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Former gymnast Li Ning lights Olympic cauldron

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Li Ning lights cauldron of Beijing Olympic Games

(BEIJING, August 9) -- The Olympic flame's four-month-long Journey of Harmony culminated with a spectacular end to the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with the lighting of the cauldron just after midnight as former gymnast Li Ning, lifted into mid-air with wires after he received the Olympic flame, "ran" along the 500-meter-long brim of the Bird's Nest to reach the gigantic cauldron, which he ignited using the flame from his torch.

A large screen that mimicked an unrolling scroll that showed footage from the Torch Relay served as Li's track.

Li Ning lights cauldron of Beijing Olympic Games

The legendary Li, who won three gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal at Los Angeles 1984, was the last of eight torchbearers to carry the flame in the stadium, in the last stage of the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay. He was the most decorated athlete at the Los Angeles Games, and he has since become a successful entrepreneur as a maker of Li Ning athletic apparel.

With the start of the music, Xu Haifeng, the first of the final eight torchbearers, entered from Gate 3, holding high the Olympic Torch. Xu won China's first gold medal in Olympic history in the Individual Free Pistol at Los Angeles 1984.

He and the next six torchbearers, all notable athletes -- Gao Min (Diving), Li Xiaoshuang (Gymnastics), Zhan Xugang (Weightlifting), Zhang Jun (Badminton), Chen Zhong (Taekwondo) and Sun Jinfang (Volleyball) -- make one full circuit around the stadium.

Gao was the first Chinese Olympic gold medalist in Springboard Diving; Li Xiaoshuang was the first Chinese athlete to ever claim the Individual All-Around title at the World Gymnastics Championships; both Zhang Jun and Chen Zhong are two-time Olympic champions; and Sun Jinfang helped China win the first world volleyball crown and consecutive World Cup, World Championships and Olympic titles.

The Olympic flame for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay was created at the Torch Lighting Ceremony at Olympic in Greece on March 24 and arrived in Beijing on March 31 to begin the global relay the following day. The relay covered an unprecedented 137,000 kilometers in 129 days.

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Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
August 8-24, 2008

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