Awesome! Beijing 2008 Olympics off with a bang
published Gleaner: Saturday | August 9, 2008
Elton Tucker, Assistant Sport Editor
Veronica Campbell-Brown carries the flag for her country's Olympic team during yesterday's opening ceremony of the 29th Games in Beijing, China. - AP
A spectacular opening ceremony, witnessed by over 90,000 spectators at the Beijing Olympic Stadium, heralded the start of the 29th Olympiad in the Chinese capital last night.
Jamaica, led by flag-bearer Veronica Campbell-Brown, the 2004 200 metres champion, was the 19th country to march into the hot, humid giant stadium known here as the Bird's Nest because of its unique shape.
Teams marched in based on the number of strokes of the names of the National Olympic Committees as written in simplified Chinese characters. Traditionally, however, the previous hosts, Greece, came in first while the current hosts entered the stadium last to tumultuous applause.
There was colour, pageantry and style as China showcased its varied and fine tradition. The hour-long first segment was highlighted by the performances of colourfully dressed dance and drum troupes from all across this vast country.
There were many famous names among the flag-bearers. Tennis star carried the Swiss flag while basketballer Manuel Ginobili was the flag-bearer for Argentina. Other basketball stars featured for their countries. Chinese megastar Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets brought the house down when he entered with the Chinese flag. For Germany it was Dallas Mavericks standout Dirk Nowitski.
Regional countries also featured famous athletes. Olympic relay gold medallist Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas carried her country's flag while Felix Sanchez, the 400m hurdles gold medallist of four years ago, marched with the flag of the Dominican Republic.
President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, hailed China's role in bringing the Olympic dream to life. He said Beijing was "a host to the present and a gateway to the future".
The IOC president added: "You have chosen as the theme of these Games "One World, One Dream'. That is that we are tonight.
"Remember that they are about much more than performance alone. They are about the peaceful gathering of National Olympic Committees - regardless of ethnic origin, gender, religion or political system. Please compete in the spirit of the Olympic values: excellence, friendship and respect."
Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the Games officially open in front of more than 80 world leaders including American President George W. Bush.
Competition, which began on Wednesday with preliminary matches in football, officially starts today with seven gold medals to be decided - two each in judo and shooting and one each in road cycling, fencing and weightlifting.
Jamaica's main interest is in Hong Kong where Samantha Albert competes in eventing, the most complete equestrian discipline. Today and tomorrow the rider, both individual and team, will compete in the dressage with the cross-country, the most demanding of the three eventing segments, set for Monday.Meanwhile, the track and field athletes who travelled from Tianjin for the opening ceremony travelled back to the camp on Friday night. They will enter the village on Monday to await the start of the track-and-field events on Friday at the Bird's Nest Stadium.