Internationally acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou has been chosen to direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, the organiser announced yesterday.
The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Bocog) also said eight consultants, including American filmmaker Steven Spielberg, would help Zhang ensure the ceremonies were a success.
Zhang said at a Bocog ceremony: 'I thank Bocog for trusting me with this huge task. To complete it will require the efforts of the whole team and advisers from home and abroad. I make a solemn promise to the Chinese people that I will complete the task beautifully and successfully.'
Zhang, 54, has co-operated closely with the organisers and had been widely tipped to direct the ceremonies in 2008.
He directed a critically acclaimed performance showcasing Chinese culture at the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympics in 2004, and he shot a short promotional film that helped secure Beijing's bid for the Games in 2001.
The announcement met with a mixed response on mainland internet chat rooms.
'Mr Zhang may be controversial as a director, but he is probably the best candidate China has at the moment to lead such big events,' read one posting.
Widely praised for the movie Raise the Red Lantern, Zhang has directed a number of critically acclaimed movies, including 2004's House of Flying Daggers.
Also at the ceremony, Spielberg said he was honoured to be asked to help. 'Our one goal is to give the world a taste of peace, friendship and understanding.'
Additional reporting by Reuters