Big-bang ceremony to kick off Games


China is expected to set a new standard for spectacle today when it kicks off the 2008 Summer Games with an opening ceremony meant to wow the world and proclaim the arrival of a new global power to be reckoned with.

In a no-expense-spared sensory explosion meant for a TV audience of billions, some 15,000 performers will turn the already landmark National Stadium into a multicolored Chinese scroll telling this country's millennial history.

The Chinese government has guarded the spectacle's contents like a state secret, but leaked footage of a rehearsal shot by a South Korean camera crew and eyewitness accounts of a Tuesday dress rehearsal have revealed what the show will look like.

Casts of thousands will hurry on and off the field in tightly choreographed segments featuring acrobatic dancers and an epic play of lights.

Performers dressed as everything from fireflies to astronauts will fly through the night air.

An army of musicians beating traditional Chinese drums will count off the spectacle, which will last 31/2 hours.

And as to be expected from a country that's synonymous with fireworks, a gargantuan 29,000-shell pyrotechnic display will cap the event.

More than 80 state leaders and royals, including President Bush, will take in the show.

MEN'S SOCCER -- Stuart Holden ended the United States' three-game scoring drought with a goal in the second half, giving the Americans a 1-0 victory over Japan in the opener for both teams in Tianjin, China.

The Scottish-born Holden struck a loose ball at the top of the penalty area that Japanese goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa was able to slow but couldn't keep from trickling over the line in the 47th minute.

MEN'S TENNIS -- Roger Federer is thinking more about the number eight than the No. 1 ranking he will lose after the Olympics.

The 12-time Grand Slam champion's birthday coincides with today's opening ceremony for the Games, which are being staged on one of the luckiest days in the Chinese calendar.

Federer's more than four-year reign at No. 1 will end Aug. 18, regardless of how he fares in Beijing. Rafael Nadal earned enough points to overhaul the Swiss star.

The number eight long has been considered a good omen in China, where people pay a premium to have it included in their telephone numbers and license plates. With the start of the 2008 Olympics on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year, Federer is hoping some luck will rub off.

BOXING -- American bantamweight Gary Russell Jr. will miss the Olympics after collapsing while trying to make weight.

U.S. coach Dan Campbell said Russell, a two-time national champion, was found unconscious and severely dehydrated by his roommate, light flyweight Luis Yanez.

Medical personnel at the athletes' village rehydrated Russell, but he wasn't healthy enough to participate in today's weigh-in. Russell was resting after failing in a dangerous final effort to reach the 119-pound limit.

Also, Frankie Gavin, the world lightweight champion from Britain, has dropped out because he didn't think he could make his 132-pound weight limit.

TELEVISION -- A day before the Olympics kick off, NBC Universal announced it has garnered more than $1 billion in advertising revenue for the event, which it spent $894 million to acquire the U.S. broadcast and digital rights for.

The network is planning 3,600 hours of TV and Internet coverage of the 17-day event, which begins with the opening ceremony today.

 

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