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Olympics opening ceremony as it happened

LIVE TEXT COMMENTARY (all times BST)

By Caroline Cheese

1711: Over four hours later and the flame burns brightly over the Bird's Nest Stadium as it will do for the next 16 days. A triumph of an opening ceremony. Join BBC Sport's night owl Sarah Holt later today (about 2300 BST) as the action gets under way in Beijing...

1705: He then takes his lighter out of his pocket... No, I jest. An enormous torch over the Bird's Nest is alight, and the most dazzling display of fireworks you will ever see is under way.

1704: Li Ning continues to follow the unfurling of the scroll which appeared earlier in the ceremony around the top of the Bird's Nest Stadium. It's spectacular, its dramatic, it's ruddy amazing.

1701: Li Ning takes flight towards the cauldron on the roof and then air-runs around the rim. Air-runs, there's a word I never thought I'd write.

1700: A dragon won't be lighting the flame, it'll be three-times gold medal winning gymnast Li Ning instead.

1655: A massive cheer as a dramatic burst of fireworks announces the arrival of the Olympic torch. Finally.

1653: We're heading towards four hours now... Performers are now imitating flying doves with their hands, the spectators joining in. That will avoid the embarrassment of Seoul 1988 when several doves settled on the edge of the cauldron rim - and were promptly burned when the flame was lit.

1649: Table tennis star Zhang Yining takes the athletes' oath on behalf of all the competitors. Nearly flame time. I can hardly wait. Will it be a dragon?

1645: There's a real sense of anticipation among the crowd as the flag is carried to its pole and the Olympic anthem is sung by a kids choir.

1641: The flag slowly makes its way around the arena before being tilted as it reaches the area where the dignitaries sit.

1636: "I declare the Games of the 29th Olympiad open!" announces Chinese President Hu Jintao, accompanied by a loud swoosh of fireworks. And here comes the Olympic flag.

1636: "I declare the Games of the 29th Olympiad open!" announces Chinese President Hu Jintao, accompanied by a loud swoosh of fireworks. And here comes the Olympic flag.

1635: "To the athletes: reject doping and cheating," continues Rogge, prompting a round of applause. "Make us proud of your achievements and conduct."

1633: IOC president Jacques Rogge is up next. "For a long time China has dreamed of opening its doors and inviting the world's athletes to Beijing. Tonight that dream has come true. Congratulations Beijing."


1630: We're hearing from Liu Qi, president of Beijing's Organising Committee. He must be pleased as punch with this opening ceremony. It's been awesome.


1627: "The Olympic cauldron has now been revealed on the roof of the Bird's Nest. It's a massive silver vase with a red sash across the lower half."
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce inside the Bird's Nest, Twittering on our Olympics blog
See more from Tom on the blog

1625: "Re 1607: Apparently Australia wanted to wear something more classy so opted for the blue suits instead of the usual yellow and green. The blue allegedly represents the coastline of the country??!?"
davec1234 on 606
Join the chat on 606

1623: More from the bagpipes, more from the fireworks and the stage is now in place for the dignitaries.

1621: The Chinese team are taking their place in the centre of the arena and once they're there, we'll have the speeches...

1618: Lin Hao (apologies if the spelling is a bit off) is the star of the show - the little fella, who survived the Sichuan earthquake, is putting heart and soul into his waving. Terrific stuff.

1613: Incredible scenes in the Bird's Nest Stadium as the 639 athletes of the China team wave to the crowd, who all seem to be on their feet to greet their heroes.

1609: The atmosphere suddenly - and dramatically - turns up a notch as China make their entrance, led by 7ft 6ins basketball star Yao Ming and a young survivor from the Sichuan earthquake.

1607: Australia are here - and they're dressed in blue. Strange. Can anyone explain that? Rower James Tomkins carries the flag with one hand - no doubt trying to match former Brit rivals Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent.

1605: A jaunty wave from Prince Albert as the five-man Monaco team arrive. They're still waiting for their first Olympic medal.

1605: A couple of the German team are wearing hats made out of handballs. Crazy cats.

1604: NBA star Dirk Nowitzki carries the flag for Germany. The Dallas Mavericks star has had the the Olympic rings shaved into his head especially for the occasion.

