9 Aug 2008

Olympic flame burns in Beijing

12:02 pm on 9 August 2008

The Olympic flame is burning at the top of China's new national stadium, marking the opening of the 2008 Beijing Games.

China's President Hu Jintao has officially declared the 29th Games open.

Champion gymnast Li Ning lit the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch on Friday night. He was winched up to the rim of the stadium to the cauldron and an explosion of fireworks ensued.

The spectacular display ended a three hour opening ceremony.

The event opened with a spectacular display of dancing, music and fireworks involving 15,000 performers, in front of 90,000 fans in the new stadium. The venue is known as the Bird's Nest because of its steel lattice construction.

The show was followed by a parade of the teams from the 205 countries taking part. New Zealand athletes were led by rower Mahe Drysdale.

The opening ceremony began at 8.08pm on 8 August, 2008, reflecting a belief widespread in Asia that eight is a lucky number.

The event took seven years to plan, at an estimated cost at $US40 billion.

International Olympics committee head Jacques Rogge congratulated China and urged athletes to shun doping.