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An Exciting, Exhilarating Experience

I see distant boats, hundreds of boats, beautiful boats, bobbing and weaving through the turquoise waters of the shimmering river, crimson sun behind them, cloudless sky above, 160 windsurfers for company, one for every country in the Olympics, their sails flapping, their fingers gripping, their boards boogeying toward the YongDong Bridge, the bridge on the river Han.

I see the dragon drum a-coming, hear it pounding from afar, this precious cargo of the Yong-go vessel, mainstay of the South Korean fleet, wending its way into the Han’s harbor, tailed by four companion boats, flags flown high, white tigers and yellow dragons illustrating every gondola’s gonfalon, escorting to its destination the enormous drum of peace.

I see parachutes descending, human bodies dangling, swaying to and fro in golden suits, silks in five Olympic colors covering them like awnings, twin-propeller copters to their flanks, trails of snowy smoke from streaking jets, pilots looking downward and stadium spectators upward while the 76 sky divers tug their cords like Venetian blinds, steering themselves into the bowl of Seoul’s vast stadium, ending a 13,000-foot fall, landing gently with the whoof of billowing chutes.

I see cascades of chartreuse ribbon, fastened onto wooden poles, streaming into the stadium, held aloft by thousands of young South Korean dancers, every one on a dead run, sprinting across the lush green playing field, half of them banging tiny drums and tambourines, addressing the gods with their sound, asking them to purify the path to which the dragon drum must be delivered.

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I see regal robes in procession, blues and reds and yellows, 470 students in traditional costume, in full parade, carrying the keg-like drum aboard its platform, approaching the mighty Olympic caldron, praying to it for strength and unity, appealing for calm and harmony, until black-smoke fireworks beyond the stadium walls shatter their silence and cue their exit.

I see 44 fairies, professional Korean and Greek dancers in flowing gowns, muse-like in white chiffon and silk, whirling and twirling in the center of the field while confetti falls on them like stardust, followed by a thousand Asian children in togas and tiaras, linked arm in arm, kneeling in a human chain, bowing and rising in symmetrical waves, spelling out “WELCOME” in languages both specific and universal.

I see the athletes file into the arena, platoon by platoon, nation by nation, sandaled men from Ghana in caftans that resemble Navajo blankets, barefoot women from Tonga in skirts and headbands made of flowers, smiling natives of the Netherlands dressed like Dixieland musicians and toting umbrellas, war-painted Mongolians bare except for burlap trunks and calf-high boots and Genghis Khan fur caps.

I see Indians in long-tailed orange turbans and American Samoans in loincloths and beads, Aussies in Akubra cowboy hats and Pakistanis in olive vests, marchers from Lesotho in cone-shaped bonnets and warriors from Swaziland brandishing shields and spears, Koreans waving colorful fans and Canadians flinging Frisbees into the crowd.

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I see an American athlete in a blue blazer, hoisting a handmade sign, an arrow pointed at his head, informing someone he loves back home, “Hi, Mom, I’m Here,” and a comrade carrying another sign, one that reads, “Archers: We Aim to Please,” and I see beaming, laughing, not the least bit grim Soviets, dazzling and practically Disney-esque in all-white suits with red pocket kerchiefs and scarfs.

I see Porntip Nakhirunkanok, a woman with an alphabet-soup name and a Vanna White beauty, striding at the forefront of the Thailand delegation, as proudly as she did on the Miss Universe runway, as happy to be here representing her native land as she will be to return to her Pasadena home away from home.

I see torch-bearers jog through the tunnel and around the track, and an elevated disc that slowly ascends until it carries the torch-bearers to the top of the 29-meter high Olympic wok, and thousands of doves dive-bombing the stadium as the flame erupts, just as jets pass overhead, spewing plumes of rainbow-colored smoke.

I see Hur Jae, 22 years old, member of the South Korean national men’s basketball team, nicknamed “the genius of dribble and assist,” described in a brochure as an athlete whose “favorite player is Julius Irving (sic),” a man selected to take the official Olympic oath aloud on behalf of his all of the 8,344 athletes and officials, selected “partly because he has good husky voice.”

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I see 1,450 female dancers in garb and hair styles from the Yi Dynasty, doing a traditional Korean court dance, leading to 846 more dancers wearing ornamental masks and encircling totem poles in random formation, leading to 1,007 male taekwondo martial artists, breaking wooden boards with their hands and feet, artistically choreographed, gracefully leap-frogging from one row to another, masterfully pretending to chop their friends in the necks and plant heels on their chests.

I see one small boy, Yoon Tae Woon, rolling a silver hoop across a suddenly deserted field, all by his lonesome, here to represent the dreams of tomorrow, chosen because on the day that Seoul was awarded the Olympic Games, Sept. 30, 1981, Yoon was born.

I see 1,200 elementary school children swarm onto the field, spinning pinwheels and jumping rope, followed by mascots, and robots, and cyclists, and singers, and musicians, and suddenly there are 6,000 people on the stage, bringing the Olympic opening ceremony to a slam-bang finish, making it a day like few other days that you have seen, making it one of those days when you are thankful that you can see, filling you with hope and conviction that there are even better days ahead.


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