AUGUST 10, 2008
(STAR) By Gerry Carpio – To the droll of Xia Dynasty drums and an explosion of fireworks, 2008 voices sang ancient songs of welcome and a young girl, garbed in bright Chinese dress, serenaded the 91,000 leaders, sportsmen and fans and three billion more from the rest of the planet to the grandest party of the century inside the Bird’s Nest Friday night

At the stroke of eight – at 08-08-08 – the lights dimmed, a belt of light streaked across the darkened stadium and sparked an ear-splitting explosion of pyrotechnics that lit the vast expanse of Beijing skies in a glow of red, crimson, yellow and green colors.

It was the opening ceremonies of the XXIX Olympic Games.

Eighty heads of state, among them President Arroyo, and 90,000 who came out of the traffic snarl, filled all seats of the state-of-the-art Bird’s Nest, the national stadium, a modern architectural wonder made from 42,000 tons of steel twice the strength of ordinary steel.

Over three billion more TV audiences from across five continents witnessed the Broadway gala, a coming-out party of a hard-lined reclusive socialist country Deng Xiaopeng opened to the world in 1978 and turned into the third most powerful country of modern times.

Each of the heads of nations stood as their battle-ready contingents marched one by one past the grand stand.

The Philippine contingent came in, led by boxing idol Manny Pacquiao, all dressed in Barong Tagalog Bahrain paraded with its colorful Muslim costumes and the picture of its beloved king. The black men and women of the humble country of Chad marched proudly in pure white cassocks while Lilthuanians wore red, green and yellow, the colors of their national flag.

Iraq, suspended by the International Olympic Committee on the issue of political interference, paraded a token four-member team.

The US, led by its basketball team in dark suits and matching white pants and caps, waved at President George W. Bush. Houston Rockets star Yao Ming produced the loudest cheer as the 7-6 behemoth, with a small kid by his side, carried the flag in front of China’s 750-strong athletic delegation.

The host country, the world’s third largest in size with a population of 1.30 billion, brought its international audience down the the paths of history in a multi-million production with a cast of 15000 by internationally-acclaimed film director Zhang Yimou.

A scroll painting by a Chinese artist of old dissolved into a giant magic carpet, suspended on air, which became the stage on which unfolded milestones upon milestones of its 5,000-year history, from the era of the great Chinese dynasties to the time Mao Tze Tung who united all 56 ethnic groups under his Marx-inspired concept of social equality, and finally to modern China, which has lfited 200 million from absolute poverty and now maintains the world’s highest foreign exchange reserves.

With heavy strokes of arms and legs, 2008 Warriors beat ancient fou drums to a crescendo of sound so loud the earth quaked underneath. Moments later the giant LED screen flashed milestones in the last 60 years — the Cultural Revolution in 1948, the Great Leap Forward in 1958, the open policy of Shin Dao Peng in 1978 which ushered in China’s entry to globalization.

More than just a chronicle of achievements, Beijing delivered a message of peace and harmony.

Sarah Brightman and popular Chinese idol Liu Huan sang You andMe, a variation of the One Word, One Dream mantra, as they were surrounded by 2008 volunteers, each presenting a smiling face collected from around the globe.

Fifty-six children, clad in the costumes of the 56 Chinese groups and representing the future and hope of China, took tiny steps to deliver the Olympic as they smiled and waved to the crowd.

Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the games open. Li Ning, winner of three gold medals in the 1964 Olympics, carried the Olympic Torch as he glided and skywalked through the stadium to a tube 70 meters above the crowd.

With a touch of magic, he lit the tube, sending a burst of light that set alight the Olympic Flame of Peace, and, amid a burst of fireworks, 20008 voices sang “Welcome to Beijing.”

Manny not lone non-participant to carry flag Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Philippines is not the only country with a non-participant flag bearer in the 2008 Beijing Games.

Marshall Islands’ Waylon Muller, Djibouti’s Salah Houssein Ahmed and Ethiopia’s Miruts Yifter joined Manny Pacquiao as flag bearers of their respective countries in the opening ceremony although they are not competing in the quadrennial meet.

Muller is an official, Ahmed a former Olympian, Yifter a coach and Pacquiao probably the best pound-for-pound professional boxer in the world today.

The batch of flag bearers are star-studded with popular NBA players Yao Ming of China, Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, Manu Ginobilli of Argentina and Dirk Nowitzki of Germany carrying the flags of their respective nations.

Tennis star Roger Federer carried Switzerland’s colors.

The powerhouse United States, for its part, had Lopez Lomong as its flag bearer for his inspiring journey from a Sudanese refugee camp to the Olympics. – Joey Villar

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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