Saturday, August 09, 2008

Beijing Olympics: Teams entered by Chinese strokes order

I was reading and the journalist explained that during the Olympics Games Opening ceremony, teams were marched in not by the traditional alphabetic order, but by the order of Chinese character. He then continued his sentence with a big question mark about "order by Chinese character?". I watched the ceremony and the French host explained it the same way without further elaboration. I think people who do not write Chinese must be quite confused.

I know it must be referring to the number of strokes in Chinese characters for the name of each country. For example: (I hope your screen reads Chinese characters)
France = 法国 (Fa Guo): 法 = 8 strokes; 国 = 8 strokes (Wow 88 for France, good number!)
Malaysia = 马来西亚: 马 = 3 strokes; 来 = 7 strokes; 西 = 6 strokes; 亚 = 6 strokes
Mali = 马利 (Ma Li): 马 = 3 strokes; 利 = 3 strokes
USA = 美国 (Mei Guo): 美 = 9 strokes; 国 = 8 strokes

First you have to refer to the strokes of the first character, so the order had been:
Mali (3 strokes)
Malaysia (3 strokes)
France (8 strokes)
USA (9 strokes)

In the case that the first character has the same stroke, you refer to the second one, then third one....So, Mali has to go in front of Malaysia even though their first and second characters produce the same strokes. Malaysia is left behind due to the third and fourth characters.

This is just my personal interpretation and it worked well when I see the sequence of the teams marched in. The Chinese organizers might want to communicate better their programs and arrangements as some of them didn't appear clear to the guests. Another example was during the march in of the Chinese team, the French TV hosts didn't understand why the flag holder Yao Ming was walking in with a little boy by his side. One of them had to go ask for explanation, and realized that the 9 years old boy was one of the survivals of the Sechuan earthquake.


  1. Anonymous10:58 AM

    That is quite intersting isn't it ? When watching, my relative asked me if the team come out in some sort of "Chinese ABC" order :-)

  2. That's why I said the organizer should explain better to the medias. In the French journal, they said the Chinese alphabetic order too without further explanation. In this case, those who do not write Chinese will certainly believe that there exist Chinese alphabet.