See slide show of Olympic Games' opening ceremonies, fireworks - WDRB 41 Louisville News

See slide show of Olympic Games' opening ceremonies, fireworks

China welcomed scores of world leaders to an Olympic Games opening ceremony watched by 91,000 people at National Stadium and a potential audience of 4 billion worldwide. It was depicted as the largest, costliest extravaganza in Olympic history, bookended by barrages of some 30,000 fireworks.

To the beat of sparkling explosions, the crowd counted down the final seconds before the show began. A sea of drummers -- 2,008 in all -- pounded out rhythms with their hands, then acrobats on wires gently wafted down into the stadium as rockets shot up into the night sky from its rim.

President Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were among the glittering roster of notables who watched China make this bold declaration that it had arrived. Bush, rebuked by China after he raised human-rights concerns this week, is the first U.S. president to attend an Olympics on foreign soil.

Already an economic juggernaut, China is given a good chance of overtaking the U.S. atop the gold-medal standings with its legions of athletes trained intensely since childhood. One dramatic showdown will be in women's gymnastics, where the U.S. and Chinese teams are co-favorites; in the pool, Chinese divers and U.S. swimmers are expected to dominate.

The run-up to the games had epic story lines -- China investing $40 billion to build the needed infrastructure, reeling from a catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan province in May, struggling right up to Friday to diminish Beijing's stubborn smog. China's detentions of political activists, its crackdown on uprisings in Tibet and its economic ties to Sudan -- home of the war-torn Darfur region -- fueled relentless criticisms from human rights groups and calls for an Olympic boycott.

Second-guessed for awarding the games to Beijing, the International Olympic Committee stood firmly by its decision. It was time, the committee said, to bring the games to the homeland of 1.3 billion people, a fifth of humanity.

The games, said IOC President Jacques Rogge, "are a chance for the rest of the world to discover what China really is."

The story presented in Friday's ceremony sought to distill 5,000 years of Chinese history -- featuring everything from the Great Wall to opera puppets to astronauts, and highlighting achievements in art, music and science. Roughly 15,000 people were in the cast, all under the direction of Zhang Yimou, whose early films often often ran afoul of government censors for their blunt portrayals of China's problems.

The show's script steered clear of modern politics -- there were no references to Chairman Mao and the class struggle, nor to the more recent conflicts and controversies. The ceremony was taped for broadcast 12 hours later in the United States.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.