August 9th, 2008

Olympic Impressions

I’m a small part of a large team that has been scrambling in
preparation for Johnson & Johnson’s participation as a sponsor of the
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. There have been so many details, and so
many folks working so hard on them, that it’s often been difficult to
take a step back and see the significance of it all.

Yes, as you’ve read in many places, the air is thick. But
the air is also thick with something of significance.

That is the sound of many languages… the sound of a child laughing with delight at
a live cultural event… the halting English of a Beijing native who is
trying to help an American find a taxi. It is the sound of old China
merging with new China. It is the sound of the rest of the world
reconciling itself to this merger.

It’s the sound of human potential – as exemplified by sport – once
again helping make the world a smaller and friendlier place.

And yes, as you’ve already seen or heard, the opening ceremony was
awesome – 2,008 synchronized drummers will really rock a stadium. It
was also touching. Those of us fortunate enough to have attended will
likely see no grander, more positive spectacle in our lifetimes.

As today wore on, the sound of tensions emerged too, in reports of an
attack on tourists and a tour guide, followed by suicide of the

teracotta-warrior.jpg At a whole different level, a simple fable that Johnson & Johnson
sponsored in a public park in Beijing really captured the Games for
me. In this dance fable, a young girl (representing the China of
today) is attracted to a butterfly and begins to follow it. Her
movement catches the notice of an ancient warrior, embodied in terra
cotta armor (representing China’s traditions). He wakes and seems
touched by the girl’s play. To help her attract the butterfly, he
faces a dilemma – he must put down his sword to join her game.
Ultimately, the terra cotta warrior does relinquish the weapon. Then,
the butterfly lights gently upon him, and the warrior and the girl
become friends.


Admittedly, we tell this simple tale with twenty-foot tall marionettes
controlled by cranes and dozens of dancers (this IS the Olympics after
all). But the mesmerizing live act represents, for me, the true
tensions and hopes inherent in these magnificent Games.

My appreciation does go out to China and its people for
creating this opportunity. And, then, for remaining open to it, my
gratitude extends to the rest of the world.

One Response to “Olympic Impressions”

  1. Betsy McNiel says

    Well said. Thanks for putting it all in perspective. The Olympic Games are about so much more than any individual competition or exhibit. Let’s hope all countries will be inspired by the ancient tale told by the marionettes and learn to put down the swords as we strive to work together.

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