China commandeered the world stage Friday, celebrating its first-time role as Olympic host with a stunning display of pageantry and pyrotechnics to open a Summer Games unrivaled for its mix of problems and promise. Now ascendant as a global power, China welcomed scores of world leaders to an opening ceremony watched by 91,000 people at the eye-catching National Stadium and a potential audience of 4 billion worldwide. It was depicted as the largest, costliest extravaganza in Olympic history, bookended by barrages of some 30,000 fireworks.
Fireworks explode above the "Bird's Nest" during the Opening Ceremony in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)