Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou to direct Olympic ceremony again

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Acclaimed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou masterminded the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics (AFP/Filippo MONTEFORTE)
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Acclaimed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou, who masterminded the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, will reprise that role for next month's Winter Games in the capital, organisers have announced.

Zhang, 71, promised a "totally innovative" unveiling, while conceding that the global pandemic and colder weather will limit its scale compared to 14 years ago, when 15,000 performers took part.

"Being simple, just as in martial arts films, is like a master's sword," Zhang told state-run Xinhua news agency in an interview released late Friday.

"It looks like a very simple stab, but with fateful power."

The director of Chinese classics such as "Red Sorghum", "Raise the Red Lantern" and martial-arts epics like "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" said around 3,000 performers would take part.

Zhang said it would feature "a bold idea" for the lighting of the Olympic torch that will take in concepts such as "environmental protection and low carbon emission."

He gave no other clues, but state broadcaster CGTN separately quoted Zhang saying that Chinese Lunar New Year elements also would feature in the theme.

The February 4-20 Olympics coincide roughly with China's extended Lunar New Year holiday.

"I'm very nervous. I think it's totally innovative and people will be surprised," Xinhua quoted Zhang as saying.

The stunning 2008 version featured 2,008 musicians beating ancient Chinese drums in perfect timing, along with thousands of others -- martial artists, dancers, opera singers, acrobats, and trapeze artists -- in lavish costumes.

The 2008 ceremony focused on China's rich history and civilisation but also was widely seen as an exclamation point underlining the country's re-emergence as a global force.

"It's different now," Xinhua quoted Zhang as saying.

"The image of the Chinese, and the rise of our national status, everything is totally different now."

"In the wake of the pandemic, the world needs a new and strengthened vision, that is, people of the world come together to face difficulties and look forward to a bright future."

The Games will be held under the shadow of the pandemic and tension with the West over China's treatment of Tibetans, Muslim minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and an ongoing crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

The United States and some of its allies have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games, meaning they will send no government representatives, a snub that has incensed Beijing.

The Games will be the world's strictest mass sporting event held since the global pandemic began two years ago.

China this past week activated its Olympic "bubble", in which thousands of athletes, coaches and Games-related staff and volunteers will be cocooned.

Anyone entering the bubble must be fully vaccinated or face a 21-day quarantine to get in. Everyone inside will be tested daily and must wear face masks at all times.

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