Spectacular start

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

BEIJING - This Chinese capital is by nature not a sleepy place, but it became more lively on Friday night during the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony at the posh Olympic Stadium, otherwise also known as The Birds' Nest.

The stadium was packed to the rafters with people from all walks of life to cheer for their respective teams as they paraded around at the venue.

There were also thousands of people outside the stadium who could not make it inside.

They elatedly watched the proceedings on giant television screens outside the stadium, though.

The smoke of firecrackers engulfed the stadium and people just loved the ambiance generated.

Different productions of performing arts stole the public eye on the night with their performances that they perfected in 13 months of serious rehearsal.

Friday was declared a holiday in Beijing to mark the opening day of the keenly-anticipated Olympic Games.

The ceremony focused on one theme: "China's long and distinguished history" and celebrated Chinese civilisation and the importance of harmony.

Jacques Rogge, International Olympics Committee (IOC) president, took the stage and urged athletes to refrain from using banned substances in sports.

In his short speech, Rogge said: "For a long time China has dreamed of opening its doors and inviting the world's athletes to Beijing for the Olympic Games. Tonight that dream comes true."

The excitement was not only confined to the stadium as a myriad of Chinese - our black brothers and sisters as they have become back home in Mzansi - and other nationals celebrated the opening ceremony of the biggest multi-coded sporting event on the streets of the colourful Beijing.

Volunteers, dressed in their white and red attire, joined the party.

Leading clothing shops, which trade until late in the evening, were closed for the ceremony.

The Beijing Olympics Organising Committee and director Zhang Yimou, including all the stakeholders, should be applauded for organising such a highly successful Games opener.

While many people were in celebratory mood, some tourists were complaining about the "exorbitant" prices hotels were charging them for accommodation since the start of the Games.

"I'm not here for the Olympics but just to tour as I always do but what I'm required to pay for accommodation is shocking. I paid $100 (about R779) per night for accommodation when I arrived on Monday but suddenly they are charging me $300 (about R2 337) per night. It's absurd," charged a tourist from Australia yesterday.

The weekend started on a fear-provoking note in China following the suspected terrorist attack that killed 16 border police in the autonomous Xinjiang Uygur region in Kashgar on Monday.

But authorities described the attack as an isolated incident and stressed that security had been tightened and that the Games would go on.