The 29th Olympics of the modern era is officially under way.
Chinese President Hu Jintao declared the Games open just after 1630 BST during a spectacular ceremony inside Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium.
Some 90,000 spectators gathered to see the extravaganza.
And a worldwide audience of up to four billion was watching the event on television.
A colourful, tightly-choreographed hour-long opening show portrayed China’s colourful history from ancient dynasties to modern superpower.
The parade of over 10,000 athletes was the culmination of a spectacular ceremony which saw the the Games of the XXIX Olympiad launched in stunning fashion.
Earlier, a burst of multi-coloured fireworks lit up the skyline around Beijing to herald the start of the ceremony.
“Friends have come from afar, how happy we are,” thousands of drummers chanted before the fireworks were set off.
Drumming up interest: Performers in the opening ceremony
At 8:08 and eight seconds local time, on the 8-8-2008 (can you guess China’s lucky number?), a mighty barrage of fireworks (made in China presumably) signalled the start of the spectacular showpiece in the Bird’s Nest stadium.
In a display which owed more to a CGI Hollywood blockbuster than a sporting event the 90,000 spectators were treated to battalions of performers drumming on what appeared to be thousands of coffee tables with new-rave lightsticks.
The iconic Olympic Rings, made up of thousands of fairylights, were suspended above the in-field before a tiny schoolgirl sang the Chinese national anthem before a few more thousand kilos of gunpowder lit up the night sky.
Times table: The drummers were a spectacular sight
The spectacular continued with 29 giant firework ‘footprints’ – representing the number of modern Olympic Games – from the centre of Beijing to the stadium.
Later the teams carried their flags into the stadium – with the British no doubt already wondering how the hell they are going to top this in London in 2012.
Taking flight: The Olympic Rings rose above the stadium
The sheer scale of the ceremony – a total of 10,300 performers took part – must have made it a daunting sight for the observers from the London 2012 organising committee.
The cost of the event must have been staggering, too, but the Chinese authorities have refused to say what the total bill for the opening ceremony is.
Making an entrance: Team GB enter the stadium