Why would anybody be surprised at the opening ceremony that Beijing just put on? One glance at the enormous plazas of the Forbidden City, designed for public displays, and you know that the Chinese have been putting on big shows involving thousands of people for centuries. The one tonight, with its theme of harmony as the Chinese understand it, was unforgettable -- one for the record books.
Yet, all around the stadium vibrating with that pageantry of harmonized thousands, the world continues to crash into disharmony tonight -- Russia invading Georgia, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsing once again, scandal threatening the U.S. Democratic Party. Many global tensions have invaded Beijing, with arrests of human-rights activists and Muslim terrorists threatening to disrupt the Games. As I watched the parade of nations, what I kept feeling was a need for prayer that the Beijing Games will not join the ones in the record books that were shattered by violence. That no athletes or spectators (especially our own people who are there, who could be targets) would get hurt. That there would be government clemency for all the arrestees. That harmony would somehow struggle to the top of the podium and give itself a gold medal -- at least for 16 days.