Creators of Beijing's dazzling Athens send-off have more up their sleeves for Macau's opening ceremony There's no doubt Beijing stole the show at the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympic Games. In just eight dazzling minutes, the world was given a taste of what to expect at the next Olympics in 2008. That stunning performance was produced by the Beijing BeiAo Grand Cultural and Sports Events Co. Ltd - so imagine what they can achieve in 60 minutes. All will be revealed at Macau Stadium on Saturday, October 29, when BeiAo stages the opening ceremony of the fourth East Asian Games. The production will involve some 9,000 performers, 8,000 of them from local high schools and 1,000 professionals from China, to handle the heavy props and the more intricate movements. They have been preparing for eight months, and the final stages of the rehearsals involve performing the movements in the 5,700 extravagant costumes. No one has followed the progress of the preparations closer than Paula Lei, the organising committee's cultural events project manager. 'What will stand out will be the effort of the students. It's really, really fantastic,' she says. 'Usually in Macau they think study is more important than leisure and outdoor activities, but this is a very good chance for the students to participate in something that you cannot learn from books. It's the first time Macau has ever hosted such a big multi-sports event, and the first time it has staged a cultural performance of this scale. The students know they will never have this chance again.' There will be three sections to the opening ceremony: a pre-show to entertain the spectators as they enter the stadium; a ceremony to mark the official opening of the games, which will include the march past of over 2,600 athletes and officials from the nine countries and regions; and finally the cultural performance. With five scenes, the performance, entitled 'Light of East Asia - Symphonic Poem of Macau', will trace the history and development of Macau and the rapid changes since the handover to Chinese sovereignty on December 20, 1999. 'In Greece the performance was only eight minutes, but this time the mood and pace will be totally different because it's one hour and will tell the story of Macau,' Lei says. 'It will show the fusion of East and West and the influence of the Portuguese culture, but will still project distinctive Chinese characteristics. The culture of Macau and China is very different, and the directors and the students have worked hard together over the past eight months. The students are like princes at home in Macau, but here they need to follow the directors. 'In turn, the directors have tried to understand the students. They have made them feel they are not just an ant, and that everybody has an important part to play. If a student misses just one practice the director goes crazy because maybe they are a leader and it can affect a whole movement. This has made the students understand the importance of group work and teamwork.' Other highlights of the opening ceremony will be the appearance of Singaporean singer Stephanie Sun Yan Zi and the band Soler, singing the games' theme tune, We Will Shine. Nine decorated floats of unique design will represent each of the competing countries and regions, and a new lighting system in the refurbished stadium will create dynamic visual images. 'It's something that is going to make Macau proud,' Lei says.