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Zhang Yimou to direct Beijing Games ceremonies

By Staff
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BEIJING, Apr 16 (Reuters) Internationally acclaimed Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou will direct the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, organisers announced today.

Multi-Oscar winning Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, who was also present at today's announcement in Beijing, will be part of Zhang's team as an artistic adviser.

A member of China's ''Fifth generation'' of directors, Zhang is best known in the west for his 1991 film ''Raise the Red Lantern'' and his 2004 title ''House of Flying Daggers'', both of which were nominated for Oscars.

''I'm very honoured to become executive director of the ceremonies,'' Zhang, 54, said at a ceremony at the headquarters of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG).

''I thank BOCOG for trusting me with this huge task. To complete it will require the efforts of the whole team and the advisers from home and abroad.'' ''I make a solemn promise to the Chinese people I will complete the task beautifully and successfully.'' Zhang will also be able to draw on the expertise of Australian Ric Birch, who directed the highly successful opening and closing ceremonies at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Spielberg, whose most recently released film ''Munich'' was based on events in the aftermath of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, said he was also honoured to be asked to help out.

''Our one goal is to give the world a taste of peace, friendship and understanding,'' he said.

''Through the visual arts ... the art of celebration of life, we are dedicated to making this the most emotional opening ceremony ever.'' BOCOG president Liu Qi said the opening ceremony was a ''crucial part of the Olympic Games''.

''The success of a high-level Olympic Games ... depends on the quality of the opening ceremony,'' he said. ''The 1.3 billion Chinese people are full of aspirations for the Olympic Games, and they have high expectations for the opening ceremony.'' More than 400 schemes for the opening ceremony were submitted to BOCOG and elements and personnel from the best five teams have been commissioned to produce the event.

The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics will take place on August 8, 2008.

REUTERS DH RAI1048

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