We’re a Long Way from 2008: A ChinaFile Conversation

Ten years ago, I was living in a residential courtyard in the center of Beijing. On the state television broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics, I watched as an impressive array of synchronized firework footprints illuminated the night sky at regular intervals along the 9 mile central axis of the capital. I rushed outside to see if I could catch a glimpse as the fireworks continued overhead in their northward path towards the Bird’s Nest stadium. My neighbors regarded me in their typically bemused way. The silly foreigner did not realize what everybody else knew: The firework display through the city had been simulated using computers.

Like CGI fireworks, much of the hope and optimism of the 2008 Olympic era has unfortunately proven illusory.