Stunning ceremony welcomes Games

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The eyes of the world gazed in awe on Beijing as a stunning opening extravaganza heralded the start of the Olympic Games.

Many of the world's heads of state were in the Bird's Nest stadium for a visual spectacular that was staggering in its sheer scale and imagination.

A total of 14,000 performers took part in front of 91,000 spectators and a potential TV audience of billions, and it must have been a hugely daunting sight for the observers from the London 2012 organising committee.

It was the biggest and mostly costly opening ceremony in the history of the Games, and is unlikely to ever be matched. London 2012 officials have already admitted they will not be able to commit anything like the same resources to the event in 2012.

The official opening was carried out by Hu Jintao, president of the People's Republic of China, at the end of a ceremony that lasted three and a half hours.

In his speech at the end of the ceremony, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said: "For a long time, China has dreamed of opening its doors and inviting the world's athletes to Beijing for the Olympic Games.

"Tonight that dream comes true.

"Beijing, you are a host to the present and a gateway to the future. Thank you!"

Rogge also called on the athletes to embrace fair play.

He added: "Please compete in the spirit of Olympic values: excellence, friendship and respect. Dear athletes, remember that you are role models for the youth of the world. Reject doping and cheating.

"Make us proud of your achievements and your conduct."

A blast of fireworks began the ceremony, followed by 2,008 drummers playing a fou - a Chinese percussion instrument - in perfect unison.

The spectacular continued with 29 giant firework 'footprints' - representing the number of modern Olympic Games - from the centre of Beijing to the stadium.

A fantastic light-show followed, with giant illuminated Olympic rings being raised up from the floor of the stadium and then a series of visually stunning acrobatic, artistic and aerobatic displays.

The climax was a three-minute long display involving 30,000 fireworks that almost defied imagination.

American president George Bush, Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and France president Nicolas Sarkozy were among the dignitaries while Britain was represented by Olympics minister Tessa Jowell - Gordon Brown is coming to the closing ceremony.

The Chinese authorities imposed the strictest of security precautions and deployed an extra 100,000 soldiers and police on the streets.

After a build-up dominated by pollution worries, and the occasional protest by human rights campaigners, organisers were relieved to get the ceremony underway.

Some measures of pollution had the level of particulates at almost four times the World Health Organisation recommended level, and visibility in the Chinese capital was as poor as it has been for a fortnight.

The threat of rain receded however, despite some gloomy forecasts.

Beijing's international airport was closed for the duration of the ceremony, and a no-fly zone imposed in the air above the city.

The Bird's Nest stadium was protected by rows of tall fences, surveillance cameras and anti-aircraft missile batteries.

Swimmer Mark Foster carried the flag for the Great Britain team, who were cheered on their arrival into the stadium, and tennis players Andy and Jamie Murray were among those that took part in the march-past.

Roger Federer was Switzerland's flag-bearer while the USA's choice was Sudan-born 1500 metre runner Lopez Lomong, a refugee from the Darfur conflict.

That was potentially embarrassing for the hosts given that China has close ties with Sudan, but the USA team still received a warm welcome, as did Iraq's small team.

The biggest cheer, naturally, was reserved for the entrance of the Chinese team, led by their giant basketball superstar Yao Ming, who play for Houston Rockets in the NBA.



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Arts and Entertainment
John Hurt will voice Prince Bolkonsky in Radio 4's War and Peace
radioRadio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up