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China's Most Closely Guarded State Secret

As China gears up to host this year's Olympic Games, we asked Beijing-based journalist Christina Larson to file a series of dispatches giving us an on-the-ground perspective. She will be posting them here on the Plank over the next few weeks:

Details of the Olympics' Opening Ceremony are a closely guarded state secret, which naturally has fueled massive speculation here in Beijing.

Many observers, newspapers, art critics, taxi drivers, melon sellers, and mahjong players have all cast guesses as to what the dominant theme will be: China's ascent onto the world stage? "Harmonious society"? A version of China's creation myth (Athens 2004 drew upon Greek mythology)?

Anyway, today a Chinese friend called me over to his computer to watch a video. Apparently, a few outtakes from a recent dress rehearsal had been leaked to a South Korean television station, which in turn linked its broadcast online.

"That's bad?" I asked, which was my shorthand way of confirming this wasn't supposed to happen.

"Bad for the government," he shrugged, unperturbed.

The grainy video showed scenes with a great blue and green globe; a projection of whales on the roof of the theater; and rows of tai chi performers in white silk robes.

So the theme is, at least in part, environmental protection?

I asked what he thought.

"It's a bit geek."

I asked another friend.

"No comment."

Obviously, I can't verify the accuracy of the South Korean broadcast, but only record the rumor mill at work.

About two hours later, I asked if my friend could send me the link, but by then it had been blocked.

--Christina Larson