Olympics Summer 2008

By now, you’ve fast-forwarded through the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, an amazing $300 million spectacle that featured 15,000 performers, nearly 11,000 athletes from 204 countries, and two slap-happy television commentators (at least in America). Below, three of the best and worst moments you should not have missed.

The Best

1. The sigh of relief one of the 2,008 drummers (pictured, top) let out at the end of their number. You can’t blame him. In addition to the pressure for perfection (which was achieved), they had to remember to smile so they wouldn’t intimidate TV audiences.

2. The big reveal that it was people controlling those bouncing blocks. Unbelievable. It blew my mind when they finally flipped their lids and peeked out. Plus, their waves were adorable.

3. When nine-year-old earthquake survivor Lin Hao, who freed himself from the rubble of his school then returned to rescue two of his classmates, joined China flagbearer Yao Ming. See also: when Yao Ming looked down at Lin Hao and showed him how to wave to the crowd. When Yao Ming was interviewed holding Lin Hao in his arms and Lin Hao answered the reporter’s “Thank you” with “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Honorable Mentions: That Olympics-themed commercial for The Office’s fall return (“Slap Face” is Jim’s new sport, and Dwight is a natural athlete) and the little smirk President Bush let slip while applauding Iraq’s athletes during the parade of nations (I read it as, I know all 91,000 of you in this stadium are looking at me).

The Worst

1. Team Hungary’s entrance. Though they’d already established that they weren’t the right men to discuss fashion, NBC analysts Matt Lauer and Bob Costas couldn’t help themselves when the Hungarian women (pictured, bottom) entered the Bird’s Nest wearing what has to take the gold medal in Worst National Ensemble. “What do you think of these outfits?” Lauer asked. “Well, it’s all a matter of taste,” Costas answered. “Diplomatic as always,” Lauer noted. Awkward silence. “They appear happy about it all,” Costas said. “Slowly digging yourself out. Hungary, Line 1,” Lauer joked.

2. Lauer imagines what President Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are discussing in the stands. “Perhaps talking about that opening drum number still…” I would’ve loved to hear what Matt thought a bored Bush was thinking later in the evening when he was tapping a mini-American flag on his knee.

3. Each time it looked as though the Olympic torch was, gulp, out. Not only did I think the torch had gone out several times during the flame’s final hand-offs, but I also thought it’d gone dark on its flight up to the cauldron with former Chinese Olympian Li Ning. (If you’re wondering why his astounding air-lap around the “membrane” of the Bird’s Nest didn’t make the best-of cut, that’s why. Awe-inspiring doesn’t have to mean stressful. Or does it?)

What were your best and worst moments from the opening ceremony? And what was your favorite bit of trivia from Matt and Bob: That the United Arab Emirates boasts female athletes for the first time, and they just happen to be the daughters of the prime minister? That at the 1936 games, Haiti and Liechtenstein realized they had the same flag? That El Salvador’s flagbearer was chosen through a nationwide text-messaging poll and weightlifter Eva Maria Dimas received 73 percent of the vote?

For more Olympics coverage, check out our daily Olympic Stud of the Day.