10 Aug 2008

NZ athletes in nine Olympic sports on first day

2:10 pm on 10 August 2008

New Zealand athletes competed in nine sports on the first full day of the Beijing Olympics.

World champion single sculls rower Mahe Drysdale has easily qualified for the quarter finals of his event.

Drysdale, who carried the New Zealand flag at Friday night's opening ceremony, was comfortable throughout the race, eventually winning by three boat lengths in a time of seven minutes 28.87 seconds.

The New Zealand single sculls rower Emma Twigg has also won her heat.

She finished in a time of 7m 45.18s to progress to the quarter-finals.

The New Zealand equestrian Mark Todd is in ninth place after the opening session of the three day event dressage competition in Hong Kong.

Todd, on Gandalf, battled oppressive humidity to pick up 49.40 penalties.

Fellow New Zealander Heelan Tompkins on Sugoi is 19th with 55.6 penalties and Andrew Nicholson competes in the Saturday evening session.

The rowing contingent will have their opening heats while the swimmers, yachties, shooters and badminton players also have their first events.

The New Zealand women's basketball team has beaten Mali 76-72 in their opening match.

Cyclists Glen Chadwick, Julian Dean and Timothy Gudsell found the intense heat tough in the men's road race.

Tim Gudsell failed to finish, while four-time Tour de France rider Julian Dean was 54th and Glen Chadwick 82nd.

The race was won by Samuel Sanchez of Spain.

Glittering opening ceremony

Early on Saturday morning China's President Hu Jintao officially declared the 29th Games open.

Champion gymnast Li Ning was winched up to the rim of the stadium where he lit the cauldron with the Olympic torch. An explosion of fireworks followed, ending the 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.

For more, see the Beijing 2008 site on Radio New Zealand's home page.