The 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony was held at the Beijing National Stadium, better known as the Bird's Nest. It began at 8:08 PM China Standard Time (UTC+8) on 8 August 2008. The number 8 is associated with prosperity and confidence in Chinese culture.
The ceremony was directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou and was noted for its focus on ancient Chinese culture and creativity. The final ascent to the torch featured Olympic gold medalist Li Ning, who appeared to run through air around the top ring of the stadium. Noted for a lack of politics in the affair, the ceremony was generally lauded as spectacular and declared the "greatest ever" opening ceremony around the world.
A rich assembly of ancient Chinese art and culture dominated the ceremony. It opened with the beating of Fou drums for the countdown. Subsequently, a giant scroll was unveiled and became the show's centerpiece. The official song of the 2008 Olympics was performed by Britain's Sarah Brightman and China's Liu Huan, and was titled You and Me.
Former Chinese gymnast Li Ning ignited the cauldron. Weather modification technology was used to prevent rain during the Ceremony. A total of 1104 rockets were launched to keep rain clouds from entering Beijing.
The entry parade of the competing athletes was in a different order from previous Olympic ceremonies, because it was not in ordinary alphabetical order of the names of the competing nations but in order (lowest first) of how many strokes are in their Chinese character transcriptions; for example, Australia was near the end because the first character of the Chinese name of Australia has 15 strokes. Reviews of opening ceremony from around the world called it spectacular and devoid of politics.
More than 100 heads of state, heads of government and sovereigns attended the opening ceremony. The number of heads of state who attended the opening ceremony was by far the largest in Olympic history.