8 August : Chinese President Hu Jintao officially declared open the 29th Olympic Games as triple gold medallist gymnast Li Ning lit the Olympic cauldron at the National Stadium, popularly known as the "Bird’s Nest" in Beijing.
Jintao made the announcement in front of the capacity crowd of 91,000 at the National Stadium which staged a spectacular ceremony marking the start of the fortnight-long biggest sporting extravaganza on the earth.
India is fielding a 56-member contingent, including Athens silver medallist shooter Rajvardhan Singh Rathod, and would be seen in action in various disciplines such as shooting, swimming, tennis, archery and boxing.However, India’s eight-time champion hockey team would be missing the event for the first time in 80 years.More than 10,500 athletes in 302 medal events would compete for next 16 days. Delegations from 205 national and regional Olympic committees would participate in the quadrennial event.
A perfect opening with promise of best Olympics ever Breaching umpteen doomsday predictions, Beijing shimmered in a breathtaking display of fireworks, colour and cultural soiree staging a perfect opening ceremony of the Olympic Games at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
A veritable architectural wonder of interwoven steel, the national stadium on the outskirt of the Chinese capital witnessed an ethereal ceremony studded with a heady concoction of tradition and technology and a dazzling display of a combination of man and machine.
The three-and-a-half-hour show, witnessed by a capacity crowd of 91,000 people here and over one billion viewers on watching it on television, kicked off right at 2000 hrs local time the choice of date 08-08-2008 at 8 pm stems from the Chinese belief that number eight is auspicious for them.
China has invested USD 43 billion on the Games, including 100 million dollars on the opening and closing ceremonies, twice the money expended at the 2004 Athens Games, promising to host the best ever Olympic Games over the next fortnight.
Talks of human rights violation, pollution or the veil of haze hanging over the city seemed mere bagatelle compared to the blockbuster that Beijing produced tonight.
The Indian contingent, led by flag bearer Athens silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, looked every bit proud.
Men were dressed in off-white sherwanis while women mixed and matched, some draped in the traditional sarees and some others in western outfits.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in purple silk saree with golden border, waved at the Indian athletes with a broad smile.
Sonia was accompanied by her MP son Rahul, daugher Priyanka, son-in-law Robert Vadhra and a grandson and a grand daughter, along with Sports Minister M S Gill, who appeared impressed by the proceedings.
US President George W Bush and fellow movers and shakers of the world and commoners stood alike in awe as decks were cleared for a no-holds-barred battle among more than 10,500 athletes in 302 medal events over the next 16 days of fierce competition.
The ceremony began with the beating of the ancient Chinese drum fou, followed by the display of Olympic rings and the Chinese national flag, as some 15,000 performers and thousands of fireworks gave the Games a sparkling start.
Artistic performance formed the core part of the ceremony, projecting China’s age-old civilisation and it’s splendid modern face and it was followed by the theme song sung by China’s Liu Huan and Sarah Brightman from Britain.
The post-performance part of the ceremony comprised various Olympic rituals and traditions, including a declaration from Chinese President Hu Jintao opening the Games and a two-hour long parade of athletes.
The huge stadium resembled a cauldron with a riot of colours as mindblowing fireworks illuminated Beijing skyline.
Around 15,000 performers put up one of the most memorable shows ever.
Delegations from 205 national and regional Olympic committees entered the stadium according to the order of the simplified Chinese characters.
As is the custom, Greece was the first country in the march past and China, the hosts, came last. In between, 203 contingents passed, trying to outshine each other.
Jacques Rogge, President, International Olympic Committee
8 August 2008 :“That was spectacular. Tonight, the world was able to join in a magnificent tribute to the athletes and the Olympic spirit. It was an unforgettable and moving ceremony that celebrated the imagination, originality and energy of the Beijing Games.”
“We saw 204 national delegations march into the beautiful new National Stadium in the age-old tradition of the Games. Millions of people around the world were able to experience the thrill of seeing their heroes in a sea of team colours and national flags.”
“We witnessed athletes from these 204 countries and territories united in peace in one place. And for the next 16 days, they will be a part of one of the most thrilling competitions in history. As an Olympian, I can tell you that they will carry this memory with them forever. ”
“This iconic stadium is one of the world’s new wonders. It was a fitting setting for an amazing Opening Ceremony, I look forward to an equally exciting and unforgettable 16 days.”
Hein Verbruggen, IOC Member and Chairman of the Coordination Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad
“Opening ceremonies have always been a way for host cities to welcome the world and for the world to gather and share the Olympic spirit. This ceremony to open the Beijing Olympic Games was a breathtaking culmination of seven years of planning and preparation. The world will remember this for a long time.”
“Tonight wasn’t the end of a journey, but the fantastic beginning of 16 days of outstanding sport competition. This was a night to remember — for the Chinese people, and for the world.”
“As I watched the rehearsals for this ceremony, I knew this night would be absolutely astonishing. However, the actual event exceeded all my expectations. This was an unprecedented and grand success.”