. [Photo/XINHUA] 

Director delighted as 'innovative' opening ceremony gets Winter Olympics off to spectacular start

The director of the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony, Zhang Yimou, gave Friday night's performance a resounding thumbs-up, describing the lighting of the main cauldron at the National Stadium as an innovation in Olympic history.

At the end of the grand show, a large snowflake acted as a unique cauldron, with the Olympic flame burning in the center. The snowflake is framed by olive branches and composed of smaller flakes representing the 91 countries and regions competing at the Games.

Earlier, seven torchbearers, including current and retired Chinese athletes, completed the final stage of the torch relay into the venue, also known as the Bird's Nest, and where the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics were also staged.

Two young athletes-men's Nordic combined competitor Zhao Jiawen and women's cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region-jointly lit the cauldron, which is considered to be more simplified than those used at previous Games.

"The lighting of the cauldron surprised many people. It was also an innovation and a change," said Zhang, who also directed the 2008 Games' opening and closing ceremonies.

"Chinese aesthetics focus on the surreal and leave room for the imagination. The names of all the delegations formed the snowflake. It stays true to the concept of low-carbon emissions and being environmentally friendly but also the concept that we can light up the whole world with one little spark. It is a romantic and surprising way of presenting the cauldron."

Zhang said the positioning of the flame in the heart of the snowflake symbolizes the origins of the human race-protected and cared for by the people of the world, so that it could be passed down from generation to generation.

"I think that's a beautiful concept to showcase. It also showcased the Olympic spirit," he said.

"We wanted to highlight the Beijing 2022 motto, 'Together for a Shared Future', to stress the solidarity of mankind. Especially today, the world is facing a difficult time. We hope that through such performances, we can present to the world a warm touch."

Zhang admitted that reprising his Olympic directorial role was most challenging from a conceptual perspective.

"The 2022 opening ceremony was warmer, more relaxed and more simplified, but it also told us more about the concept of being together," said the 71-year-old.

"It also had a wider perspective for the whole world. The lighting of the cauldron showed a global view."

Asked to rate the showcase, Zhang was typically humble.

"As a creator, I am my work's harshest critic, so I won't give it a high score," he said. "But I will give 100 points to the performers and to my team, since behind every director, there are numerous people working hard. The success of the opening ceremony was made possible by their efforts and creativity."

As well as earning rave reviews from fans on social media, the show won many admirers among Games staff and participants.

"This is a ceremony that I particularly loved, because it was a ceremony that integrated everything," said Yiannis Exarchos, chief executive officer of Olympic Broadcasting Services.

"What I loved about the vision of the ceremony was its unity from the first second all the way to the end."

Zhang's team immediately turned its attentions to preparations for the Feb 20 closing ceremony, with the three-time Academy Award nominee revealing it would be a celebration for the athletes.

"We hope we can present everybody joy and happiness through the closing ceremony, because the athletes are the stars of the Games and we are all here to serve the athletes," Zhang said.

"We hope in the end, the athletes will feel joy and satisfaction, and have a feeling of being reluctant to bid farewell to Beijing 2022."

Zhang also disclosed that the closing show will revive a segment from the 2008 opening ceremony.

"We want to present the idea of a 'dual Olympics', which means we want to showcase a moment from the 2008 Olympic Games' opening ceremony as part of the closing ceremony," he said.

"Because the Bird's Nest has been the venue for the ceremonies of the Games in 2008 and 2022, we want to show a moment of time travel, which is expected to be one of the highlights of the ceremony."