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Olympics open with full variety of athletes; flag bearers relishing moment, athletes celebrate, ready for the big Games


By WcP.Story.Teller - Posted on 09 August 2008

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

(quote)

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

China launched the 29th summer Olympics on Friday with a glittering opening ceremony combining 5,000 years of its history with a modern firecracker of a show.

The 91,000-strong crowd in the National Stadium, and more than a billion television viewers, earlier saw the hoisting of the Chinese flag which was carried into the stadium by children from China's 56 ethnic groups after 2,008 drummers had started the show.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Around 11,000 athletes from a record 204 nations will compete in 28 sports for 302 gold medals at the first Olympics in China and third in Asia, following Tokyo in 1964 and Seoul in 1988.

The Opening Ceremony is a cavalcade of athletes that could include everyone from 41-year-old swimmin' women to bone-thin young men from underfed lands. It will be an Olympics of table-tennis players and Wimbledon winners, of Israeli sailors and Iraqi rowers, of the Queen of Britain's granddaughter (who rides a horse) to "King" LeBron James (who shoots hoops).

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

You could catch a glimpse of American superjocks ranging from aquaman Michael Phelps to the flash Tyson Gay, from basketball's Sue Bird to softball's Jennie Finch (both aptly named to be in a Bird's Nest), from king of the court Kobe Bryant to queens Venus and Serena Williams.

There is a U.S. taekwondo team with practically everybody on it from Sugar Land, Texas, with the name of Lopez. There is a Ping-Pong team for the United States made up almost exclusively of Asians. There is a U.S. woman named Becky Hammon playing basketball for the Russians even though she has about as many Russian genes as Tom Sawyer.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

There is a Japanese baseball pitcher named Yu Darvish whose name you might try to remember because a number of big-league scouts believe Yu someday could become a name in the American game every bit as popular as Ichiro or Fukudome or Dice-K.

There is a synchronized diver, a springboard diver, a backstroker and a butterflyer from that hotbed of swimming, Illinois.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

There are 173 athletes on the U.S. team from California, 44 from Texas, 25 from New York and 10 from Indiana, including an very independent young Indy woman named Amber who throws a hammer.

There is a 23-year-old man named Lopez Lomong, born in Sudan on a New Year's Day, who now lives in Flagstaff, Ariz., and will carry the U.S. flag and staff into the arena as the honorary leader of the team.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

There is a middle-aged swimmer, Dara Torres, who has made a name for herself in a swimming pool while others in their 40s go soak their tired limbs in hydrotherapy.

There is a swimmer, Amanda Beard, who has made a name for herself in and out of bathing suits.

There is a diver, Christina Loukas, whose dad runs the Cubby Bear lounge on the corner opposite Wrigley Field, and a 250-pound wrestler, Larry Langowski, who runs an ice-cream parlor in Logan Square but is in Beijing to wrestle for Mexico.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

There is a 39-year-old Michigan woman who weighs all of 117 pounds, Sheila Taormina, who might be the best athlete you never heard of.

Taormina has come to these Olympics—her fourth Olympics, by the way—to compete in modern pentathlon—her third Olympic sport, by the way, having competed previously in swimming and triathlon.

"The pool's awesome!" Torres raved. "I've never seen such a great facility!"

"The Olympic Village is phenomenal!" U.S. gymnast Rav Bhavsar said. "Even the cafeteria."

There is excitement in the air.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of NBC

Original Source: Chicago Tribune and Deutsche Welle

Image Galleries at: nbcolympics.com

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