I won’t easily forget yesterday morning. I had the opportunity to view live, the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was a feast to my eyes.
China splashed into the world stage with an extravaganza of fireworks and pageantry dramatizing its ascendance as a global power. In my opinion, China opened the Summer Games in a spectacular fashion surpassing all previously held Olympic games by a wide margin.
It’s difficult to describe with words the impression of such an extravagant spectacle organized by the Chinese Olympic Committee. The sight of the latticed shell of the National Stadium illuminated by millions of rays of light produced by perfectly synchronized pyrotechnics was a magical experience.
The central message of the ceremony was a lavish grand tribute on the Chinese civilization and an attempt to stir China’s national pride. To the outside world, it was a message of technological splendor and a global embrace of peace. Don’t worry, China is a peaceful nation with a rich civilization dating back thousands of years. China’s desire is for people everywhere to feel, live and understand its slogan “One World, One Dream”.
The climax of the ceremony was when Li Ning, 44, former gymnast and winner of six Olympic medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, lit the cauldron circling high above the heads of spectators and then hovering in mid-air to light the cauldron, in a show-stopping, daredevil high-wire act.
As Li Ning floated high above the stadium, suspended with almost invisible cables, a digital papyrus unfolded leaving behind brilliant pictures of the different places traveled by the Olympic torch in its global journey from Olympia, Greece to Beijing, China. “The Prince of Gymnastics” looked like an Olympic god flying high in the sky with a bright flame in his hand. It was an stunning show of apotheosis in motion and color. As I write these lines, I feel goose bumps all over my body.
Panama is looking forward to these Olympic Games with great emotion. Panama has won only two Olympic bronze medals, both by sprinter Lloyd LaBeach (1924-1999) who finished third in the 100 meters and 200 meters in the 1948 men’s track and field competition in London, England. So far, La Beach is the only athlete who has won Olympic medals for Panama.
Our hope in Beijing is Irving Saladino, a young athlete from Colon, a Panama Canal terminal city located on the Atlantic Side. Saladino, also known as the “Panama Kangaroo”, won a gold metal in the long jump at the 2007 World Championship and should contend for the Olympic gold in Beijing.
On August 18th at exactly 7:10 a.m. (-5 GMT), Panama will freeze. Everybody will be glued to their TV sets nervously holding their hands, as a young man from Colon glides graciously through the crisp morning air in an attempt to win a gold metal for his native land. It will be a historic moment for a small nation with only 3.2 million people. I hope Saladino fulfills his dream. I truly do. Good Day!