(Picture taken from Beijing Olympics official website)
A chanting troupe intoned the Confucian proverb "Friends have come from afar, how happy we are" as China greeted the world with a spectacular opening of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing tonight.
President Hu Jintao officially declared the Games open at the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in front of 90,000 spectators and a worldwide television audience of up to four billion.
The opening ceremony, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Zhang Yimou, saw a parade of 5,000 cheerful competitors from 204 nations, most in their national costumes.
Malaysian Chef-de-mission and two-time Olympian Ho Koh Chye led the Malaysian contingent with cyclist Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang proudly carrying the Jalur Gemilang. The Malaysian contingent looked resplendent in their yellow-and-gold attire – the men in baju Melayu and women in baju kebaya.
With a 33-strong contingent, Malaysia are competing in nine sports – archery, aquatics, badminton, cycling, taekwondo, sailing, shooting, track and field and weighlifting.
Malaysia were the 10th contingent to marched into the stadium after Madagascar. The order for the march past was based on the number of strokes written for the names of the participating countries in simplified Chinese character.
The ceremony caps seven years of work that reshaped the Chinese capital and set the seal on an economic boom that has seen China and its 1.3 billion people emerge as a new superpower.
The extravaganza, cramming 5,000 years of history into one evening, avoided many of the clichéd images of China – no pandas, no red lanterns and no dragon dances.
But the magic was not lost with some 15,000 performers and 29,000 colourful fireworks giving the Games, held every four years, a glittering start.
China did not take astrological chances, opening the Games at the auspicious moment of eight o’clock on the eight month of 2008.
Footnote: *While 204 countries are participating in the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), says Brunei Darussalam did not register any athletes for competition.