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I won't dwell on the choice of the last torchbearer, who will light the Olympic flame. It has been declared a State secret known to only a few people. Liu Changchun would have been perfect - he was the first Chinese athlete to attend the modern Olympics and he did it in defiance of the puppet government in Japanese-occupied northeastern China. But he died in 1983.

Liu Xiang's coach has ruled out the champion hurdler and anyway, he was the first torch-bearer.

And how will the flame be lit? The possibilities are endless! But consider this: The last torchbearer ignites a high-tech fire phoenix, which in turn flies up to kindle the sacred flame.

The phoenix is the feminine counterpart of the dragon, but unlike the dragon, it has more positive connotations in Western mythology. Since the dragon will reportedly keep a low profile, the phoenix might be better for such a high-profile job. A phoenix rising from the ashes is a symbol whose meaning is shared by both East and West. And what image can better capture China's rise in the last three decades than a phoenix flying up gracefully?

In terms of imagery, the phoenix matches the Bird's Nest like a glove. As a matter of fact, there is a Peking Opera comedy called Phoenix Returning to its Nest. It was created by the iconic Mei Lanfang, who conveyed Chinese-style feminine beauty better than any modern-day supermodel. The very first place where the torch started the domestic leg of its run was Fiery Phoenix Square in Sanya, Hainan Province. Of course, a phoenix flying inside the national stadium, perhaps even above the stadium, would need a high-tech helping hand.

The image of the Bird's Nest may inspire a great many ideas. Doves symbolizing peace can fly out into the sky, which, on second thoughts, is not something for a night show. What if it's illuminated? Weather permitting, the shape of the building will not only be a good background, but will be integrated into the artistic concept. A nest is basically home sweet home, but getting in and out of it has Freudian overtones of breaking out and returning to the comfort zone of one's roots. A person's life is such a journey, and so is a country's.

(China Daily July 25, 2008)

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