Saturday, August 23, 2008

*Olympia* re-imagined

Lacking a television I've fallen somewhat behind on the sporting extravaganza currently occupying the world's attention, namely the 2008 Olympics being held in Beijing. Nevertheless I finally got around to downloading a copy of the opening ceremonies.

What a stupendous display of nationalist puffery! I'm a huge fan of Leni Riefenstahl, and the whole thing felt like a modernist Asian homage to her. Tell me you didn't think the fireworks/lightshow over the Bird's nest stadium wasn't incredibly reminiscent of the closing 'cathedral of light' sequence in Olympia? And you could just as easily have substituted any of the rally montages from Triumph of the Will for the tai-chi, the dancing, the drumming, etc.

Cathedral of Light sequence from Olympia
Something looks familiar...

All you needed was a little goose stepping and it would be straight from Berlin 36. I read that the ceremonies were planned and coordinated by Zhang Yimou, (ooh! Raise the Red Lantern!) a director who clearly must have studied Riefenstahl's work carefully before embarking on his own cinematographic planning for the event.

I also watched Usain Bolt's demolition of the competition in the 100 meter final. It's fascinating to compare how it was shown on NBC with Riefenstahl's coverage of Jesse Owens' amazing 100m heats and finals (in Olympia). Riefenstahl was truly a pioneer of film (err, Nazi propaganda notwithstanding). Her influence on sport photography is undeniable.