There are lots of theories about how the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will or should look, but it is likely to remain one of the Games' best-kept secrets.
Will traditional Chinese elements be foregrounded, or will it take on a more futuristic or international flavor?
At a forum in Beijing on April 14, public representatives from various industries and social sectors debated the merits of contrasting forms and styles.
"An old Beijing local told me that he expected to see folk cultural elements like kite-flying and diabolos (similar to yo-yos) at the ceremony," said Yu Kai, a taxi driver in Beijing.
"I have collected ideas from my passengers, and some foreigners told me they want to see exotic Asian elements."
One teacher suggested lighting the Olympic flame in a dazzling display of traditional acrobatics.
"We could borrow the idea of Chinese acrobatics, such as people standing on one another's shoulders to light the flame at the end of the ceremony," said Shi Chao of the National Education Administrative College.
Experts in China's folk customs said it would only be fair to represent the country's often-overlooked ethnic minorities.
"The Olympic Games is a world festival," said Liu Tieliang, a professor at Beijing Normal University.
"So we should make use of the festival customs of different ethnic minorities."
Some of the advisers at the meeting had other ideas.
"Traditional Chinese culture has its own limitations," said Zhang Yiwu, a professor from Peking University.
"We need to pay attention to international trends and fashions as well.
"We also have to simplify China's rich, 5000-year-old culture so it makes sense to people. We don't need too much detail."
Sports commentator Li Chengpeng voiced his support for this point.
"The opening ceremony should be designed with foreigners in mind, so we don't have to put too many Chinese elements together," he said.
"It should be a grand ceremony with a combination of hi-tech measures involving lasers, fireworks and water."
According to Zhang Yimou, head of the creative team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games, the outline of the opening ceremony has been worked out and the team is now fine-turning details.
A final plan will be proposed to the International Olympic Committee for approval this August.
"The opening ceremony is not a simple creation, even though the performance only lasts for 50 minutes," he said, adding that it was impossible to please everybody.
"It will make use of distinctive artistic characteristics; otherwise, it will be a failure."
(China Daily April 20, 2007)