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Behind the 29th Olympic Opening Ceremony
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At 1:30 AM on August 3, Deputy General Director Chen Weiya returned home. He sneaked to the bedroom of his five-year daughter and kissed on her cheek. Over the previous months, this was all the communication he had had with her.

None of the artists involved in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, or any of the other staff, were in this for the money. As a well-known Movie Director, Zhang Yimou could have earned a lot more money in the movie business than in preparing for the Opening Ceremony. In compensation for their small financial rewards, all the participants regard their Olympic Opening Ceremony efforts as a lifetime honor.

Chief Officer of the flame special effects Cai Guoqiang had been running a successful business in the US. However, in the past two years, he has been so devoted to the planning of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies that he brought all his American studio talent to Beijing and almost closed down operations in the US. He was described as "a loyal overseas Chinese" by Zhang Yimou. When Chen Qigang, the Chief Officer in charge of music, received the invitation to plan for the Ceremonies, he turned down an offer from a French opera house and came to Beijing without any hesitation. Chen said that participating in the designing of the Olympic Opening Ceremony was his dream and he would always be ready to make an unconditional commitment to his native land. Tens of thousands of talents were engaged in the planning of the Olympic Ceremonies. Over 15,000 people participated in the performing of the Opening Ceremony alone.

In September 2007 Chen Yan, Chief Art Designer of the Opening Ceremony, lost his father, but he only asked for a two-day leave and came back to work right on time.

In the Daxing training base, performers from all over the country gathered and underwent a tough six-month training. They were given only small salaries and many of them spent the money on Olympic Opening Ceremony pins, to be able to relive the precious experience in the future.

Makeup artist Pu Yiyang was training in Chengdu when the May 12 earthquake struck. The family of the 19-year-old girl all died in the quake without leaving her a single photo. She finally got their pictures from the residence registration documents of the local public securities bureau. She pulled herself together as fast as possible and vowed to devote herself to The Olympics in memory of her dead family.

In the art performance of the Opening Ceremony, a simulation of movable typeset printing in particular attracted audience attention and curiosity. The cubes, first thought by the audience to be operated by machines, were actually moved by 897 performers. Each cube weighed up to 40 over 20kg and the performers needed to lift them hundreds of times during each rehearsal. It was very hot inside the cube, about 50°c, so the performers were often soaked before the show even started. Some of them found a useful way to fend off their thirst while practising and performing - they would carry a small bottle of vinegar with them and smell it whenever they felt thirsty.

The last number before the entrance of the athletes was called Dream, in which performers did a kind of weightless walking around the surface of a giant globe stimulating the earth. The performers' walked in various ways - walking sideways, walking upside-down or even turning somersaults. The performance, never before seen in any of the previous Olympic Opening Ceremonies, was designed by British stagecraft designer Mark Fisher. The globe also ranked as the biggest ever spherical stage. Though Mark at first thought it impossible, the 58 artistes mastered their performances on the globe in less than a year.

20-year-old Li Huafei was one of the 58. Li, from a martial arts school in Shandong Province, was involved in an accident and fell to the ground from the 20-meter-high globe. He was fortunate that the ground protection system functioned and protected him from injury. Initially, 400 students from the martial art schools in Shandong and Henan were selected for training. "Most of them were later eliminated," Li Huafei said, adding that the remaining 58 considered that they were performing on behalf of these others too.

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