World leaders including China's President Hu Jintao, U.S. President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are attending the four-hour ceremony at Beijing's emblematic Bird's Nest Stadium, along with about 90,000 other spectators. Security is tight throughout Beijing, with personal and baggage scans at nearly all subway stations. Beijing's Capital International Airport closed to air traffic at 7:59 p.m.
China Mobile's wireless LAN (Local Area Network) service is being turned off at the Bird's Nest during the opening ceremony, but will be available at other Olympic venues and at centers being used by the international media. "WLAN service will not be provided during the opening and closing ceremony of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Thus Internet will not be accessible during the aforementioned ceremonies," China Mobile's service guide explained.
A representative from China Mobile's Olympic helpdesk, who declined to give her name, said it was for capacity reasons, not security. Reporters and Olympic officials will have access to wireline broadband connections provided by China Netcom, also an Olympic partner for the Beijing games.
Football (soccer) competitions for men and women actually began on Aug. 6, with many sports getting their start on Saturday, Aug. 9.
An hour before the opening ceremony began, Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders, RSF) staged an online protest alongside demonstrations in European and American cities, decrying the incarceration of bloggers, cyber-dissidents and journalists along with what it perceives as a lack of press freedom at the games.
By 7:15 p.m. Beijing time, RSF indicated that over 7,800 people were participating in the online demonstration. Waving in front of the virtual representation of the Bird's Nest were placards reading "Yes to sport, no to repression" and "No Olympic Games without freedom."
Although billed as a "High-tech Olympics," few new technologies are getting playing time over the 16 days. However, China's homegrown 3G (third generation telephony) standard, TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Multiple Access) is getting what appears to be a final trial with 15,000 Olympic officials, as part of a marketing push by China Mobile to launch commercial services later this year.
The Beijing Olympics run through August 24, with most events held in or around Beijing. Some events will be staged in other cities, such as equestrian events in Hong Kong, sailing in Qingdao, and football competitions in Qinhuangdao, Shanghai and Shenyang.