1559: Like those poor dancers, I'm starting to flag now - and humidity isn't such a big issue in Shepherds Bush. Still, we're getting there. Only 12 of the 204 countries remaining.

1556: Switzerland are led in by soon-to-be world tennis number two Roger Federer - who turns 27 today. Canoeist David Florence and swimmer Hannah Miley on the British team are also celebrating their birthday today.

1553: Fabulous effort from Austria, performing what look like star jumps as they make their entrance.

1549: Here come Fiji, whose flag-bearer looks a touch bored if you ask me. Not surprising, they've had to wait a very long time. Where's the mariachi?

1549: Hmmm... still getting a lot of texts about the order the teams are arriving in. Can I refer you to 1414 BST? And let's hear no more about it...

1545: Hold on, the mariachi have struck up again. Bet that gets them dancing. Kiribati are the lucky country to enter the arena just at that moment. And behind them, there's WBC lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao carrying the flag for Philippines.

1541: As a concerned friend points out, the heat has now taken its toll on the dancers around the edge of the arena (see 1504). They are now just clapping.

1538: "Just spotted Tyson Gay in the US line-up. Looks to be moving well after that hamstring injury, if not quite at gold medal pace."
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce inside the Bird's Nest, Twittering on our Olympics blog
See more from Tom on the blog

1534: The US flag is carried by Lopez Lomong, a former Sudanese refugee. He escaped the war-torn country in 1991 and will compete for the US in the 1500m in Beijing.
US hand flag to ex-Sudan refugee

1530: US president George Bush is on his feet as 596 of his countrymen enter the arena.

1526: "There is little sign of any ceremony at all, save for a sizeable chocolate cake especially prepared for the competitors still here (namely the track and field squad and a handful of the judo team), emblazoned with the Olympic rings that have been expertly iced on top."
BBC Sport's Philip Studd at Team GB's holding camp in Macau
Philip Studd's Olympic blog

1523: South Africa enter the arena, led by flag bearer Natalie du Toit. Du Toit, who lost her leg in 2001, will compete in the marathon swim before returning for the Paralympics.
Profile: Natalie du Toit

1517: According to the official press release, the British team's "comfortable and fashionable yet classic" outfit is finished with "traditional British canvas boater shoes". And which self-respecting Brit doesn't have a pair of canvas boater shoes eh? Andy and Jamie Murray certainly look the part as they look out for some familiar faces in the crowd.

1514: Mark Foster enters the arena carrying the Union Jack. He looks a proud man. Princess Anne stands up to wave from the crowd and 14-year-old diving wonderkid Tom Daley is among those to wave back. The team are in white jackets and blue bottoms.

1512: There is the two-man Aruba team, which means five to go until Team GB.

1510: Sheikha Maitha bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum makes history as she becomes the first woman to carry the flag for the United Arab Emirates. She is the daughter of the UAE prime minister.

1506: Just caught our first glimpse of the British team out on the warm-up track. I'm not suggesting they're actually warming up, it's just where they happen to be waiting.

1504: While this is going on, a circle of ladies around the edge of the main arena are clapping and dancing. They've kept up a terrific pace thus far but I sense they are starting to flag in what I'm told is overbearing heat inside the Bird's Nest Stadium.

1500: About 25 teams to go until Great Britain as Guam and Angola make their entrance.

1459: Here come Dominica and their sole representative Chris Lloyd. He's carrying the flag, not surprisingly. Is he driving the bus?


1455: No question about my favourite band accompanying the athletes' parade: it's the mariachi. Sizzling. No offence to the bagpipers, but there just seems to be a buzz around the arena every time the mariachi strike up. Iraq are among the teams to be greeted by the Mexican-style tunes.


1452: And look, there is the Spanish team, including soon-to-be tennis world number one Rafa Nadal. There's got to be gold at these Games for the Spaniards after their spectacular summer.

1450: "First sight of Rafa Nadal, waiting outside the stadium looking hot. In the temperature sense. President Bush now looking a touch bored."
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce inside the Bird's Nest, Twittering on our Olympics blog
See more from Tom on the blog

1447: Little update for UK users: don't worry, you haven't missed them. Once we get to Aruba, you can start hanging out the bunting.

1443: Boxer Alexis Aguello carries the flag for Nicaragua - the first of the non-competing flag-bearers. Manny Pacquiao - another boxer - does the honours for Philippines.


