Stars of Song, Sport To Top Olympic Closing Show
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BEIJING — A Spanish tenor, a British soccer star, and a throng of kung-fu fighters are among the scheduled closing-ceremony attractions Sunday night as China concludes its first Olympics and hands over the role of Summer Games to London.
Fireworks are planned at 18 locations across the vast city, and a packed house of more than 90,000 will be on hand in the National Outdoor Stadium for the ceremony itself.
Its creators have promised a more lighthearted show than the opening ceremony Aug. 8, which focused heavily on Chinese history. Highlights for the closing include a duet by tenor Placido Domingo and Chinese soprano Song Zuying, as well as a display by several hundred kung fu practitioners from a martial arts school.
“It’s going to be very different from the opening ceremony, which was burdened with heavy responsibility to show Chinese culture to the world,” one of the directors, Miao Pei, told China’s Southern Metropolis News.
Film director Zhang Yimou, in charge of both the opening and closing ceremonies, said the dramatic highlight of the finale will be the extinguishing of the Olympic flame atop the stadium. But details were not released in advance — rehearsals were conducted in secret on a college campus.
London, host of the 2012 Olympics, will take over part way through the ceremony for an eight-minute show that will feature a red double-decker London bus driving into the stadium and converting into a stage.
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and British singing sensation Leona Lewis will perform, and soccer icon David Beckham will kick a ball into a crowd of onlookers. They will be celebrating not only London’s upcoming role as host, but also a breakthrough performance here in China by British athletes, completing their country’s best Olympics in a century.
“We will not compete with the (Chinese) ceremony,” said London 2012 organizer Bill Morris. “It will be simple, youthful, athletic, loud and proud like London, entertaining and fun.”
Among those in attendance will be British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, who will receive the Olympic flag from Beijing Mayor Go Jinlong.
China invested more than $40 billion in the games, which it viewed as a chance to show the world its dramatic economic progress.
Even with a day of competition remaining, China had clinched first place in the gold medal standings, and logistics during the games ran smoothly. Questions remained, however, about the Chinese authorities’ tough stance on press freedom and political protest — it blocked access to numerous politically edged Web sites during the Olympics, issued no permits for use of designated “protest zones” and detained demonstrators at unauthorized protests that did take place sporadically.