The Olympics kick off in China amid fireworks and cheers - NP round-up
So it's official - the 29th Olympic Games have begun in Beijing, and the opening ceremonies did not disappoint. There were fireworks, loud cheers, world class athletes, world leaders, and let's not forget, the extravagant lighting of the huge torch that will burn for the entire games.
The display took place in the city's 'bird's nest' stadium, with leaders such as George Bush and Vladimir Putin looking on.
The weather was in favour of the games too it seemed, as no rain fell, and the skies were mostly clear (until the fireworks started anyway).
The opening, titled "Beautiful Olympics", had an overall theme of world harmony. The ceremony used many children to help convey its message of hope and harmony. A 9-year-old, Zhu Qiaoyan, chased a kite across the top of the vast new National Stadium, suspended by wires from the roof.
The Chinese seemed enthralled by the show. They participated with glowing colored sparklers, cheered loudly at every turn, and gave gracious greetings to the competing nations when the athletes made their traditional march into the stadium.
The athletes from the competing countries marched into the stadium according to their position in the Mandarin alphabet, with only two exceptions - Greece came at the front of the line, and China brought up the rear.
[China] was led by flag-bearer and basketball idol Yao Ming alongside a 9-year-old schoolboy who survived May's devastating earthquake in Sichuan province.
The Olympic torch had traveled about 137,000 km before being used to light the final torch in the opening ceremony.
China's six-time gymnastics gold medalist Li Ning, ran around the outside of the stadium on wires, then used the torch he was carrying to send flames shooting upwards to light the Olympic flame.
See a live blogging post about the opening ceremony here.
People who attended the opening ceremony had nothing but praise for China's efforts:
"It was fantastic. I was so moved," said 20-year-old Zhang Qiong, as she sat down at the end of the event to contemplate what she had just seen.
It was hard to find someone who disagreed with her.
There is no secret however that this games has already been marred by controversy, protests, and questions about whether China should be hosting the games at all.
The government fears that its critics at home and abroad will mar the games with protests. It also worries about terrorist attacks, perhaps by Muslim separatists in the far-western region of Xinjiang. Just four days before the start of the games, two alleged terrorists attacked a group of police in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar, killing 16. In Beijing during the build-up to the event there were also several small protests by foreign activists concerned about human and animal rights. Two Americans and two Britons were expelled from the country after unfurling banners near the stadium and calling for a “free Tibet”.
A man did set himself on fire in protest of China just before the opening ceremonies of the games.
Some of our members stories surrounding the Games:
Child Earthquake survivor leads Chinese team
Beijing 2008 / Berlin 1936 - The same but different
China opens Olympics with pageantry, pyrotechnics
One world, one dream
All about Olympic equestrian sports
Olympics kicks off on lucky eights
Of course the games is not a welcoming sight for everyone. Some migrant workers have been forced to leave Beijing for lack of work and an unwritten government policy encouraging migrant workers to clear out while the games are in session. It's all about appearances.
As the city readied itself for the pageantry and the fireworks of Friday night’s opening ceremonies, its main train station was packed with truck drivers, food vendors and factory workers whose jobs had been sacrificed to the Olympics juggernaut. The atmosphere was a mix of expectation and boredom, but also disappointment and regret.
Construction has been banned since July 20; factories with noxious emissions were closed all across the city. The scores of unfinished buildings that dot the skyline, their facades cloaked in Olympian banners, are a testament to the boom interrupted.
China has also been plagued with disasters leading up to the games. From the earthquake in May, to the pollution that is constantly plaguing the city, to the possible terrorist attack only days ago. But China has prevailed and the IOC stood by its decision to keep the games in Beijing.
It was time, the committee said, to bring the games to the homeland of 1.3 billion people, a fifth of humanity.
"For a long time, China has dreamed of opening its doors and inviting the world's athletes to Beijing for the Olympic Games," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in his speech. "Tonight, that dream comes true."
It seems like, with such a promising start, things will hopefully only go up from here.
Updates will be added to this story as events unfold.
The Huffington Post has a round-up of reviews here.