The ability to focus spiritual energy for a clearly defined purpose is something that the peoples of the Asian and African continents understand well. I was not surprised to learn that the dates of the opening of the Olympic games had been decided on astrological principles. It would seem that they were very wise to have followed the omens.

Sport, sound, color, sex, movement, music, dance can, like most things in life, be a means of raising energy to spiritual levels. These energies carry a powerful universal message. The Chinese clearly wanted to demonstrate this fact to the world. How well they succeeded! An awareness of the duality of all things pervaded the occasion, silence-sound, light-dark, male-female.

The opening ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games were ones of panoramic splendor. At a distance all the participants looked like identical siblings. Thanks to TV and large screens in the Bird's Nest close ups revealed the participants as individuals.

Throughout both ceremonies great attention was paid to detail. There was one performance where the young women had gold eyelashes when they looked down which were black when they looked up. There was a certain amount of adverse comment in the Press that the women had clearly been carefully screened for good looks. However, if anyone was appearing as an individual body shape and good looks were of no concern. There is no denying the fact though that the sight of beautiful people releases and heightens our energy of appreciation.

Earth, Air, Fire and Water were all symbolically acknowledged . The colors of the costumes had been chosen with meticulous care and added their own energy to the scenes.

At points when the energy levels were no longer completely controllable the cheerleaders came into their own dancing indefatigably for hours on end. One such point was the entrance of the atheletes. It is a time when the spectators interest and concentration can become very sporadic. The fact that the teams entered the Stadium according to the Chinese system may actually helped as most for most foreign spectators it was not possible to pre-judge the entrance order and that probably helped to hold their attention.

Very occasionally a host nation comes up with an element that should become a part of the ritual of all opening ceremonies. Personally I felt that having the athletes and officials walk through colored pigments was one such element. The picture created was an aesthetically and energetically powerful action of unification and an effective way of melding the many different energies. The variations on this idea are endless.

The energy of the ceremonies always flowed harmoniously punctuated by staccato elements so the interest of the spectators did not flag. Even gestures of politeness became aesthetically significant and through this took on greater meaning as when the young women lined up on either side of the red carpet turned with balletic grace as the VIP's went past.
When patterns were formed individuals were shown moving around and finding their places within an extremely intricate whole. One source of action flowed seamlessly into another.
Children and older people when featured were treated with respect.

Usually there is a definite hiatus between the Olympic and Paralympic Games which was not the case with the Beijing Games. The energy created by the former carried over to the latter. The Opening Ceremony manifested to the world the great leaps which disability issues have made in large areas of the world. It also brought home the wide spectrum of disabilities and how the athletes have triumphed often over enormous odds. It also proved that disabled athletes are far fitter than most able-bodied people.

None of us will easily forget what became a tiny figure in a wheelchair hauling himself up on a rope to ignite the Paralympic flame. It was not an easy ascent and showed so powerfully the struggle to overcome and reach a worthwhile goal.

Again as at the Olympic Opening Ceremony there were the beautiful firework displays which seemed to be carrying all our hopes and aspirations heavenwards. At both ceremonies there was breathtaking aerial work which was filled with symbolic meaning as in the descent of the sunbird.

At the Paralympic opening ceremony there was much choreography based on the all-encompassing figure of the circle. The emphasize throughout the opening of the Paralympics was not just focused on the contribution of disabled people as athletes but also on their contribution in many cultural spheres. There was the blind male singer (I deeply regret that I do not know his name) with a magnificent voice who was backed by a superb choir. The music was Chinese but was clearly chosen so that it would appeal to a world-wide audience. We had the spectacle of the Galaxy being born and the incredible dance by three hundred white clad deaf girls. Who can forget the little girl who lost a leg in the terrible earthquake in June dancing in her wheelchair and holding one red pointe shoe aloft. She was surrounded by dancers doing pointe work with shoes on their hands instead of their feet.

This feast of the senses continued to include a moving recital by a blind pianist and a cartoon dance with two thousand children symbolizing light, harmony and bravery. Another very large group of children gave an astonishing display of synchronized acrobatics.

Even when the spectators did not understand the lyrics the mood came across and people were moved. "Thanks to Wind and Rain" was sung in English as was "Flying to the Heavens with Love". Was this to show China's commitment to the environment?

The entire ceremony was devoted to showing the peaceful interaction and interdependence of all life.

The true human cost to the Chinese people of the Beijing Olympics 2008 is likely to remain unknown to the outside world. Clearly China did not entirely fulfill some of its' important commitments. We have, however, received a clear and positive message as to how China wishes to interact in peace and harmony with the world in the future. Some aspects of the ceremonies mirrored aspirations which have yet to become realities but nevertheless China deserves sincere thanks and gratitude for two magnificent and meaningful opening ceremonies.

The London Olympic 2012 symbol suggests to me that the basic concepts have not been understood. The shapes making up the symbol are disjointed and disharmonious. The Olympic rings which are the most important element have been reduced to insignificance.

London has a hard act to follow - not just because of limited finances but because a clarity of vision and true imagination are essential to a successful opening ceremony. London has all the elements necessary to produce a magnificent spectacle. Let us hope it does so. Cliches such as a London Bus, tea parties, street dancing and drumming are not going to do it!

Author's Bio: 

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a cultural anthropologist, Dance and Movement Therapist and an author of children's books. Dance in Our Footsteps is a site dedicated to Instructional Dance dvds,music cds, videos, books, articles, gifts, costumes and everything connected to Dance.