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Beijing Countdown

12:26 PM, Jul 31, 2008 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
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Today is the magical number of 8 days before the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, to be held at 8 p.m. on the 8th day of August, the 8th month of the year.

The number 8 has all sorts of magical attraction for the Chinese. Eight, in Mandarin, also means "prosperity" and "fertility" and "wealth" or "fortune." A powerful combination of ideas in any culture, so the combination of eights associated with the opening day of these games is like some once-in-a-century aligning of the planets would be to astrologers.

A large group of China's most famous recording artists have produced a new song,"Beijing Welcomes You," that is not unlike the 1985 "We Are The World," recorded by an all-star cast of singers and musicians to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. Only this song was inspired not by the desire to generate donations for the recent Sichuan earthquake but to serve as an anthem for the Olympic Games, which are hardly in need of either more treacle or more pomposity-both of which the song has in spades.

You would have to be living underground in China not to know the song at this point. When I tried to email a copy of the MP3 version to a Beijing colleague she told me, "oh I do not need it. You cannot go to a shopping mall or supermarket or anywhere without hearing this now." We can only be happy it's not 8 minutes long.