BEIJING - Olympic Games underway: The Beijing Olympics were officially declared open on Friday at a glittering ceremony in the showcase Bird's Nest stadium at which China celebrated its ancient past and modern power.
Opening ceremony in Beijing (Photo: Reuters)
Chinese President Hu Jintao's announcement was made before an estimated global television audience of one billion and a capacity crowd in the stadium that included more than 80 world leaders and royals.
A choreographed series of white flashes lit up the skies Friday. The blasts began at Qianmen, Beijing's ancient city gate, and moved north through the city along the axis that in imperial times marked the political and religious path of power. Children covered their ears from the noise and the crowd craned their necks skyward as the blasts shook Beijing.
Here comes Israel (Photo: Reuters)
A total of 15,000 participants took part in the opening ceremonies, 29,000 firecrackers lit up Beijing's skies, and a record number of 205 delegations marched through China's spectacular Olympic stadium. The ceremony featured extravagant performances by China's best artists.
Israel's delegation to the Olympic Games was led by canoeist Michael Kolganov, who won the bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Kolganov was given the honor of carrying the blue-and-white flag and leading Israel's Olympic contingent around the stadium.
Meanwhile, no less than 80 leaders and statesmen, including George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Israel's own Shimon Peres honored China by attending the opening ceremony.
Saar Haas contributed to the report