China has welcomed the Olympics in spectacular fashion – with fireworks and one of the most lavish opening ceremonies in the games’ history.
As the ceremony was under way in the Bird’s Nest stadium, Al Jazeera spoke to some of the tens of thousands of spectators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, many of whom had travelled hundreds of kilometres across China to be in Beijing for the Olympics.
Bai Liangxian, 38, from Henan province
I don’t have the chance to go inside the Bird’s Nest, which is a pity, but I still wanted to come here to see the fireworks in Tiananmen Square and celebrate the start of the Olympics.
I’ve been watching the opening ceremony on my mobile phone, and I think it’s really magnificent.
It makes me very proud to be Chinese and very proud that China is hosting the Olympics.
China has been waiting for almost 100 years to host the Olympics, so now the Olympics are finally here I couldn’t waste the chance to be here.
I’ve watched all the recent Olympics and I’m sure this one will be the best yet.
Teng Qianzhi, 22, from Shanxi province
I don’t know how to express my excitement in words – it’s a very important day for me and for China.
Hosting the Olympics means China is getting much bigger and stronger and it’s such a great honour for China to host the games.
I’ll be watching the games from home – especially my favourite sports such as diving.
Getting a ticket to that would be my dream.
Luo Chunqing, 18, from Beijing
I’m very excited about the Olympics coming to China and very happy to feel the atmosphere here with all these people in Tiananmen Square. It’s a great source of pride for China and for the Chinese that the Olympics are here. China has been waiting for so many years to get the games, so I’m very proud to be Chinese right now.
Swimming is my favourite sport – I can’t remember the names of China’s best swimmers because I’m too busy celebrating, but they are all good and I’m sure they will win lots of medals.
I think I’ll be watching most of the games from home. So many people will go to the venues.
Qi Jingchen, 24, from Henan province
It’s very exciting to be here to tonight – so many people are about.
Seeing the Olympics coming here to China is something that only happens once in a lifetime.
I think it’s a very good chance for China to show the whole world it is getting bigger and stronger. I hope it means China will get better and better.
I’m sure the Olympics will be very secure and stable, I’m not worried about any threats at all.
It’s a great pity I haven’t got any Olympic tickets. If I had the chance I’d want to see everything – but I would love to see Chinese hurdler Lu Jiang.
I think China will win the most medals – I support China and I believe in China.
Ling Ling, 22, from Zhejiang province
I came to Beijing with my grandmother and my aunty especially to see the games.
I think it’s a great event and we just wanted to be part of it.
I don’t have any tickets, but I will watch the games on TV and on my mobile phone.
I think the games are a good chance for the outside world to get to know China better, and our culture.
I really hope the rest of the world will understand more about our country when it’s all over.
Wang Jian, 23, Shandong province
I work in an IT company a long way away, but being here in Beijing is so important I came here especially for the Olympics.
I think it is very meaningful to our country and to Chinese people all over the world.
It’s a great chance for China and a very important event like this only happens once every 100 years.
I think it shows China is part of the world community.
I’ll be hoping to watch the diving – China will definitely win medals there. Definitely.
Fan Yuazhu, 50, Tianjin province
I came to Beijing with seven other friends – so there are eight of us, and eight is a lucky number.
Being Chinese I felt I really had to be here. China has been bidding to host the Olympics for so many years, and finally we succeeded, so being Chinese I’m really proud to be here.
China is a great country and we all think that after the Olympics China will be much bigger and stronger.
This is the result of Chinese people being united – we always keep moving forward.
China strong forever!
Si Quinmin, 20, from Inner Mongolia
I really had to come to Tiananmen rather than stay at home – I can watch the opening ceremony when they replay it later.
But here you can only experience the atmosphere once with all these people.
I really wanted to share this moment – there’s just this one moment and you have to catch it.
To me the Olympics means success. I think this year will be a really successful year for China. I would love to go to the Olympics, but I don’t have any money for a ticket.
Everybody coming here from all over the world means that China is getting stronger and stronger. Go, China go!