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Creative flame lights up Games in grand reprise

Chinese athletes Dinigeer Yilamujiang (left) and Zhao Jiawen place the Olympic flame inside a giant snowflake during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics. The snowflake was used in lieu of the traditional cauldron as the 24th Winter Games got off to a unique start. XINHUA
Chinese athletes Dinigeer Yilamujiang (left) and Zhao Jiawen place the Olympic flame inside a giant snowflake during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics. The snowflake was used in lieu of the traditional cauldron as the 24th Winter Games got off to a unique start. XINHUA

By LEI LEI

Published: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 10:54 AM

Last updated: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 10:56 AM

The director of the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony, Zhang Yimou, gave full marks to the overall performance on February 4, and described the lighting of the main cauldron at the National Stadium as an innovation in Olympic history.



At the end of the grand opening of the Beijing Winter Games, a large snowflake acted as a unique cauldron, with the Olympic flame burning in the centre. The snowflake is framed by olive branches and is composed of 91 smaller flakes representing the 91 countries and regions taking in 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 staged.

Two of the youngest athletes, the men’s Nordic combined athlete Zhao Jiawen and the women’s cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang, jointly lit the cauldron, which is considered less grandiose than those used at previous Games.

“The lighting of the cauldron surprised many people,” said Zhang, whose vision also shaped the 2008 Games ceremonies. “It was also an innovation and a change. Chinese aesthetics focus on the surreal, leaving room for the imagination. The names of all the delegations formed the snowflake. It shows 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.”

The placement of the flame in the heart of the snowflake symbolises 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, he said.

“I think that’s a beautiful concept to showcase. It also showcased the Olympic spirit.

“We want to highlight the concept of Together for a Shared Future (the Beijing 2022 motto), to showcase the solidarity of mankind. Especially today, the world is facing a difficult time. We hope that through such performances we can present the world a warm touch.”

Reprising his Olympic directorial role was most challenging from a creative and conceptual perspective, Zhang, 71, said.

“The 2022 opening ceremony was warmer, more relaxed and more simple, but it also told us more about the concept of being together.

“It also has a wider perspective for the whole world. The lighting of the cauldron shows a global view. My perspective was not only the 5,000 years of China’s history. Instead, I was thinking more about the whole world.”

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

Yiannis Exarchos, chief executive officer of Olympic Broadcasting Services, said: “This is a ceremony that I particularly loved, because it’s a ceremony that integrates everything.

“What I loved about the vision of the ceremony is its unity from the first second all the way to the end. Every single element, what we call the protocol, has a creative thinking behind it. That has to do with a basic ideal of unity and the warmth of the ceremony.”

Zhang’s team has immediately turned its attentions to preparations for the closing ceremony on February 20, which the three-time Academy Award nominee said would be a celebration for the athletes.

Zhang also disclosed that one of the highlights 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.

“Because the Bird’s Nest is also the venue for the ceremonies of both Games in 2008 and 2022, we want to show a moment of time travel, which is expected to be one of the highlights in the closing ceremony.”


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