The Chinese raise the bar  

Saturday, 9 August 2008

I took a break from work today to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing. Normally I’m not that interested in sporting events, but there has been so much speculation and hype about the opening ceremony that I felt compelled to watch. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Olympics is a significant global event, but this one has a particular importance, as I’m sure it will be seen by history as a watershed in China’s relationship with the world. The day that China truly strode onto the world stage. And what a fitting entrance they made: It was an incredible show. I was genuinely – and unexpectedly – moved by the sheer scale of it; the colossal effort that had clearly been put into it by each and every person involved. As I marvelled at the spectacle, I felt uplifted by the humanity of it all; what a remarkable race we humans are to be able to work together on such a vast scale and with such precision to achieve great things.

Then I had a thought that brought me back to Earth with a bump: Remember Tony Blair’s “Rivers of Fire”? Let me remind you – it was the huge firework display that was supposed to have lit up London on Millennium Night? The one that – with no explanation - just didn’t happen. Not even a sparkler.

The Chinese have laid an enormous challenge for London to rise to in 2012. If this pathetic government couldn’t even organise a firework display, what hope do they have of delivering something on such a vast scale as the Olympics. I have a deep sense of foreboding that just as the 2008 Olympics will be remembered as heralding China’s triumphant renaissance, 2012 will be seen as the event that marked UK’s shambling exit from the world stage.

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