Olympic Footprints Faked!

I didn’t watch  the Olympic opening ceremonies because I tend to find them boring.  But there’s a little bit of controversy in that the big, giant phosphorescent footprints in the sky were (gasp) faked:

Beijing 2008As the ceremony got under way with a dramatic, drummed countdown, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird’s Nest National Stadium watched as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks processed gloriously above the city from Tiananmen Square.

What they did not realise was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.

The fireworks were there for real, outside the stadium. But those responsible for filming the extravaganza decided in advance it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.

As a result, only the last, visible from the camera stands inside the Bird’s Nest was captured on film.

The trick was revealed in a local Chinese newspaper, the Beijing Times, at the weekend.

So, sorry to disappoint those of you who were under the impression that the Chinese had used a giant, air-walking Sasquatch with luminescent feet.

That CGI were used for the enjoyment of the home television audience was apparently a closely guarded secret, available only to those with access to the Chinese Communist Party press and those who listened to the announcers on NBC tell them that, “You’re looking at a cinematic device, it’s actually almost animation.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gillian Chung says:

    The Modern Olympic Games are far from the ancient Greek Olympic spirit
    The Olympic Flame torch is the Olympic Flame of the knowledge privilege of the Gods
    Even today after genius opera composer Panayoti Karousos projection in his opera Prometheus to show clearly the act of Prometheus by bringing the fire to the humankind after Karousos the International Olympic Committee started the talk about the act of Prometheus is the commemoration we show at the Olympic flame torch
    Again Karousos showed at his other opera The Olympic Flame the founder of the Olympics that is Hercules as a merciful act to the successful ending of the 12 labors
    I think the IOC has to honor the Greek born composer Panayoti Karousos for his contribution to the Olympic Games and go learn more from his works about them.
    The great melodic motive of Karousos opera The Olympic Flame the organizers has to use in the opening and closing ceremony of the Olympics
    China today has to learn from the ancient Greek Olympic spirit the freedom, democracy and human rights for Chinese citizens.

  2. Tigerstorm says:
  3. Russ says:

    On Saturday I finally got around to watching the recording (thanks, DVR!) of the opening ceremonies. I’d swear the NBC guys *said* that the footprints sequence had been “canned”… but it looked obvious to me at the time. I don’t really see what the big deal is.

    That said, I now know the Chinese gov’t can put on a good show when necessary… but that doesn’t change my opinion of them. It’s like they have a whole Potemkin country for the duration of the Games.