Some secrets are out for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. One big one remains.
Video shot by South Korean television at a dress rehearsal this week was leaked, offering a first glimpse of the elaborate production.
Spoiler alert: Viewers can expect a dramatic countdown, giant whales, an illuminated globe and performers flying above the audience.
What remains a mystery is how the organizers &
led by China's most famous filmmaker Zhang Yimou &
plan to light the Olympic cauldron. The identity of the final torchbearer has been guarded like a state secret and a mock cauldron lighting was not a part of recent rehearsals.
Chinese media reports have speculated that the cauldron will be lit by a fire-breathing dragon or phoenix. Others say the ceremony will have five torchbearers who set ablaze a cauldron shaped like the five interlocked Olympic rings.
Another guess involves basketball star Yao Ming, saying he will hold aloft in his massive hands a child who survived the May 12 earthquake that rattled Sichuan province, with the child tipping the torch into the cauldron.
While the ending of the ceremony is anyone's guess, the video from South Korean broadcaster SBS offered the first preview of its opening. Rehearsals of the ceremony at the national stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, have been guarded by three rings of checkpoints, with cast and crew members required to sign confidentiality agreements.
Media invited to such rehearsals are usually told not to reveal any specific details of the ceremony; the rehearsals generally do not show the climactic cauldron-lighting, to preserve its secrecy.
A Beijing Olympics official said today the SBS report was "disappointing." Sun Weide, spokesman for Beijing's Olympic organizing committee, would not say whether SBS would be punished, only that officials were "checking into the situation."
"But the fragments cannot demonstrate the full picture of the spectacular opening ceremony," Sun said in a statement.
There were no great surprises from the video shot in the darkened stadium, although it showed the lavishness of the 31/2-hour ceremony on Aug. 8, expected to boast a cast of 10,000. Zhang spent three years designing the spectacle, seeking to boil 5,000 years of Chinese history into a 50-minute show.
The leaked rehearsal footage showed undulating white columns apparently simulating a waterfall and giant blue whales projected onto the roof. An enormous blue-and-green illuminated globe appears on the floor of the stadium.
Dancers twirled ribbons, drummers drummed, and martial arts experts performed kicks and punches. Colorfully dressed performers suspended by wires floated above the audience.
One segment featured a half-dozen actors on a raised platform surrounded by hundreds of performers, while cymbals clanged noisily in the tradition of Beijing opera.
The most impressive part of the show is a countdown accompanied by drums, the SBS report said. Video showed rows of hundreds of people, flashing cards to form the number two, then one, while they chanted in Chinese and strobe lights flashed.
An SBS crew filmed the rehearsal without even having to sneak in, a network official said. SBS, one of South Korea's major TV networks, shares Olympic broadcasting rights in Korea with two other networks.
"Nobody stopped us when we entered the main stadium on Monday. Chinese officials let us in after we showed our ID cards and we shot the rehearsal," said the official, speaking with The Associated Press by phone from SBS's Beijing bureau. He asked not to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
SBS spokesman Park Jae-man said it was regrettable if Olympics organizers felt offended by the broadcast.
"The purpose of the broadcast was aimed at heightening enthusiasm toward the Beijing Olympics by showing South Korean viewers the magnificence of the opening ceremony. There was no other intention," Park said.
The video of the rehearsal circulated on Chinese message boards up until this morning, but no working versions could easily be found in China by afternoon. It had also been removed from overseas video-sharing sites for apparent copyright violations.
A few details about the opening ceremony had already trickled out since rehearsals began at the stadium earlier this month.
Organizers couldn't hide the fireworks exploding around the stadium. The show will include dozens of smiley face bursts and is expected to feature fireworks in the shape of a yellow dragon with red peony flowers in the background.
The main artistic director of the fireworks said they will be launched from more than 1,800 sites around the city, including major urban areas from Tiananmen Square to the stadium.
Opening ceremony secrets out