Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sports, History and What the Ceremony Really Gives

If you ask a Chinese what the most touching moment in the opening ceremony was, most of them will give the answer:"during the A Hymn to My Motherland by a 9-year-old girl". It's a song most of Chinese who have connection to the new Republic can sing along. Part of the lyrics goes: Hymn to My Motherland, returning to the prosperity and a strong nation again.

To give a analogy to what history and tradition brings, let's turn to sports for a moment. Any fan of College Football can tell you what tradition means. It allows historical power houses like Alabama a chance to rebuild their program in times of decline. It allows Michigan be an attractive destination for coaches after some lackluster seasons. In an radio interview of a coach from a big-time program, a reporter ask the coach, "what allows your players always seem to be able to come back from a disappointing start of the season?" The coach replied, I paraphrase, "it's the tradition we have, it gives our players both motivation and confidence they need. 'You are suppose to be good, otherwise you are not deserved to be in this great school.’”

Same goes for nations.

What does the opening ceremony with all that history and culture behind it really brings? You can point to the soft power China projects, you can point to the promoting the understanding of Chinese cultural around the world, you can even point to staging by the Chinese government. But ultimately, it boils down to that lyrics. The pride in historical achievements both motivates Chinese people to "restore the glory", so to speak, and gives them enough confidence of "can do" attitude, which is an invaluable asset and can't be measure by GDP. The culture brings an anchor of self-identity.

That's what touches people in that song.

[p.s.] Michael Phelps, yeeho.

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