Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 17:46 UK

Tears and pride as Games opening is watched in UK

By Sarah Bell
BBC News

Alex Qu and his school party
Crowds watched the ceremony on screens across the UK

As fireworks exploded over the Olympic stadium in Beijing, many of the Chinese people watching the opening ceremony back in London burst into tears.

For those who were thousands of miles away from home Trafalgar Square was the only place to be, and their sense of pride was clear.

Yet, just a mile across town, protesters outside the Chinese Embassy provided a reminder of the controversy surrounding the Games.

Protesters from Tibet, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Burma joined forces to voice their anger about human rights violations.

Back in Trafalgar Square, the start of the games was marked with a typically-British round of applause following a countdown from 10.

Cheers rang out when the president of China appeared on the giant screen, before his compatriots stood and sang a rousing rendition of their national anthem.

'Really excited'

Ling Xie, 37, who has lived in the UK for over a year, cried as aerial footage of Bejing, her home town, appeared on the screen.

"I'm really excited. It's a great honour for my country. It's a terrific feeling. My country is very, very great," she said.

"I came here because I wanted to feel the environment and lots of Chinese people have come together."

Ling Xie
A number of "I love China" t-shirts were spotted in the crowd

Alex Qu, who was leading a group of schoolchildren from Nanjing taking time out of their trip to watch the ceremony, brandished a large Chinese flag.

"This is amazing for them. They are supposed to be in their English class this afternoon, but for days they have been asking if they could come down here. It's wonderful," he said.

Many in the crowd were office workers catching a glimpse of the ceremony on their lunch breaks.

Australian Alex McCabe, 27, said she had a special interest in the games as one friend, a rower, would be competing.

She said: "I get quite emotional about things like this. I've just phoned my parents to tell them I'm watching this in Trafalgar Square, to make them jealous. It's pretty amazing to be watching it here."

Human rights

At the protest in Portland place, flags were waved by the crowd who chanted "free Tibet".

Liawang Tsang fled Tibet with his family nine years ago in order to escape from the Chinese regime.

He said: "We are here together today because we need the Chinese government to talk about human rights, the situation in Tibet and media freedom.

Protesters outside Chinese Embassy
Protesters drummed and chanted

"The Olympics shouldn't have been offered to China on the basis of their human rights record, but from this there have been positives as the attention of the world is now on China and their human rights record is in the spotlight."

As building work on the London Olympic park at Stratford continues, many people were thinking forward to 2012, when the UK will be running the show.

This was certainly on the mind of Patrick McGregor, 29.

He said of the Chinese effort: "They're throwing everything they've got at this event. It'll be very hard for us to compete with that."

London will become the official Olympic city at the closing ceremony in Bejing on 24 August, when the IOC president will hand the Olympic Flag to Mayor Boris Johnson.

A free party for 40,000 people near Buckingham Palace on the Mall will mark the event, with pictures from London incorporated into the closing ceremony.

Then all eyes will swing towards the capital, to see whether it can match the Chinese for glamour, excitement, and pride.

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