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Beijing Olympics events open

Latest update : 2008-08-17

Following a spectacular opening ceremony Friday night, the official events commence Saturday, including cycling, men's gymnastics, equestrian events and more.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

 

The Olympics through the eyes of professionals and fans

 

China dazzled the world with a spectacle of rare magnificence as up to 14,000 performers starred in a lavish ceremony featuring white-robed drummers, breathtaking gymnasts and a thunderous fireworks display.

“From the start of the ceremony, we’ve been witnessing a true masterpiece,” said FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Beijing, Xavier Chemisseur.

The 29th Olympic Games officially began Friday in Beijing, the Chinese capital, with an opening ceremony starting at 8:08pm local time (12 pm GMT).

In perfect synchrony, a sea of 2008 percussionists launched the countdown for the ceremony's official opening.

 

 


2008 percussionists beat their “Fou” drums, heralding the start of the opening ceremony.

 

 

Under the direction of celebrated Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimon, a series of tasteful choreographies recounted China’s 5,000-year-old civilisation. Large moving parchments gave way to a sphere, topped by floating gymnasts, before operas recalled China's five dynasties.


 


Dancers press together in one of the choreographies designed by film director Zhang Yimou.

 

 

Dancers and gymnasts then gave way to the national teams, as athletes from 204 nations paraded in the Bird’s Nest stadium, led by the Greek delegation. After Chinese President Hu Jintao’s opening speech, the former gymnast and national hero Li Ning set the Olympic cauldron alight, thereby marking the official opening of the Beijing Olympics.
 

 


The retired Chinese gymnast Li Ning, last of the torch bearers, glides around Beijing’s Olympic stadium before setting the cauldron alight.

 

 

The lavish opening ceremony in the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium caps seven years of Olympic preparations by a Chinese government anxious to show the world its prosperity and harmony. China has invested $43 billion in the Games, some $100 million on the opening and closing ceremonies alone.
 
More than 80 leaders and royals are attending the ceremony, an unprecedented figure. "The historic moment we have long awaited is arriving," President Hu Jintao told them at a welcome lunch. At least one billion people throughout the world watched the four-hour ceremony on TV.
 

 


After a display of Tai Chi Chuan, a sphere symbolising planet Earth appears.

 

 

Pollution and human rights

 

China was spared the embarrassment of a pro-Tibetan demonstration, as the ceremony unfolded undisturbed.

 

Yet, preparations had been complicated by questions over pollution and the country’s human rights record. 

 
China has deployed 100,000 security personnel to prevent terrorist attacks and political protests, and they have acted quickly to arrest Chinese citizens and foreigners trying to hold public protests over Tibet and other issues.
 
Pollution remains a concern for many of the athletes, according to FRANCE 24’s Mark Owen, even though the government has closed factories and pulled millions of cars off the road, smog is still a problem. “There’s a pall of mist that appears to be permanently over Beijing,” says Owen. “The IOC has always maintained the air quality will be fine, but there are very few athletes who believe that.”

 

Date created : 2008-08-09

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