I can pinpoint the moment when I became fascinated with China. It was about a quarter of the way through watching The Last Emperor in a small cinema in Antwerp, Belgium. I used to go to the city with my mother every now and again when she wanted to visit old friends and go to the my grandfather's grave in Putte, Holland. This was around April, 1987, just a few months before I was due to leave high school.
I remember feeling uneasy at the time, not least because I didn't quite know what awaited me, both before and after the upcoming 'A' Level exams.
The film managed to do something that very few movies have achieved either before or since.
It took me far away from the cinema and transported my entire body and soul into the bowels of the Forbidden City. In hindsight, I wonder if I ever entirely came back, because my fascination with China has endured longer than the film's generous running time. I have yet to visit the country (physically).
That's why I find myself excitedly waiting for the TV coverage of the games to begin. I haven't bothered with Olympic Opening Ceremonies in the past, but this one is different. This spectacle is happening in China, not too far away from the bits of me that are deeply embedded inside the Forbidden City.
Could this be the reason why I've downloaded a widget to inform me of what's going on in the games? Will I do something I've never done before and actually watch the Olympic Games?
I don't know. I might get bored after the opening ceremony. Everything might pale into insignificance when compared to the visual treat that I know awaits me.
Beijing 2008 has managed to do something to me that I hadn't experienced before. I guess it must be the remains of that fortune cookie, resting on the edge of my psyche....deep inside the City that has been to date been forbidden to the rest of my physical being.