1440: "Which country has the most athletes?" responds amadkiwi0 on 606. Got to be China with 639 hasn't it?

1435: Another anonymous texter writes: "Which of the countries in the Olympics has the least representatives?" Dominica has one, Chris Lloyd in the 200m and 400m.

1428: You can't miss Ukraine in their bright blue jackets and yellow skirts (for the ladies). Legendary pole vaulter Sergei Bubka is part of their delegation. Brunei should have been out next but they have been excluded after failing to register their two athletes. So we're down to 204 countries.

1426: An anonymous texter says Britain should enjoy being ahead of Australia while they can (see 1414). Well, sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has promised to wear the green and gold of Australia if Britain don't finish above them in the medal table. Brave, I'd say.
Minister stakes shirt on Olympics

1422: Here come Israel and I don't think I've ever seen a man so happy as their flag-bearer Michael Kolganov. He's a canoeist. You knew that right? Israel have only ever won one gold medal.

1419: "I'm still trying to figure out just HOW that world came out of the stadium floor. How much space underneath is there?! The plasma screen rim is stunning!"
Myles via text on 81111
Don't think about it for too long, it will cause your brain to melt.

1417: And as Malawi, a small but perfectly formed team of four, enter, we are entertained by a band of bagpipers. I hope proud Scots Andy and Jamie Murray were listening.

1414: The order of the countries is determined by the number of strokes required to write each name in Chinese. So Great Britain are somewhere in the middle, Australia are third last.

1410: As is traditional, Greece - the birthplace of the Olympics - enter the arena first. Their flag is carried by judoka Ilias Iliadis.

1408: The show ends with yet another fabulous firework display, accompanied by dancers representing the 56 ethnic groups of China. Athletes next. If you're waiting for Britain, you may be waiting a while.

1406: "Lordy. I'm half-expecting a spaceship to land in a minute."
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce inside the Bird's Nest, Twittering on our Olympics blog
See more from Tom on the blog

1405: Sarah Brightman appears on top of the globe, looking resplendent in a flowing, white dress. She is singing a specially commissioned theme song with Chinese pop star Liu Huan.

1400: We're coming towards the end of the show now and the theme is now space exploration, the arena opening up to reveal a 16-tonne globe with a diameter of 18m. Wow. The athletes, by the way, are due to start arriving at 1407 BST.

1356: And while we're looking to the future, what about 2016? "When God made the world, he prepared Rio for the Olympic Games," says Brazil president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Rio is competing against Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid.

1353: It's a shame London 2012 boss Seb Coe cannot see the texts coming in via 81111. He wouldn't need an expensive organising committee for the opening ceremony. "Sausage rolls and party hats anyone?" says Dave. Yes please sir.

1349: Lang Lang gets the piano to himself for a dramatic finish as performers dressed in light suits form the shape of the Bird's Nest Stadium, and a little girl in red represents a kite flying into the sky. Now for a spot of calming Tai Chi.

1346: I sense we're moving into part two of the show, entitled 'Glorious Era'. That prompts a dramatic change in colour in the arena, into garish yellows and greens. Psychedelic.

1344: Lang Lang, who is one of the world's greatest pianists by all accounts, takes centre stage, sitting at a white piano with a little girl. She's bashing the keys randomly, causing Lang much amusement.

1341: "I'm not even Chinese but the awesomeness of it is making me tearful."
Ginger via text on 81111
Me too, Ginger, me too.

1338: "Re 1326: Bring on Chas 'n' Dave in 2012!"
Anon via text on 81111

1336: I am told 80,000 UK users are watching the live stream of this quite mind-blowing ceremony. That's almost a Bird's Nest Stadium... Get back to work, slackers. Just kidding. Stay tuned throughout these Games folks, because we'll have multi-event streaming every single flipping day. Hurrah.

1330: "It's like being at some sort of mystical rave. The scale of it is almost frightening. Although the fireworks are tremendous."
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce inside the Bird's Nest, Twittering on our Olympics blog
See more from Tom on the blog

1328: I'm not going to pretend I know what's going on here. Seems to be a lot of mention of Confucius. I am just confused. Very spectacular though. We've got some dancing puppets now.

