You can't actually see it yet, but the opening ceremonies have taken place and the 2008 Summer Olympics are officially underway, some 12 hours ahead of us here on the East Coast. After some seven years of planning, roughly $5 billion in spending and seemingly even more controversies, China responded, with an opening ceremony that is receiving positive reviews.
Now ascendent as a global power, China welcomed scores of world leaders to an opening ceremony watched by 91,000 people at the eye-catching 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.
After the past weeks, when focus has been on pollution, smog, violence and "what-if's," the attention can now (hopefully) turn to the athletes and the games themselves.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images, via Fourth-Place Medal)