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Pride and passion
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By Wang Zhiyong

"Though it is overcast and foggy, it's not raining, so we're lucky." my taxi driver tells me at 6 PM on August 8, two hours before the Olympic opening ceremony starts. "Friends have come from afar, how happy we are! I hope all of our foreign friends will have a happy stay in Beijing and China!"

"I can't watch the ceremony on TV, but I can experience it via the radio. Thinking about the 100,000 policemen deployed onto the street, I'm happy and proud that I'm at my post to serve the people tonight too!" the driver said.

Time passes quickly till I settle down among some 400 people safe before a big screen at the Millennium Monument, some 15 km southeast of the 91,000 in the packed National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest.

Local people and some foreigners have gathered together to watch the opening ceremony and share the great moment of the first day of the world party. Late comers are still arriving in the small square. A couple have traveled 12 km from their home. "We want to spend the moment with a big group - the atmosphere here is totally different from watching TV at home, but we took a long time to find the place!" says Shen Kun, here with her husband.

Thousands of people are watching huge outdoor screen displays set up for the ceremony in streets throughout the capital, though the government has tried to persuade people to stay at home to watch the show.

As early as 7 o'clock, the audience has worked itself into a state of excitement, chanting "Zhongguo, Jiayou! (Go China!)"

Now comes the moment, 8-8-08 at 8:08 PM, a date and time full of eights, an auspicious number in China, a moment that the country has been anticipating for at least seven years. "Ten, Nine…Three, Two, One!" the crowd thrills as an army of 2,008 drummers pound out the countdown to the Games.

Twenty-nine colossal "footprints of fire" shoot into the sky and march through the city to Tian'anmen Square in a dazzling, rolling display of pyrotechnics.

"I'm so impressed by the footprint fireworks show. It's gorgeous and awesome," American tourist Patty Hampton tells China.org.cn. She has been traveling in China for two weeks with her husband. "It's a great idea to be here together with so many Chinese people to experience the moment. I love it. I've got basketball and gymnastic tickets, and my son will join us tomorrow. I've been to Guilin and watched the show Impression Liu Sanjie, which is also directed by Zhang Yimou. Zhang always bring excitement beyond your imagination."

"If the top mark is 100, what will you give to Mr. Zhang?" I ask. "Oh, I'll give him 110! He's a genius of a director and my words can't describe the grandeur of the ceremony," says Mrs. Hampton.

"It's fantastic seeing the Chinese traditional painting roll out like this. I hope Chinese athletes will win the biggest number of gold medals," a girl named Shi Weiwei tells China.org.cn. Shi is a student, now working as volunteer for The Olympics. "I'll be staying here until the ceremony ends," she says.

"I could never have imagined such a vivid representation of China's greatest inventions, and I'm proud of the long history and culture of my homeland. I would like to give the opening ceremony full marks!" said Wang Shasha, Shi's classmate.

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