1326: "How are we going to compete with this in 2012? Don't think we could or will."
Mike via text on 81111

1322: According to my colleague, an audience of four billion are watching this. What? Who's keeping the wheels of industry turning? Some of those people are in Trafalgar Square, where a big screen has been set up, and apparently there were tears during the national anthem.


1319: "The Chinese don't do things by half, so I bet this will be an opening ceremony like no other."
Worthster on 606
Join the chat on 606

1317: Just the 14,000 performers in action tonight in a ceremony directed by House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou - whose work was once banned in China. The performance is taking place on a clever, moving scroll in the centre of the arena.

1314: Yet more fireworks as the Chinese flag is lifted and it's onto the meat of the ceremony now. This first half is entitled 'Brilliant Civilisation'. Brilliant.

1308: As the magic time arrives, a small girl sings the Chinese national anthem as the Chinese flag is carried in by a host of kids. The Chinese consider eight to be an auspicious number because it sounds like the word for prosperity. So there.

1307: The Olympic rings light up on the floor of the arena and then magically lift towards the sky - how the heck did they do that? Remarkable.

1306: There will be 20,000 fireworks used during this ceremony, says the BBC's Huw Edwards. Crikey, I love fireworks.

1305: Fireworks all across Beijing at all the Olympic venues.

1303: There's Chinese president President Hu Jintao waving to an expectant crowd. Bit more drumming now as we count down to eight minutes past eight on the eighth day of the eighth month. Neat symmetry there, almost like they planned it.

1300: Boom. There go the first of the fireworks rising from the top of the stadium. If that's just the start, I don't dare imagine what's coming up. Excited? You betcha.

1258: Here we go then. Thousands of drummers are lined up in military style in the arena, beating the countdown to the start of the ceremony. Every time they strike their drum, it lights up, creating a dazzling, strobe lighting effect.

1255: So what to expect from this evening's extravaganza? Here's BBC commentator Huw Edwards: "It's big, it's spectacular, it's epic, and it's pretty long - but stay with it, it's well worth it." As always, the lighting of the flame is shrouded in mystery - although our very own Tom Fordyce is tipping a dragon to get the nod.

Tom's BBC blog

1253: And as a military band strikes up in the Bird's Nest Stadium, can I just remind you that I want - no, need - your input, so please head over to 606 or drop me a text on 81111. Don't leave me hanging now…


1249: Right, if you're in the UK and you want to watch the action, you will need to refresh this page and it should appear at the top - and then you can throw away your F5 button. Promise.

1246: "49 minutes until kick-off. Hotter than the World Sauna Championships in here. Wonder if the Bird's Nest concession stands do Mini-Milks?"
BBC Sport's Tom Fordyce inside the Bird's Nest, via Twitter

See more of Tom's Twitter on his BBC blog


1243: Let's get some admin out of the way shall we? Regular users of these text commentary thingies might have noticed a change. This page will update in front of your very eyes (providing I can work the new technology), so you have no need for your F5 button - go on, rip it off, throw it away, it's useless to you now. And if you are a UK user, you can ignore me twittering on and actually watch the action for yourself. Splendid.

1240: The Bird's Nest Stadium is almost at its 90,000 capacity as the clock ticks towards the start of the opening ceremony at 1300 BST. Night has fallen in Beijing so there's no sign of the pesky smog, but BBC Sport presenter Sue Barker has chosen a very bright yellow outfit tonight just in case we're struggling to see her.


1230: Good afternoon/morning/evening. The wait is almost over, folks. In just three hours' time, the Games of the 29th Olympiad will be officially open. In the meantime, you, like me, will be looking forward to: Dancers! Drummers! Fireworks! Thousands of athletes waving! Doves! More dancers! More fireworks! Etc etc…



HOW TO JOIN THE DISCUSSION
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(with "OLYMPICS" as first word - UK users only)

At-a-glance medals table

Sunday, 24 August 2008 10:17 UK
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze TOTAL
1 China 51 21 28 100
2 USA 36 38 36 110
3 Russia 23 21 28 72
4 Great Britain 19 13 15 47
5 Germany 16 10 15 41
6 Australia 14 15 17 46
7 South Korea 13 10 8 31
8 Japan 9 6 10 25
9 Italy 8 10 10 28
10 France 7 16 17 40

see also
Games begin with spectacular show
08 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Opening ceremony photos
08 Aug 08 |  Olympics


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