The story then moved into the modern age, with Chinese pianist Lang Lang taking the audience into a world of fantasy. One of the central pieces of this segment was a globe with a diameter of 18 meters and nine rings. Standing on top of this huge globe, singer Liu Huan from China and Sarah Brightman from the U.K. performed the show-stopper of the night, a rendition of the 2008 Olympic Games theme song You and Me.
This calm interlude was interrupted by a vigorous display of taijiquan, which saw 2,008 practitioners form a circle across the arena to perform jumps, slashes and cuts.
The show tied together China's rich past with modern spectacle, touching repeatedly upon China's history without resorting to clichés.
More than 80 foreign leaders and international dignitaries were in attendance, including U.S. President George W. Bush, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and IOC Honorary President Juan Antonio Samaranch. And of course all China's top leaders were there to watch.
When the parade of the athletes began, the Bird's Nest was turned into a sea of joy and ecstasy by the enthusiastic home crowd. As the host nation, the large Chinese delegation arrived at the end of the parade to rousing cheers. The team of 639 athletes was led by 7-foot-6 basketball star Yao Ming, the look on his face showing how proud he was to be the flag bearer.
Members of the Olympic Delegation of China led by basketball star Yao Ming parade into the National Stadium at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, Aug. 8, 2008.
The climax of the night came with the arrival of the Olympic torch, carried by China's first gold medallist Xu Haifeng. After being carried around the stadium by a series of notable athletes from China's Olympic past, it was finally handed to legendary gymnast Li Ning. At the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, Li collected three gold, two silver and one bronze medal, making him the most decorated athlete of those Games. He has since become a successful entrepreneur with Li Ning athletic apparel. After taking the torch, Li rose into the air and "ran" around the 500-meter-long rim of the Bird's Nest. Upon reaching the bottom of the giant Olympic torch, he ignited flame to a roar from the crowd.
After seven years preparation, Beijing has conquered challenges and difficulties to bring the world a superb visual and aural feast. The Games have also greatly spurred Beijing's modernization, creating benefits that will last well beyond the next fortnight.
The opening ceremony was a unique opportunity for China to share its joy, its dreams and proud history with the rest of the world.
(China Today by Xing Wen, September 23, 2008)