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Behind the 29th Olympic Opening Ceremony
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Zhang also had some great assistance. Deputy-General Director Zhang Jigang was the Director of the world famous Thousand-hand Bodhisattva dance performed at the Closing Ceremony of the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. Chen Weiya, the other Deputy Head, is one of the best Directors of large-scale plaza performances in China and directed the Opening Ceremonies of the 2001 World University Games, the 10th National Games in 2005 and the 4th East Asian Games. Other helpers include Lu Jiankang, a producer with experience in thousands of large-scale events, Cai Guoqiang, an expert in visual engineering, Chen Qigang, a famous Chinese musician, and so on.

On December 29, 2006, the operating center of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was set up at the Beijing Conference Center. Zhang Yimou was designated as the General Director. Deputy General Director Zhang Jigang has responsibility for the first part of the art performance of the Opening Ceremony, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Beijing Paralympic Games. Deputy General Director Chen Weiya takes charge of the second part of the art performance of the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.

The planning process required four stages - creation, production, rehearsal & preview, and final performance.

The first stage started on March 29 2006, and by April 2007 the basic design of all four Ceremonies was in place.

Starting from August 2007, the whole crew entered the production and rehearsal period. Performers were chosen from the culture system, education system, certain universities, high schools, primary schools and some culture troupes from the Chinese army. First, small-scale rehearsals were organized. Later, a simulation training base was built and from March 2008, large-scale rehearsals were organized. In May, most of the performing groups came to Beijing and started grand rehearsals at 14 locations. In mid-June, they were allowed into the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, for field rehearsals. On June 28, the core planning team held a simulated rehearsal of the athletes' gathering and Opening Ceremony.

The first full dress rehearsal was held on July 16, 2008. Two weeks later on July 30, a second rehearsal was held with a live audience of 70,000. Another two full dress rehearsals were held on the 2nd and 5th of August, paving the way for the August 8 Opening Ceremony.

Doing all that I can for my country

The slogan "National interests overrule all others" can be seen in every office at the operating center of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. All the staff involved have applied this slogan to their own activities.

The night after the first dress rehearsal, most of the offices on the third floor of the operating center stayed open all night. Zhang Yimou, along with other planning staff, looked into the problems encountered during the rehearsal and discussed potential solutions.

At 11:30 PM on July 22, many offices on the fourth floor of the operating center were still open. Zhang Heping, head of the Work Department, and Wang Ning, Director of the Operating Center, suddenly realized that they had eaten anything that entire day.

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