2008 Beijing Olympics: The Tech Behind The Opening Ceremony

By Steve West 2008-08-09 18:51:31
Look, we can joke all day about Commie China and the Beijing Olympics. It’d be tired and not all that funny. I don’t care if you’re sporting an American flag painted car and married to your cousin Bobby Jo, everyone was awed and inspired by last night’s 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony. It was, to say the least, one of the most epic and inspirational ceremonies the games have seen in modern times…if not ever. I’ve only been able to catch snippets since I was moonlighting at my other job. But what I’ve seen is nothing short of spectacular.

So, how did they do it? Besides the thousands of drummers and people working in perfect synchronicity sans the aid of marks on the floor, there were some technical achievements that can’t go ignored. The LED screen featured prominently, as it should. The thing measured 482 feet long by 72 feet wide. With 44,000 LED beads it makes all those suckers who bought the 100”+ plasma TV last year feel inadequate.

Then there were the fireworks. My god, the mother flippin’ fireworks! Come on. I haven’t been mesmerized by colored sparks in the sky since I was a kid…and maybe “Wishes” at Magic Kingdom. Watching as the city of Beijing was lit by what looked to be the biggest display of non-military explosive power ever was quite intense. Of course, it couldn’t just be random explosions. The fireworks were timed using a digital ignition control system that coordinated the display over 30 locations throughout the city. Cai Guoqiang, who was behind the fireworks, stated that not a single one of the 40,000 (!) shots fired faltered.

The big scrim like thing around the stadium was created by China’s aerospace sector. And it takes more than discipline to coordinate 18,000 performers. Technical monitoring systems were used to keep track of everyone through identification codes. That kept everyone where they should be at all times.

Despite what a lot of movies showcase with Western businessmen getting locked up for no good reason, there is a lot to love about China. There is a deep and long heritage of culture in the country, and they have much to offer the world. I think more than any time in the last few decades China has reached deep within and decided to show itself to the world. Sure, atrocities happen all the time in China. But the Olympics are about solidarity and a brotherhood of mankind. Politics be damned, we Americans have come for your gold!
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