BEIJING (AP) — The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics took place Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in attendance.
The event was highlighted by the parade of athletes. Representatives from 91 nations took part, including about 80% of the U.S. delegation of athletes.
As always at an Olympics, Greece was the first nation to enter the stadium. The U.S. was 56th in the order.
Tradition also dictates who the last two teams in the parade are. Italy — the host of the next Winter Games in 2026 — entered next-to-last, and then China closed the parade with its delegation.
The parade featured a couple “firsts.” Saudi Arabia made its first appearance at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony after alpine skier Fayik Abdi qualified to compete. Also making its first appearance is the Caribbean island nation of Haiti. It is being represented by alpine skier Richardson Viano, who was adopted by Italian parents and raised in France.
The event took place at the venue the Chinese officially refer to as National Stadium — it’s the ‘Bird’s Nest’ because of its design, the web of steel resembling the way branches would be turned into a nest. It becomes the first facility to ever play host to the opening of both a summer and winter games, after it also was where the 2008 Olympics began.
Track and field was contested at the Bird’s Nest then, those games being the ones where Usain Bolt’s reign as the greatest Olympic sprinter began with his world-record times in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes.