Some light was shed on what is in store for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games when fireworks lit up the skyline near the 'Bird's Nest' stadium.
Residents living near the National Stadium said the rehearsal on Wednesday evening started at 8pm and lasted almost three hours.
'I think they set off five rounds of fireworks. It was so loud that at the beginning I thought there was a thunderstorm,' one resident living 1.5km from the stadium said. 'The fireworks were really beautiful. They had patterns as well.'
Sun Dingguo, a passer-by, said he saw many ambulances and paramilitary officers during the fireworks display.
'Apparently it was a dry run for the entire procedure on August 8 instead of a mere rehearsal for the gala,' Mr Sun said.
A China News Service report said patriotic songs such as A Song to My Motherland and ancient classics such as The Flowery Spring Night of the River were played in addition to Peking Opera songs.
The opening ceremony is being supervised by film director Zhang Yimou , who has spent the past three years designing the spectacle with a team of international artists and event planners. The content of the ceremony is a closely guarded secret.
An estimated 3,000-plus people invited to sit in the crowd had to sign a confidentiality agreement with Games organisers for the preview, in an apparent attempt to keep the contents of the opening ceremony under wraps.
But some journalists and cameramen managed to slip through some security checkpoints at the entrance to the stadium to get a sneak preview of the ceremony.
Some of the spectators borrowed passes from others to smuggle in friends.
A full dress rehearsal of the 31/2-hour opening ceremony was held under strict secrecy on July 10, with security guards manning three rings of checkpoints.