Athens 2004: Opening Ceremony
Posted on Paul Katz's Place for Entertainment
15 August 2004
IN SUM: In these times of conflict, the pageantry in Athens and the flaming cauldron above it constitute an inspiring, hopeful beacon for the glorious possibilities of unified humankind in pursuit of excellence.
THE opening ceremony of the Games of
the XXVIII Olympiad last Friday was a stunning extravaganza! Seoul had its loud
bursts of exotic colors, Barcelona the playful shapes of Miró and Picasso, and
Sydney the wild, carefree living patterns of an island down under! Then we have
Athens: a stately, astonishing procession of three millennia of Humanities 101
reliquaries made contemporary. The nostalgia was overwhelming, the modernism
moving. The Olympics have indeed come back home.
The lighting of the Olympic flame was not as stirring as that in Barcelona, where Paralympic archer Antonio Rebollo threw a flaming arrow, or in Atlanta, where the sickly pugilist Muhammad Ali held the torch with shaking hands. I think that both events remain amongst the greatest spectacles in modern sporting history. Nevertheless, the Athens flame on hydraulic cauldron was a memorable sight. As it rose ever so slowly, I recalled the criticism that the city had gotten for its apparent inability to deliver the goods. I thought of the automated cover of the Montreal stadium (it malfunctioned and eventually collapsed after the 1976 Games), and for a while, I was terrified: what if this jet-shaped cauldron, rising majestically with a humongous flame, suddenly stopped and collapsed instead? Voila! The horrifying existential possibility did not happen! The torch stood tall, proclaiming victory over critics as it successfully bridged past tradition, present technology, and future vision. Guess who had the last laugh now?
The Olympic Games are proof of human excellence in all things. Last Friday, the paragon worked once more. In these times of conflict, the pageantry in Athens and the flaming cauldron above it constitute an inspiring, hopeful beacon for the glorious possibilities of unified humankind in pursuit of excellence.