(photo from USA Today)
I write this with tear-stained cheeks.
Tears of elation and awe.
The Games of the 29th Olympiad of the Modern Era began tonight, with the theme of One World, One Dream.
The opening ceremonies in Beijing surpassed all expectations, in the spectacular artistry, the celebration, the pageantry.
The images involved the symbolism
of cultural history and future hope.
The event started with the unrolling of a scroll indicating the past, and ended with ignited flames in a scroll-shaped cauldron.
There were flying muses, children singing, twinkling lights, amazing pyrotechnics that included footprint-shaped fireworks starting in the center of the city and 'walking' to "The Bird's Nest" stadium.
There was the sound of a waterfall, messages of harmony with man and nature, and the largest LED screen ever made--truly a technical extravaganza in a mingling of history with future dreams.
The precision of 2008 Tai Chi masters was beautiful, the synchronization of drums astounding.
The walk of Nations began with flags waving, and pride-filled smiles, but left an indelible mark on more than the hearts of everyone participating and watching--footprints finished a painting.
The athletes walked across huge stamp pads, leaving a rainbow trail across a traditional drawing of mountains and rivers that dancers had painted earlier in the ceremony, and that children had added color to.
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Bob Costas spoke of the collection of gathered athletes in their costumes as "the colorful quilt that is created"--a lovely analogy of varying cultures and political structures that come together in unity to form an inspirational force that speaks of dreams, struggles, teamwork, and possibilities.
This event symbolizes one of the most significant moments in history.
Ironically, I spent much of this afternoon reading Comfort me with Apples
, a book written by the editor of Gourmet Magazine, Ruth Reichl.
In the book, she talks about a trip to China in the 1970's.
The 1970's is very recent history, yet Nixon had just opened up talks with our two countries, and Caucasians had not been allowed to visit in 30 years.
She spoke of her luggage being searched, of her outings choreographed, of her words censored.
China may be different today, but it's a reminder that we take our free will and our lifestyle too much for granted.
Even today, women were not allowed to march for Afghanistan (the one athlete they had has disappeared and is presumed in Norway seeking asylum from death threats).
Female athletes cannot be televised in Iran because they are not 'properly' clothed.
Granted, there have been huge strides (the United Arab Emirates and Oman are including female athletes for the first time), but I thank God for growing up in this country every single day.
Yes, the Olympics are about National pride.
At the same time, the Olympics open our eyes to cultural variations and traditions and shed light on ignorance.
They are the epitome of hope and change.
I have loved the magic of the Games for as long as I can remember.
I hope you embrace them as well--there are sure to be powerful moments in the next 16 days.