The monumental sound of 2,008 people drumming to one beat at the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

5 August 2021, 13:46

2,008 people drumming to one beat at the Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony
2,008 people drumming to one beat at the Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony. Picture: Alamy

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

2,008 drummers, to mark the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Now this is how an Opening Ceremony is done…

Olympics Opening Ceremonies have played host to some of the most memorable musical performances of the past century – from Mr Bean’s Chariots of Fire solo at London 2012, to the iconic time Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and soprano Montserrat Caballé’s duet sparked off Barcelona’s ceremony in 1992.

But have you seen this monumental moment from a Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony at Beijing National Stadium?

To celebrate the 2008 Olympics, a fitting 2,008-strong ensemble of drummers took to the stadium, each armed with an individual bronze Fou drum.

The Fou drum is an ancient Chinese percussion instrument, once used in ritual music.

As they pound their drums, the players chant in unison a line from the 2,000-year-old Analects of Confucius, “Isn’t it delightful to have friends coming from afar?”, welcoming friends, athletes and diplomats from all over the world.

Read more: How Susan Boyle’s unexpected 2020 Olympics appearance stole the show

An estimated audience of two billion tuned in to watch that day, as China showcased its titanic cultural offering to the world.

Later in the ceremony that day, a then 26-year-old Lang Lang played Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye’s new piano concerto, the Yellow River Cantata, with the gaze of the world upon him.

After his moment in the spotlight, Lang Lang said that he hoped his performance helped represent a new and changing China, while honouring its classical music traditions.

“I’m part of a new generation in China enjoying a very different way of life from our parents,” he told Reuters. “We love American culture and classical music, but we also have strong Chinese traditions.”

The 2008 Opening Ceremony was filled with fantastic colour, culture and music. Chinese singer Liu Huan and British soprano Sarah Brightman also stood on stage together that day, to sing the 2008 Olympic theme song ‘You and Me’.

As the 2020 Olympics draws to a close, it’s been wonderful to reminisce on these moments of coming-together in music.