PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2008, 12:00am

Zhang's attitude is hubris on a large scale

I was astonished and dismayed at Zhang Yimou's assertion that the Beijing opening ceremony, touted as the largest in Olympic history, is unlikely to be surpassed by London or any other host city in the next decade ('Director doubts extravaganza can be topped', August 10).

It is hubris on a large scale, slightly reminiscent of David Cameron's 'I am the king of the world' comment after winning the Oscar for Titanic. Grand though the opening was, it is a mistake to equate scale with excellence. I would be very surprised if the London planners will recruit 15,000 performers for their opening. Parading several thousand people in perfect symmetry and synchronicity across a huge stadium is something the world has come to associate with large populous states like China. I could not help thinking of the Xian Terracotta Warriors as I was watching it, all there in their thousands in fealty to their emperor. As other observers have commented it verged on the kitsch. Somehow things seem a little out of balance when there are more performers in the opening ceremony than there are athletes competing in the Games.

Perhaps London can redress this imbalance. Zhang should be reminded that much can change in four years. The technological advances that allowed him to execute large parts of the Beijing opening might very well be old hat by 2012. Who knows what technological wonders the Brits will have in their tool kit - if they need them. Though Sydney was smaller, what it lacked in scale it more than made up in its creativity. The memorability and poignancy of Kathy Freeman standing proudly with the Olympic torch in front of the water cascade remains a standard against which others may be measured. And in terms of music Zhang definitely needs a moment of humble self reflection.

Over the last several decades some brilliant pieces of music, fanfares and inspirational songs have arisen from Olympic opening ceremonies. True, most of these pieces of music would have had no place in a Chinese celebration, but I doubt very much if the Beijing Olympics anthem will reside on the world stage of great pieces of Olympic music. Shouldn't Zhang, and shouldn't we all, accept Beijing for what it was?

The opening was great, it was unique, it was Chinese and nothing went wrong. Isn't that enough?

Trevor Lunn, Quarry Bay

Moving appeal for harmony

We have waited for a century and prepared for nearly a decade, and the 2008 Olympics finally got underway in Beijing. Directed by Zhang Yimou , the opening ceremony focused on the theme of 'harmony'. The performances reflected this message of unity. Chinese music and traditional Chinese art showed the whole world the importance of Chinese culture.

The organisers of the show were innovative and they had obviously taken a great deal of care in preparing for the ceremony. Children held umbrellas and stood around a giant globe, again emphasising the message of harmony, not just harmony between traditional culture and new technology, but the harmony between nations and regions.

It was an excellent curtain-raiser for what I hope will be an excellent Games.

Kate Wong Ka-yi, Tung Chung

Contrasting coverage

Just a little thing I noticed regarding television coverage of the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

TVB Pearl had English subtitles during the singing of one of the Chinese songs and during the speech by the president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. ATV didn't. For me, TVB wins the opening round.

Rennie Marques, Yuen Long

Audience loved dressage event

I was one of the spectators who attended the eventing dressage Olympics competition on Saturday evening [at Sha Tin].

I must say I was very impressed with how the event was so well received by a population which has just begun to learn more about the equestrian sport. The spectators were quiet and fully concentrating on what was going on.

They clearly enjoyed what they saw and even erupted into cheers several times, including when they saw a spectacular performance by Belgian rider Karin Donckers when she moved into second place.

The grandstand was packed in the evening and remained full until the end of the competition. So who says Hong Kong people didn't appreciate dressage?

Iris Ying, Wan Chai

Consultation process a sham

It is admirable that members of the public have given their professional expertise and time to the government free of charge.

They have done this in order to critique (and in my opinion improve) the government's own bland and unimaginative plans for the harbour margins at Central and north Wan Chai ('Architects present design for 'inner harbour' at Queen's Pier', July 30).

The administration says it will study the proposal.

The allegation that the government has orchestrated a motion in support of its own plans at district councils ('Critics hit out over vote on Queen's Pier', August 4), illustrates the contempt that bureaus and departments have for the views of the public. Many people have concluded that public consultations are a sham and the government's only intention is to place a veneer of respectability on its predetermined plans. It is fortunate that civil society in Hong Kong is so forthcoming with opinions and ideas.

If those ideas are completely ignored then the government must take full responsibility for the eyesores and white elephants it will habitually create.

Frank Lee, Mid-Levels

Tower changes insignificant

In your report ('Hopewell to unveil new tower proposal', August 9), the developer wishes to revise the 1994 Mega Tower scheme by reducing the density by 5 per cent. This is insignificant when one considers the reality of this comprehensive redevelopment area, which is centred on the lot at 15 Kennedy Road.

The redevelopment area zoning allows for land amalgamation to aid development, but it was primarily designated in the interests of the wider community. The purpose was not to massively escalate the development intensity in the locale and not to exclusively accommodate one private commercial interest.

With a comprehensive redevelopment area, the development intensity should take into account existing land-use patterns, the latest development requirements in the surrounding area and the infrastructural capacity constraints in the vicinity.

The developer of this Kennedy Road site should feel extremely lucky to get a plot ratio of 8 on the private lots.

In the context of the wider community interest this redevelopment area facilitated the amalgamation of the open space slopes at the western boundary as a public park accessed at Ship Street. Public open space land has no developer plot ratio entitlement. Therefore the 1994 scheme would appear to propose overdevelopment by a factor of three.

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai