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China lifts the curtain on £20billion Olympics extravaganza

Posted on 10:28 AM by Sameer Shah

It is the most eagerly anticipated Olympics in history and today, at exactly 8.08pm on the 8th day of the 8th month, the Beijing Games finally began.

First came a heart-stopping explosion of fireworks which turned the night sky crimson and coated the landmark Bird's Nest in a blaze of red.

Then came a thunderous tattoo, produced by exactly 2,008 perfectly synchronised drummers massed on the stadium floor.






But this was just the beginning of an Olympics opening ceremony likely to be the most spectacular in history.

The figures alone are astounding.

At a cost of £25million, in front of 80 world leaders and a worldwide audience of four billion, China was determined prove that it could stage the greatest show on earth.




After the initial star-spangled sky of brilliant-hued fireworks, the display turned momentarily more modest.

But the train of flares which went up across the vast city in a beacon trail to the Great Wall was no less awe-inspiring.



t was eclipsed seconds later by an extraordinary sight as the iconic five-ring Olympics logo rose from the floor of the vast stadium into the night sky.

After that it was almost impossible to be anything but overwhelmed.


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Hundreds of dancers in ornate robes span across the stadium floor, the world ascended, flushed blue and yellow and red, and sank back to earth.

The rim of the Bird's Nest was lit by an apocalyptic arc of fire.




Eventually, the athletes bearing their national flags trooped out to be welcomed by ecstatic crowds.

The British team materialised about two hours into the ceremony.




Among the audience cheering them on was Princess Anne, whose own daughter horse-rider Zara Phillips, had to pull out of this year's Olympics.

Young diver Tom Daley, who at just 14 is one of Britain's best medal hopes, emerged with a huge grin on his face.


World leaders, including U.S. President George W Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, arrived in China today for the ceremony.

Gordon Brown was a conspicuous absentee among the 80 heads of state and royal family members. He will attend the closing ceremony at the end of the month instead.

China has picked the slogan 'One World, One Dream' for the Games, intended to show its desire to throw its arms open to the world and create a lasting legacy.

But with the spotlight on the country like never before, its human rights record and strict communist regulations have also been thrust to centre stage.





Its controversial journey around the world sparked demonstrations in many countries, outraged at China's human rights record.

But as it finally came to the end of its journey, it was met by cheers.




The flame was flown through the Bird's Nest by an athlete on wires who ignited the main torch high above the stadium floor.

It was the signal for another spectacular fireworks display which set the whole city ablaze.



Around 10,000 performers were taking part in the show to open the Games, which has been seven years in the planning.

Film director Zhang Yimou, whose work includes the film House of the Flying Daggers, has created a three hour show portraying 5,000 years of Chinese history.

The lavish event was taking place amid tight security, after a series of protests and a terror attack in the Muslim region of Xinjiang earlier this week.




But this was just the beginning of an Olympics opening ceremony likely to be the most spectacular in history.

The figures alone are astounding.

At a cost of £25million, in front of 80 world leaders and a worldwide audience of four billion, China was determined prove that it could stage the greatest show on earth.





The Games have been described as the most politicised since 1980 event in Moscow, which was marked by a boycott in protest at the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Just hours before today's ceremony, angry Tibetan refugees tried to storm a Chinese consular office in Kathmandu and 1,095 demonstrators were detailed by police.




In New Delhi, nearly 3,000 Tibetans shouting anti-China slogans braved heavy rains to protest near India's parliament against the Olympics being staged by China.

'China is not the right place to hold Olympics, it is a blood Olympics, it is a shame Olympics,' shouted Kalsang Tsering.



A British man was also arrested in Hong Kong today after unfurling two banners on a major bridge in the city.

Matt Pearce, who lives on the island, hung the banners, reading: 'We want human rights and democracy' and 'The people of China want freedom from oppression' on road signs on the Tsing Ma Bridge.

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