BEIJING, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- The latest on the Beijing Winter Olympics (all times local):
Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the 24th Olympic Winter Games open.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach expressed his gratitude toward China for making these Olympic Winter Games happen amid the pandemic.
"Unfortunately, the global pandemic is still a reality for all of us. Therefore, our gratitude is even deeper for the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee, the public authorities and all the Chinese people. Thank you for making these Olympic Winter Games happen - and making them happen in a safe way for everyone," said Bach.
The Chinese Olympic delegation entered the opening ceremony with skeleton athlete Zhao Dan and speed skater Gao Tingyu as the flagbearers for the host nation.
The Chinese contingent includes 177 athletes, the country's largest ever presence at the Winter Olympics.
As an Olympic tradition, Greece, which hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, was the first team to start the parade of athletes into the Bird's Nest Stadium.
China, as hosts, marched in last; future Olympic Winter Games hosts Italy (Milano-Cortina 2026) entered the second-from-last under a change approved by the IOC Executive Board in December 2019.
Other than that, athletes entered in the stroke order of their team names as written in the Chinese characters, with Turkey following Greece.
The teams were led by a placard bearer dressed in costumes with ice and snow patterns. The placards, in the shape of a glowing snowflake with National/Regional Olympic Committee names on them, are inspired by the "Chinese knot," which is an ancient Chinese craft of hand knitting, symbolizing solidarity and prosperity.
The Winter Games opening ceremony started. The program was divided into 15 segments, including the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic flame.
As the ceremony started, the lights dimmed and a 24-second countdown followed.
The opening day of the 2022 Winter Olympics coincides with the first of the 24 solar terms "Beginning of Spring", which is also the first of the 24 solar terms of the year. It is used to count down the last seconds before the ceremony, reflecting the Chinese people's understanding of time.
The crowd cheered as fireworks exploded overhead.
A pre-show presented by square dancers aged from five to over 70 years old begun at the Bird's Nest Stadium.
"Square Dance" was originally created by the ordinary Chinese people and has become very popular. On public squares in the large cities or small towns, people spontaneously gather together to joyfully sing and dance in their off-time.
This choreographed performance showcased the passion of the Chinese people, welcoming the Olympic Winter Games. ■