Zhang Jigang (张继刚), the deputy director of the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, gave an exclusive interview to the People’s Liberation Army Daily on August 1, 2008. Mr. Zhang is the head of the Dancing Unit of the General Political Commission of the PLA. Selectively translated by CDT:
-There are about ten thousand people participating in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. The backbone of these actors are from army and Armed Police.
– I feel that the military team is especially hardworking. It is composed of a directors team, a technical team, a production and supplies team. Many calligraphers and directors are from the Navy, Air Force and other military units, many professors, scholars, engineers are all from the military.
– We recently did a statistical count and from April 16, 2006, we have held several thousand meetings. The shortest meeting was three hours long, the longest one was more than 10 hours. It is common to eat at the meeting table. There were at least three meetings a day, and the record was seventeen meetings all in one day.
– Now it is the final period. There are much fewer meetings. But as soon as it’s dark, our time is precious, and we need to rehearse until dawn. This year is rainier than other years, and it is really bothersome. Sometimes when the rehearsal was at the key moment, rain came. We had to save the equipment. Sometimes rain stopped, and we started again. But just as we were getting ready, the rain started again.
– The most difficult programs are performed by military teams. Let me give you an example: There is a program which has almost a thousand actors, but no one’s move is identical with the other, not for a second. Have you ever seen such a performance? How do we practice that? This is the opposite of the military character in which all action is unified. There is no precedent, no references. This is too difficult. But our soldiers accomplished it.
– In the middle of the night, I often walked out of the Bird’s Nest for a smoke. My assistants also came out with me to smoke. I told them that you have to enjoy such a peaceful purple color of the night. Don’t always complain how hard it is and how tiresome it is to work through the night. This is a kind of peace and quiet that you would not be able to enjoy in the daylight. Don’t you feel it is beautiful when the blue moon and purple colors peacefully surround us?
– I really hope that the people of the world can get to know the Chinese culture [through the Opening Ceremony], to get to know China, to understand China, to love China, to long for China. This Olympics is the best opportunity.
– We often said, we cannot remember every year or month, even as a nation. But some years and some months we will always remember, such as the Opium War in 1840; such as the first time the Old Summer Palace was burned in 1860; the Chinese Communist Party’s founding in 1921; the People’s Republic of China’s birth in 1949; the beginning of the reform and open door policy in 1978; and the Beijing Olympics in 2008. These dates are the shame and the glories in Chinese history.
– There is no doubt that the Olympics will focus the world’s attention on China. What will they see about China? I think the most important thing is to see that Chinese people are happy. This is more important than anything else. It is not about the high rises or broad roads, not about how much money you have in the bank, but to see whether people in this country are happy. Therefore we of course particularly emphasize and represent the theme of people’s happiness in the opening and closing ceremony.