'I just want to cry, to scream, to yell. I just feel so proud of being Chinese'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 August, 2008, 12:00am

Tens of thousands of excited people took to the streets at landmark sites throughout Beijing yesterday to savour the opening ceremony, even though the government urged residents to watch it on television at home because of concerns about traffic and safety.

Praise, applause and cheers erupted from time to time as spectators soaked up the extravaganza in front of big screens at the China Millennium Monument in the capital's west and Wangfujing, the city's main pedestrian mall.

'I haven't been so emotional for a long time. At this moment, I just want to cry, to scream, to yell. I just feel so proud of being Chinese,' Zhang Dawen, an engineer watching the broadcast with his wife and child on the lawn at the monument, said.

'I can't believe the day has finally come after counting down for so long.'

Many people had to travel a long way to reach the monument, one of the few places where a gathering was allowed. University student Liu Jiawen and his classmates finally arrived at the monument to join the cheering crowd after police in Tiananmen Square had turned them away and they had been forced to make detours on subway trains and buses. 'We want to witness the great moment with a big crowd. It intensifies the fun atmosphere,' Mr Liu said.

In Wangfujing, Wang Po-nan from Taiwan said he loved the joyous air and did not care about the televised show. 'I didn't pay attention to the show. I was moved by the happy crowd. I joined them yelling 'Go, China' the whole time,' he said.

But the audience was divided over the virtues of the opening programme. Some liked the ancient elements, including the instrumental performance and scroll painting, but were less enthusiastic about the modern parts. Others said the historical section took up too much time. 'It's typical of director Zhang Yimou's style - excel at scenic grandeur but with insufficient emphasis on content', logistics manager Fu Xiaoyong said.

Not everyone was lucky enough to find an outdoor place to watch the extravaganza. In North Tucheng Road, near the National Stadium, about 3,000 people were blocked from getting any closer to the festivities by security cordons.

As they waved national flags and chanted 'Go, China', spectators sporting painted Olympic symbols on their faces burst into cheers whenever a car heading for the stadium passed by in the dedicated Olympic lane before the show.

Henan native Han Daoyou , 32, arrived in the city with his wife and two children three days ago.

'I have no ticket. I thought I would be able to get a glimpse outside the stadium, but I thought wrong,' he said sadly while watching the barely visible fireworks in the distance.

'Tomorrow we will have to go back home. What a pity. The government should have arranged someplace nearby for us to watch.'

But Belgian tourist Billy Azuma was still excited. Dragging his luggage, he said: 'I just arrived. I don't care if I can't see anything here. It's my first time to come to China.'