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Now ascendant as a global power, China welcomed scores of world leaders to an opening ceremony watched by 91,000 people at the eye-catching National Stadium and a potential audience of 4 billion worldwide. It was depicted as the largest, costliest extravaganza in Olympic history, bookended by barrages of some 30,000 fireworks.
Read more about the ceremony from AP. Check out the slideshow from the ceremony below. Check back for updates.
Photos courtesy of AP, AFP and Reuters
The Sydney Morning Herald called the event a "perfect opening."
An eight became a perfect 10 in Beijing tonight.
The opening ceremony of the 29th Olympics Games began at precisely 8pm on the eighth day of the eighth month, 2008.
A Chinese opera performance, surrounded by 3000 disciples of Confucius, was a parochial and fitting moment during the first half of the performance.
The demonstration of Taijiquan, the most representative shadow boxing in Chinese martial arts, brought the crowd to its feet in warm applause one hour into the ceremony.
Click here for more reviews of the opening ceremony.
HuffPost blogger Jack Hidary describes the ceremony from Beijing:
The Beijing Olympics are off with a bang. Red and white fireworks criss-cross the stadium as the crowd cheers.
One thousand men beat on large square drums. White lights flash off the drums with each beat.
A young girl in red steps forward and sings the Chinese patriotic song Five Stars as the crowd waves tens of thousands of red national flags.
The guard raises the main standard as the military band play the national anthem. The majority of the audience is clearly Chinese as a good part of stadium is chanting along to this not-very-catchy tune.
Now the birds nest stadium goes dark and a white scroll emerges from the center. As it unfurls the letters are made up of dancers in black. Pilobolus would be proud.
This ceremony is clearly going to focus on Chinese themes -- this is not an international mosaic but an exploration of how and why China got to where it is today.
More video from outside the Bird's Nest