Festival celebrating world culture

>> Thursday, August 21, 2008

BEIJING, June 10 -- In a circular letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) dated April 2, 1906, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games invited members to an advisory conference to determine "to what extent and in what form the arts and literature can participate in the celebration of the modern Olympiads".
Coubertin's version of Olympism - what the Olympic Movement aspires to be - is inextricably linked to the arts and humanities "harmoniously joined with sports". Thanks to his vision, his work has been as applicable to host cities of recent Olympic Games as it was to the nascent Olympic Movement of 1906.

In 2003, Norbert Muller, Manfred Messing, and the Research Team Olympia of the University of Mainz (Germany) studied the meaning of the cultural program to spectators. Research from the 2002 Salt Lake Games showed 84 percent of respondents agreed with the statement - "The Olympic idea combines sport and art." This significantly high response compares with 72 percent for the 2000 Sydney Games, 23 percent for Atlanta in 1996, and 40 percent for Barcelona in 1992. The research shows a trend in the growth of awareness of the significance of cultural and arts programs in Olympiads and Olympic Arts Festivals.

"The arts were always at the center of Coubertin's vision for the Olympic Movement. In the years of preparation required to deliver a credible Olympic cultural program, I have found that Coubertin's unflagging belief in the power of music, dance, and words was sustaining," Raymond T. Grant, the artistic director of the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival and managing director of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee writes in his article Contrast, Culture and Courage: A Cultural Administrator's tribute to Pierre de Coubertin. To inherit the cultural legacy of Coubertin and highlight the value of cultural programs within the Olympic Movement - and the connection between artists and athletes - Beijing will host 2008 Meet in Beijing Arts Festival to celebrate the achievements of athletes alongside the accomplishments of artists.

China Arts & Entertainment Group (CAEG) launches the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival every April to May. This year, under the direction of the Ministry of Culture, the festival has been postponed and expanded upon. It will start on June 23, International Olympics Day, and run until mid-September. "Sports, culture and education are the three main ideas of Coubertin, who is both a sport and arts administrator. The Beijing Olympics Games is a rare party for Chinese people to communicate with friends from all over the world. And, of course, the cultural and art events are an important part of the party," says Ding Wei, assistant to the Minister of Culture. "With the principles of Olympism - peace, friendship and progress, Beijing will provide a platform for locals and visitors to share culture and arts with each other and celebrate the accomplishments of artists from all over the world," Ding says. "Arts and sports both are universal languages that bridge people from different countries and backgrounds. I believe the cultural events will create a magic and harmonious atmosphere for the Olympic Games," says Zhang Yu, general manager of China Arts and Entertainment Group.

Some 260 shows ranging from music, dance and theater, and 160 exhibitions of visual arts from 80 countries, will run at the festival. Every year, the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival has a main guest country. This year, the focus will be on Greece, the birth country of the Olympic Games. At the Great Hall of the People on June 23, the festival will kick off with a ritual performance by some 40 Greek musicians and dancers along with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra and dancers from the Beijing Dance Academy. The show is directed by Lambros Liavas, artistic director of the Greek National Opera, and choreographed by Artemis Ignation, who created the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics. It is a theatrical version of how the Olympic flame was lit at the Temple of Hera in Olympia. "Traditional Greek music and Chinese music have much in common, for example they are all five-tone scales. I believe we can understand each other better and easier through music," says Liavas who is also a professor of musicology at the University of Athens, and the founder and director of the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments.


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