Jim Byers brought running updates from the Opening Ceremony in Beijing. Beijing time is 12 hours ahead of Toronto. Click here to see a photo gallery of full size images from the event.
12:05 a.m. Beijing time:
Li Ning has lit the Olympic torch. Suspended high above the stadium, he lit a pipe that shot a flame into the curlicued base and shot, spiral-form, to the top of the cauldron. Spectacular. Fireworks of all colours exploding all over Beijing.
12 a.m. Beijing time:
Li Ning, Olympic gold medallist for China, is being hoisted into the sky to light the Olympic torch. He's on a rope, suspended above the stadium floor, and is giving the appearance of running on the side of the vertical wall at the top of the stadium, perpendicular to the ground if you get the drift. Ridiculously cool. He's halfway around now and it's something to behold.
11:50 p.m. Beijing time:
Xu Haifeng, the first Chinese olympic gold medallist, has brought the Olympic torch into the Bird's Nest Stadium.
11:35 p.m. Beijing time:
Chinese president Hu Jintao has officially declared the opening of the Summer Olympic Games. He and IOC president Jacques Rogge have each delivered their speeches. Now comes the Olympic flag, and, soon, the lighting of the torch.
11:12 p.m. Beijing time:
Here comes China, led by towering NBA superstar Yao Ming and a small boy who was a victim of the Sichuan earthquake. Needless to say, the crowd erupts in a frenzy of cheering. They've waited a long time for this and the fans are chanting "China" in unison and waving flags and scarves in the air. As they should.
11:05 p.m. Beijing time:
Here comes the Swiss, led by fading tennis star (again, a feeble joke) Roger Federer. The Swedes, meanwhile, are sporting protest badges with Don Cherry's face and a chicken.
It's hotter than blazes, and the guy waving New Zealand's flag appears to have a poncho over his shoulders with feathers from a Kiwi. How nationalistic. The Italians have silver shoes and silver jackets with white pants, and how great is that? On the other hand, when will they get to wear those again?
Asked by the CBC how it felt to carry Canada's flag, Adam Van Koeverden replied, "It was the best experience of my life thus far."
10:55p.m. Beijing time:
The Canadian Press reports that George W. Bush is the first U.S. president to attend an Olympics on foreign soil. Isn't that weird? I mean, what did the U.S. have against Norway that they stayed away from Lillehammer in 1994? Albertville and France, we can understand (and that would be a joke, folks). Wonder if Obama/McCain will venture all the way north to Vancouver for 2010?
Lots of solid colours for athletes marching in the parade. Plenty of white pants (it's not after Labour Day, unless you mean Chinese Labour Day) so that's okay. And lots of solid jackets; powder blue, red, grey, navy. And lots of hats, including a solid smattering of straw hats.
A big cheer for North Korea; probably no surprise.
Speaking of Canada:
"As we were coming through the tunnel we were singing O Canada a couple times," field hockey player Mike Mahood of Vancouver told the CBC. “The energy is the best part about this thing.
"It’s energy from a Canadian perspective and energy from a global perspective as well. It’s pretty awesome."
Shooter Avianna Chao (born in China but now lives in Toronto): "It’s an extremely powerful experience ... I’m just extremely proud to be Canadian today."
|PAUL CHAISSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS|
10:40 p.m. Beijing time:
A decidely mixed reaction for the Americans, decked out in white pants, blue blazers and white caps that looked like tam o'shanters. Immediately after the enormous American team came in - they took up an entire length of the stadium and then some - came the Virgin Islands. They, too, had white pants, but sported wild print shirts. Somewhere, Jimmy Buffett is standing naked.
Whew, it's still smoking hot in Beijing at 10:40 p.m. They handed out rain ponchos to the media a while ago, and that's not a good sign.
Here comes Zimbabwe, marking 144 of 205 countries who are participating and marching here. Time for a double-tall-no-whip-fat-free-low-tar-fragrance-free-dermatologist-tested latte and a brownie for you. Me, I'd pay a very large amount of RMB for a very cold Tsing Tao.
Numbers Part V:
26 - waiting ambulances
13 - months of rehearsal
4 - depicted inventions of China featured in the ceremony; compass, gunpowder, paper and moveable type
10:05 p.m. in Beijing:
Guys who wear Dockers and golf shirts shouldn't issue clothing critiques. But it's so much fun. I've always enjoyed it when Toronto councillor Pam McConnell wears her "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat" outfit to council meetings. So, I'm wondering why would someone from Guam come here and dress in what one Globe guy next to me dismissed as "funeral director outfits."
Can't figure out what's with the pipe band that's playing as Croatia comes into the stadium. But they've been at it for a while, and now it's "Scotland the Brave."
The Surinam athletes look regal dressed all in white, and now comes Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Raise your hand if you can describe their flag.
