Feature: Beijing Olympics ends with joy and passion
2008-08-24 14:29:03 GMT 2008-08-24 22:29:03 (Beijing Time) Xinhua
By Sportswriter Chang Ai-ling
BEIJING, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Drums thundered. Fireworks exploded. Hands held. Arms extended... As the Olympic flame went out at the Bird's Nest, Beijing turned the closing ceremony into a jolly farewell party.
The closing extravaganza opened at 8:00 p.m. with more than 90,000 audience packing the stadium counting down from the number of "29", indicating the 29th Olympic Games.
Fireworks burst on top of the Bird's Nest as the countdown ended, forming a great circle in the sky, leaving the audience in raptures.
From "heavenly drums", silver bell danced to men flying in the air on wires. The host combined folk dances with modern techniques, staging an ebullient show of Chinese pride and imagination.
Amid thundering music and roaring cheers, hundreds of athletes from 204 countries and regions walked into the stadium en masse. They mingled in the center of the stadium, laughing, shouting, jumping, hugging...turning the evening gathering into a fun party.
China's basketball superstar Yao Ming, easily recognizable in the crowd, was busy shaking hands, taking photos and receiving hugs from other athletes.
A touching moment came when 12 representatives of volunteers, led by 12 children, walked to the center of the stadium and were presented flowers by the new IOC members of the Athletes' Commission.
"I've never expected this. I am glad that our efforts are appreciated," said Peking University student Tan Yini with a big smile on face, while watching the ceremony from the press tribune.
"I enjoyed so much helping journalists and watching them work over the past days. I feel sad that this is all over and I probably will never see them again," said Tan, a volunteer from the press operations at the Bird's Nest.
During the Games, about 100,000 Olympic volunteers were working day and night, helping athletes, officials, reporters, spectators and tourists in Beijing and the six co-host cities.
Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, paid "particular homage to the thousands of volunteers for their remarkable dedication, patience and endless smiles" in his message to the closing ceremony. "You made the Games," said Rogge.
After the Olympic flag was lowered and handed over to London, the 2008 Olympic host staged a short ceremony to showcase the British enthusiasm. British famed footballer David Beckham stirred up the audience as he showed up and kicked off a football to mark the start of London's Olympic journey.
At 21:25, the Olympic flame slowly went out and a huge "memory tower" elevated at the center of the field with nearly 400 performances simulating the flame on it. The audience, waving luminous props in the hands, swung rhythmically and formed a sky with glittering stars.
Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and Chinese singer Song Zuying brought the audience into ecstasy with their emotional performance of the Flame of Love.
The evening pageant ended in a dancing party as audience and athletes swung to the chorus of a group of Chinese singers, chanting "come, come, please stay.. Tonight, guests from afar, please stay..."
As an old Chinese saying says, all good things must come to an end. To many who have come to Beijing with scrutinizing eyes, the Beijing Games ended well.
"There were very few problems in the Beijing Games. Transportation, organizing, logistics, volunteer services... All better than the games I've been to," Al Pryzbylkowski, a staff with the U.S. magazine Newsweek, said at the closing ceremony.
"Every Games has its flavor. China is certainly impressive in its own way," said the 12-time Olympic participant.