Beijing Winter Olympics Kicks off: A Successful Opening Ceremony with High Tech and Chinese Tradition

On Friday night, the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics was successfully held. Zhang Yimou, a world-renowned Chinese filmmaker and the general director of the opening ceremony, used four words to describe it – “ethereal, romantic, modern and technological.”

Zhang, who was also the mastermind behind the spectacular Beijing 2008 opening ceremony, said that the ceremony this year would not adopt huge-crowd strategy like that in 2008, which involved 15,000 performers. Zhang and his team brought audio-visual shock to the audience for nearly two hours even though only 3,000 actors were used. Many netizens sighed, “Zhang knows the romance of Chinese people too well,” “Chinese people know Chinese people best.”

Zhang said he decided to not present China’s 5,000-year history and culture too much at the very beginning of the design process, because the 2008 Olympic Games has fully demonstrated the theme. This time, Zhang hoped to change from showing “I” to showing “we” and the common human emotion of “together for a shared future.”

Digital performance and simulation technology were used throughout the opening ceremony. It was first simulated and presented in the virtual Beijing National Stadium (or “Bird’s Nest” as it is affectionately known), and then was broadcast across the world. Through the comprehensive use of artificial intelligence, 5G, AR, glasses-free 3D and cloud technology, the ethereal and romantic effect Zhang wanted was achieved.

This is also the first time in the world that 8K technology has been applied to broadcast the opening ceremony and key events on a large scale. Beijing will present an immersive visual feast in all directions in conjunction with 5G network.

The stage floor of the opening ceremony adopts the largest 8K ultra-high-definition ground display system at present, covering 10,393 square meters. The technology provider BOE adopts over 8K resolution picture fusion technologies, which can present 100,000: 1 contrast, 3840Hz refresh rate and 29900×15096 resolution.

Poetic Countdown of 24 Solar Terms

The opening of the Olympic Winter Games coincides with “Lichun” (立春 Lìchūn), or the beginning of spring, celebrating the coming of spring in a season of freezing temperatures and snow. Chinese people believe that the extreme cold often breeds new life. At 20:04, the ingenious countdown of 24 traditional Chinese Solar Terms marked the beginning of the opening ceremony in the National Stadium.

The performers of the first show dressed in green to form a phalanx, waving long green branches. Cooperating with special effects such as lighting, they simulate the vigorous growth of grass, which indicates that everything is revived and full of vitality.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency)

The green branches slowly turned into white dandelions. Then, a child blew on a dandelion during the spring performance, sending the white seeds into the air. Firework “dandelions” appeared in the sky at the same time, representing the seeds of spring spreading across the world.

Zhang’s team selected representative images of each solar term, matched with beautiful or dynamic pictures related to winter and the Olympics.

Ice Cube: “Breaking Ice”

After the entrance of the national flag and the playing of the national anthem, a drop of ice-blue ink fell from the sky on the vertical screen of the scene, which turned into the water of the Yellow River and poured down.

This vertical LED screen has a height of nearly 60 meters and a width of 20 meters, and is called “Ice Waterfall (冰瀑).” To erect such a big screen on the flat ground, a giant test is the strong wind in winter which is enough to tear the screen apart. The technical team recorded one or two hundred wind conditions to tackle this challenge.

The water of the Yellow River slowly froze, then a huge ice cube with a height of nearly three stories appeared. The logos of previous Winter Olympics are carved one by one with virtual laser carving knives.

Finally, the name of the Beijing Winter Olympics was displayed on the virtual ice cube. Six performers dressed as ice hockey players struck blows to the edge of the computer-generated ice block to break the ice cube. Breaking ice cube means “breaking the ice,” which contains expectation of breaking barriers between nations and uniting one world as a family.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency)

Over 600 AI Real-Time Motion Capture

Teams from each country or region followed a snowflake-shaped guide card when they entered the stadium. After the Chinese team entered the stadium, the guides gathered together with the guide cards in their hands, and the virtual snowflakes began to appear at the same time.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency)

With the change of the guide’s movements, nearly 100 virtual snowflakes with the names of all countries or regions began to gather together. The olive branch changed the small snowflakes into big snowflakes, which flew freely in the Bird’s Nest, and finally a virtual earth appeared.

A main torch platform in the form of a big snowflake began to rise slowly. The platform has a diameter of 14.89 meters and consists of LED double-sided screens in the shape of small snowflakes and olive branches, on which over 550,000 LED lamp beads are embedded, with each bead independently controlled by a single channel of driving chip.

Then, six athletes took their time in walking the flag across the floor to the flagpoles at one end. They walked between the motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together” which was beamed all over the stadium floor.

In the later “Snowflake” performance, more than 600 children waved dove lanterns to sing together, which made the snowflakes under each child’s feet move along their motion. This is the first time in the world that the motion of more than 600 people have been captured by artificial intelligence in real time.

SEE ALSO: From 2008 to 2022, A Transformed Landscape for Broadcasting at the Beijing Olympics

The torch race culminated in the lighting of the Olympic flame. After a torch relay involving several athletes, the last two torchbearers – Yilamujiang Dinigeer, a cross-country skier from Xinjiang, and Zhao Jiawen, a Nordic Combined athlete – lit the cauldron which was placed in the middle of a giant snowflake. “This ignition method can popularize the concept of low carbon and environmental protection,” Zhang Yimou said.

In addition, several 8K ultra-high-definition large screens on the streets of Beijing outside the Bird’s Nest livestreamed the opening ceremony to meet the enthusiasm of audiences who were not able to attend in person.