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32OLYMPIC REVIEW UNIVERSALITY The Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony was a truly stunning welcome to the world from host country China. On a balmy night with the excitement palpable among the 91,000- strong crowd in the Bird's Nest, fireworks led the countdown from ten down to one and then 2008 performers chanted a welcome from China's most famous philosopher Confucius: " Welcome to those who have come far". The Olympic Rings appeared on the floor of the stadium then came alive in 3D and rose into the air. Then began a visual illustration of China's history through painting, scrolls and the Silk Road followed by a demonstration of the traditional and ancient THEGREATEST SHOWONEARTH Above, right and below Thousands of performers took part in the spectacular Opening Ceremony, which visually illustrated China's rich history art of Tai Chi. Director Zhang Yimou's masterpiece of colour and chorography blended cultural history and creativity to bring 5,000 years of history to the world through modern technology. The traditional athletes' parade saw 204 nations and territories march into the stadium to rapturous applause from the predominantly Chinese crowd. The largest cheer, naturally, was reserved for last as basketball star Yao Ming proudly carried the host's flag into the arena, accompanied by a young boy who had saved two of his class- mates during the recent earthquake in Sichuan. IOC President Jacques Rogge delivered a welcome to the world before Chinese President Hu Jintao declared open the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. The last recipient in the Olympic Torch relay, former Chinese gymnast Ning Li, ignited the cauldron. As the world held its breath he was lifted, by wires, high up to the roof of the stadium and leapt around the whole circumference before lighting the cauldron. At the conclusion and the spectacular display of pyrotechnics, which lasted three minutes and involved 30,000 fireworks, the stage was lit perfectly for the sporting competition to begin.