Olympic opening to pay tribute to quake victims

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China will pay tribute to the 70,000 victims killed in the Sichuan earthquake at the Olympic opening ceremony in August.

11 July 2008

BEIJING – The Olympic opening ceremony in August will pay tribute to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake, which killed at least 70,000 people, state media said on Friday.

Elements representing Sichuan province and Wenchuan, the county at the epicentre, will be included in the opening ceremony "in tribute to the Chinese spirit manifested after the devastating 12 May earthquake," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Wang Chaoge, one of the directors of the ceremony, as saying.

Wang said the possibility of rain was the biggest concern for the organizers of the opening and closing ceremonies.

"It is the one thing beyond human control," the agency quoted him as saying.

"Rain would cause delays in the progress of the event, as it would dampen performers' costumes and props," Wang said.

Wang was speaking as the organisers held the first of four full dress rehearsals of the opening ceremony amid great secrecy at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium on Thursday night.

State broadcaster China Central Television said armed police maintained strict security in three concentric cordons around the stadium before and during the rehearsal.

All stadium workers and gardeners on the site had signed confidentiality agreements with the organisers, the agency said.

The agency said the opening ceremony would last three and a half hours, although other reports have put the duration at up to an hour longer.

It quoted the chief director of the opening ceremony, award-winning film-maker Zhang Yimou, as saying on Tuesday that his crew were working at night to get used to the evening performance of the opening ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 8 pm (1200 GMT) on 8 August.

Zhang's team had spent three years preparing an opening ceremony that is expected to "showcase the essence of China's rich culture, concept and vision to the world," the agency said.

Dozens of state heads are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, US President George W Bush, and the leaders of Japan, South Korea, France, Cambodia and Thailand.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are among the global leaders expected to attend the closing ceremony on 24 August.

[dpa / Expatica]

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