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One Billion People Watched the Opening Ceremony

Yes, that says "billion." With a B. And it's how many people worldwide are estimated to have watched Friday's opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. That's 15 percent of the world's population!

Even more baffling numbers: At least 383 million people in China are believed to have watched the ceremony on TV. In the United States, the broadcast drew more than 34 million viewers, the most-watched opening ceremony ever for an Olympics held outside the country. In countries including the UK, Germany, Australia, and Italy, about half of the total potential TV-watching audience tuned in.

I was one in that billion, and I certainly was not disappointed. From the thousands of drummers moving in perfect unison to the unfolding scroll telling the history of China, the dancers who painted with their bodies to the boxes that formed patterns and cities, it was a huge spectacle. I'm not sure I even can pick a favorite part, though the constantly evolving painting (which was later walked over — intentionally — by every athlete who marched in during the Parade of Nations) and the globe with performers running in all directions would definitely be up there.

If you missed the ceremony, you can watch a large portion of the spectacle online or check out a gallery of still photos here. If you were also among the billion who watched, what were your favorite parts?


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