Through the years, the olympic games have, for me, symbolized the purity of athletic competition (notwithstanding the occasional scandal) and the international camaraderie when the nations of the world come together to celebrate sport. I was a bit disappointed when the US made the decision, some years ago, to allow professional athletes to compete in the olympics, because that seemed, to me, to move away from the original intent of the games. However, I understood the reasons behind the decision. Other countries were sending professional athletes to the olympics, and America needed to maintain a competitive position in the international games.
The olympics have become more spectacular over the years. The opening ceremonies continue to increase in scope, becoming gargantuan productions involving tens of thousands of performers and who knows how many millions of dollars to produce. I’ve liked most of it, most of the time. Some of the pageantry I’ve found a little over the top. Frankly, I think the organizers of the 2008 summer games’ opening ceremony went too far when they decided to insert fake fireworks into the broadcast being watched by millions of TV viewers.
By now we’re all used to CGI in our movies and TV shows, but the olympics is supposed to be the real deal. Isn’t it? I understand it was just the opening ceremony, it wasn’t as though CGI was used to enhance a gymnast’s backflips or minimize the amount of splash when a diver hits the water. Still, it seems wrong to pull this kind of elaborate trick:
Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. Meticulous efforts were made to ensure the sequence was as unnoticeable as possible: they sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office as to how to recreate the hazy effects of Beijing’s smog at night, and inserted a slight camera shake effect to simulate the idea that it was filmed from a helicopter.
Recreating the effects of smog?? All this high-tech wizardry smacks of injecting steroids into the veins of the opening ceremony. I think at the least the ceremony producers should have announced their plans beforehand, talked up the cool technology they were going to use to superimpose special effects for TV viewers. Instead, they tried to fool us, and then revealed the truth afterwards.
It leaves me wondering “what next”? As subsequent olympic games continue to strive to outdo the spectacle of previous games, how much of the human element of the celebration will be supplanted by movie technology? Will we really watch thousands of olympians marching on to the field? Or will there only be handful, and the rest digitally created? Will that torch bearer really be running triumphantly through throngs of cheering people, or in front of a green screen?
Keep the olympics real. There’s so much that’s false in the world, it’s always been refreshing to know that at least the olympics presented competition in its purest form: the strength of one’s body and mind, the glory of natural talent, the sweat, the tears, the proud faces shining from the victory stand as the winning national anthem is played. The images I see when watching the olympics should be truth, not art that could have been created for Zack Snyder movie.