10 a.m. in Beijing:
Spain came in and we spotted NBA star Pau Gasol with his shaggy beard. Looked pretty good in a straw hat, too. Didn't spot Jose Calderon of the Raptors, but figure he was probably there.
Big cheer from the Chinese for the small contingent from Iraq. Not sure what kind of reaction they got from U.S.President George W. Bush. On a related topic, Canadian foreign minister David Emerson doesn't seem to be getting much face time on the Jumbotron.
Hungarian athletes appear to be wearing red maple leaves on their uniforms. Or maybe paint splotches. But we love their country, so no nasty emails, folks. They weren't to everyone's taste, but they're more interesting than the Canadians were. Still don't get the Chinese motif with the Canadian uniforms.
9:47 p.m. in Beijing:
As Canada marches in, some folks were on cell phones back home to family or friends. The women were in white skirts, worn just above the knee; the men wore long white pants. Included in the Canadian contingent was the southern Ontario entertainer known universally in China as "Dashan." Canadians have been known to toss frisbees in the past but that's apparently a no-no in these parts. Most of the Canucks were in white ball caps, but there were a few sporting red turbans; a nice nod to Canada's multiculturalism.
9:45 p.m. in Beijing:
Team Canada has entered the building. Led by Oakville kayaker Adam Van Koeverden, the Canadians came into the giant Bird's Nest stadium in north Beijing decked out, naturally enough, in red and white. There were the requisite waves to the crowd and a few folks were sporting video cameras in the hope of capturing some life-long memories.
Numbers Part IV:
147 - length in meters of the paper scroll laid out on the stadium floor
110 - minutes of music, provided by 18 composers
100 - girls who played the pipa, a pear-shaped Chinese instrument
9:35 p.m. in Beijing:
Getting close to Van Koeverden and Canada, folks. Turn off your email and check out your TV while the boss is busy. Or you could always keep reading this.
9:25 p.m. in Beijing:
Jamaica looking spiffy in yellow and black. The Ukraine, well, we'll leave that to Mr. Blackwell. Yellow and blue with weird piping and yellow socks for the women like the ones Elaine wears on Seinfeld. Papua New Guinea, in the 38th spot, looks very authentic. And the Barbados athletes look pretty darn happy.
A nice roar of approval from the crowd for Chinese Taipei. And we noticed that one of the guys carrying the Olympic flag is a mountaineer of Tibetan nationality.
9:10 p.m. in Beijing:
The athletes are finally showing up, and last time we checked they're the reason for the season. Greece traditionally leads the way, and they're coming in now, clad entirely in white and looking very smart. Because of the Chinese alphabet or writing system, Guinea is second on the list for an athlete's parade that will go on for nearly two hours. Canada is 63rd, so there's time to make some coffee and a bagel, folks.
9:05 p.m. in Beijing:
The fireworks are beginning in earnest, shooting red and green stars into the night sky above the stadium as dancers from all the various segments of the show parade on th estadium floor. Red and green-decked women with giant silver headresses, men in black hats that rise high over their heads, folks dressed as dragons, twirling women in fuchsia silk dresses and pink fans, military men in shades of grey or tan and young women in tennis dresses and white boots.
8:55 p.m. in Beijing:
Giant doves in all colours are being displayed on the upper walls of the stadium as school children in bright clothes talk about nature and global warming. Acrobatic male dancers dressed all in white flip and dance in a powerful display of athletic prowess that's most impressive.
As yours truly was watching all of these billions of peope act with such precision, I couldn't help wondering, "How do these people not own the entire planet?"
"It's early," replied an American reporter in the same row of seats.
Now there's a giant, blue globe emerging from the floor and people are running upside down as lights come on to illustrate the green and blue colours of the earth. But then it changes to a Chinese lantern. Amazing stuff.
|And the view from outside the National Stadium.|
8:40 p.m. in Beijing:
A small girl just floated from end of the stadium to another, suspended some 40 feet off the ground. Somewhere, 2 parents were very nervous.
8:35 p.m. in Beijing:
We're 40 minutes into the show, and the colour and drama keeps climbing higher and higher. Opera, costumes that would make legendary Hollywood designer Edith Head green with envy, stirring music and, of course, plenty of fireworks mixed in. The Aussies had a fair bit of whimsy at the 2000 show, but this one's pretty darned serious. Beautiful beyond belief, but not exactly playful. Then again, there's more time to come.
8:30 p.m. in Beijing:
Lang Lang, the young piano-playing star of China, just made an appearance. He's modern and flamboyant and looks like nothing Chairman Mao ever saw in his time of leader of this country. Unless he was taking secret trips to Vegas, of course.
Numbers Part III:
9,000 - performers in the People’s Liberation Army
2,488 - volunteers at the stadium
287 - fireworks points at the top of the stadium
8:25 p.m. in Beijing:
The costumes in this ceremony are beyond stunning. The latest group is wearing what look like giant strands of tan and white silk, with enormous, thin, ivory-coloured sticks emerging from their hats. There also are moveable type blocks dancing up and down on the stadium floor, all powered by humans hidden inside the blocks. Impossible to describe, really. The Chinese invented paper and moveable type, as well as gunpowder and the compass. This part of the ceremony is called "Writing."
