Going for Gold - Daily Nation

Olympics off to a colourful start in Beijing, China

Friday August 8 2008

The Kenya Olympic team. Photo/MOHAMED AMIN

The Kenya Olympic team. Photo/MOHAMED AMIN 

By ELIAS MAKORI in Beijing, China

Kenya joined the rest of the world at a spectacular opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games at the newly-built National Olympic Stadium Friday night.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka witnesses the ceremony alongside Chinese host Hu Jintao, US President George W. Bush and about 100 world leaders and government representatives.

The three-hour show ranked as the most sophisticated ever in the history of the games with thousands of performers entertaining a 91,000 strong audience.

It highlighted Chinese history and culture depicted on a huge scroll which was the size of one and a half football grounds.

Harmony was the theme of the opening ceremony that was titled “Beautiful Olympics” by its designers with China’s Liu Huan and Briton Sarah Brightman signing together the Olympic Games theme song.

Friday night’s ceremony started at exactly eight seconds past eight minutes past eight o’clock. To the Chinese, eight is a lucky number that brings with it great tidings, hence the selection of the time, date and month for the spectacular opening ceremony.

Kenya’s national cross country champion Grace Momanyi, who will compete in the 10,000 metres race at the Beijing Games, was the national team’s flag bearer as the athletes marched round the stadium.

She was followed by Mr David Okeyo, the head of the Kenyan delegation to the Games. Kenya has contestants in athletics, taekwondo, swimming, rowing and boxing.

The Kenyan team entered the Olympic Stadium at exactly 10.15pm to a good applause as the stadium’s giant television screens captured images of National Olympic Committee of Kenya chairman Kipchoge Keino, a 1968 Olympic Games medallist accorded celebrity status here.

Biggest competition

The Kenyan Olympics chief was among the dignitaries for whom the VIP area was reserved alongside President Bush whose security detail worked flawlessly to make sure nothing went wrong in the wake of threats of terrorist attacks during the ceremony that celebrates the biggest competition in world sport.

The cream of global sporting talent marched round the stadium including world number one tennis player, Roger Federer, who carried Switzerland’s flag.

US basketball superstars were also on parade with the American flag carried by former Sudanese athlete Lopez Lomong.

Although the opening ceremony was performed last night, competition at the Games has already started in football with Kenya making their first appearance on Saturday in rowing and boxing.

Boxer Aziz Ali comes up against Turkey’s Muzaffer Bahram in the light heavyweight category at the Workers Gymnasium here today with rower Matthew Lidaywa competing in the 1,000 metres men’s singles sculls category.