Olympic Village Opens in Beijing (PHOTOS)

08/11/2008 12:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Athletes' Village for the Beijing Olympics held its official opening ceremony Sunday, an all-Chinese curtain raiser with basketball stars Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian and Wang Zhizhi heading a 265-member delegation of athletes and officials.

A few foreign delegations were in town Sunday -- just 12 days before the opening ceremony of the games -- but none appeared officially at the inauguration, which was festooned with confetti and dozens of Chinese children handing out Olympic mascots to some of country's most powerful politicians.

"We now welcome athletes from around the world to come to the games," said Chen Zhili, speaking from a stage draped in red. Chen is the so-called mayor of the village, and a vice president of the organizing committee.

Here is a slideshow from Sunday's opening:

"We will try to satisfy the needs of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds," said Chen, who received a symbolic gold key to the village from organizing committee president Liu Qi. Liu is also the head of Beijing's Communist Party.

The opening came on a hot, muggy morning made more uncomfortable by the thick haze of pollution hanging over the village, which is to house about 16,000 athletes and officials.

Despite drastic pollution-control measures that have been in effect for a week, Beijing's air quality appears much the same as it did before. The Athletes' Village was cloaked in choking smog, making it invisible from the main Olympic Green area just a half-mile away.