8:20 p.m. in Beijing:
A giant scroll has been unrolled on the field, and acrobatic dancers dressed all in black are painting script on the paper as Chinese music plays. You have to think Vancouver 2010 chief organizer John Furlong is taking notes, and probably sweating a little bit over what he'll do to follow China's lead. Anyone for "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay?"
8:12 p.m.in Beijing
56 kids from 56 ethnic groups are marching the Chnese flag into the Bird's Nest stadium while a little girl sings. They're beyond adorable.
8:10 p.m. in Beijing:
They're playing the Chinese anthem. Considering their Olympic team, get used to it.
8:08 p.m.in Beijing:
29 fireworks marching north, like giant footprints in the sky, from Tiananmen Square to the Bird's Nest. The fireworks are in full force, and giant, colourfully-dressed "fairies" are floating into the stadium from the sky as fot music plays and giant Olympic rings of light are raised off the stadium floor.
8:01 p.m. in Beijing:
The Games have begun. The Bird's Nest stadium is aglow with fireworks.
7:58 p.m. in Beijing:
Here we go. Fireworks are ringing the Bird's Nest. The Fou players are drumming under strobe lights and red, green and blue flashlights are twinkling in the stands. This is awesome.
Numbers Part II:
15,153 - costumes featured in the ceremony
14,000 - performers on the floor
10,000 - estimated number of potential marriages in China on 08/08/2008 (eight is a lucky number in China, the ceremony started local time at 8:08 p.m.)
7:55 in Beijing:
The audience is doing the wave. Who on earth is responsible for teaching the Chinese to do this?
The music is starting. Very anthem-like music. Much clapping of hands. Chinese president Hu Jintao is waving to the crowd, and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge is standing next to him in the VIP box.
7:45p.m. in Beijing:
The audience is beginning to chant. They’ve done their pre-game routines with flashlights and there are 2,008 Chinese percussive instruments on the stadium floor. They’re called “fous,” and they’re made of clay or bronze. It’s a hugely impressive sight to see 2,000-plus of these all in precision order. My god, the work that went into this night. Less than 20 minutes to go.
No sign of U.S. President George W. Bush, but the media has pretty good seats. The Star is only about six rows from the floor, right about on the 35-yard line. The atmosphere is 5,000 degrees beyond electric.
Numbers Part I:
4,000,000,000 - estimated worldwide television audience
91,000 - seating capacity of the Bird’s Nest (National Stadium)
60,207 - tickets sold for the Opening Ceremony (which means 30,793 IOC members, National Olympic types, sponsors and media freeloaders)
7 p.m. in Beijing:
Lots of wild costumes for pre-game show … neon lime green and pinks, giant red and yellow umbrellas, Shanghai folk dangers and Uyghur dancers from western China. Pretty cool mix of old and new.
They’re forming the Olympic rings now; wildly dressed folks from the Hui people, performing something called the Passionate Heart Dance. They have to be sweating like crazy in long-sleeved pants, heavy ponchos over their shoulders and big hats.
Boy, the average Canadian may not have a clue as to the ethnic diversity of this country. There are folks dressed like Russians from the west, folks in bright pink outfits that look like something from Thailand and music that alternately sounds Mexican and native American/Canadian. Fascinating.
6 p.m. in Beijing:
The Opening Ceremony for the Beijing Olympics is a couple hours away and it’s stinkin’ hot in the Bird’s Nest. My goodness. We all forgot to bring the little fans they gave us when we checked in that plug into your USB ports on your laptop. Not good.
Looking at the back of the ticket that lets people in, there’s a notice that says people cannot bring in musical instruments, beverages and “large quantities of easily-thrown food, balls, rackets (????), Frisbees and similar objects, large objects such as suitcases (????), bags, flagpoles (surely, they’re kidding), flags of countries or regions not participating in the Games.” I guess the latter means the French CBC reporter who demanded to know if the IOC thought French was being given its rightful due in Beijing can’t float the Quebec drapeau in the press zone.
There’s a video being played on the big screen and Jackie Chan is singing from the top of the Great Wall. Down on the floor fo the stadium, a young man in a bright yellow skirt and open-necked shirt with red trim - very colourful - is standing next to a giant red ball made of steel that looks like the trim on the outside of the Bird’s Nest stadium. A few feet away, an old man is keeping himself cool with a tan-coloured Chinese fan. A couple of nice-looking young girls are standing a few feet away, grinning for a camera and looking as if they can’t believe they’re really here. Neither can I if you want to know the truth.
They say a pre-ceremony show is about to begin. Damned considerate. Stay tuned for details....