Weather key to opening ceremony, says Zhang
Peter Simpson in Beijing
Games opening ceremony director Zhang Yimou revealed yesterday that parts of the extravaganza would be cancelled if Beijing's elaborate measures to control the weather failed.
The celebrated director of Raise the Red Lantern also claimed he was not under any pressure from the government and was free to appoint any celebrities he choose to take part in the event, a reference to recent heavy censoring and criticisms of mainland film makers and film stars.
Games organiser Bocog and the meteorological administration have spent millions of yuan on early-warning systems and plan to blast threatening weather fronts out of the skies by seeding approaching clouds.
'Some of the high-tech elements [of the ceremony] will have to be cancelled if it rains ... [but] we must pray and hope it does not rain,' Zhang said at a press conference at the on-going National People's Congress in Beijing.
The man responsible for raising the curtain on modern China when the Games begin, said contingency plans were in place to ensure the 10,000 performers would dazzle the world during the three-hour opening ceremony.
He appeared to break an International Olympic Committee (IOC) confidentiality agreement by revealing the show would end with thousands of children's smiling faces from the 'five continents', a project designed to inspire hope and unite humanity, the director said.
Cui Dalin, deputy director of General Administration of Sport, used the NPC for the second time in a week to play down the nation's medal expectations.
Flanked by Zhang and Liu Jingmin - vice-mayor of Beijing and executive president of Bocog - Cui repeated his claim that the country 'was not very good at sports'.
He refused to answer queries about his targeted medal total - nor would he speculate as to what the consequences would be if the China team slumped to a low medal table ranking.'I cannot predict how many medals we will win,' he said.