Spectacle – and Tragedy – Open Beijing Olympics

UPDATED 08/09/2008 at 11:20 AM EDT Originally published 08/09/2008 at 07:20 AM EDT

Spectacle – and Tragedy – Open Beijing Olympics
Yao Ming of China
Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse/BEImages
As the world was still catching its breath from Friday's spectacular Olympic ceremony opening, news surfaced from Beijing that on the first day of the competition Saturday, a knife-wielding Chinese man attacked two relatives of the coach for the U.S. Olympic men's volleyball team at one of the city's tourist sites.

Todd Bachman of Lakeville, Minn., was killed and his wife Barbara was seriously injured when they were stabbed by a man while the couple and their daughter, Elisabeth, were visiting the 13th century Drum Tower. The assailant then killed himself by jumping from the second story of the site, according to Olympic officials.

Elisabeth, who was not hurt in the attack, is a 2004 Olympic U.S. women's indoor volleyball player and wife of men's volleyball head coach, Hugh McCutcheon.

"It is impossible to describe the depth of our sadness and shock in this tragic hour," said U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth. "Our delegation comes to the Games as a family, and when one member of our family suffers a loss, we all grieve with them. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with the Bachman and McCutcheon families."

The midday incident was all the more shocking due to increased security for the games as well as the infrequency of violent crime against foreigners in tightly controlled China.

Elaborate Spectacle

The tragedy stood in marked contrast to Friday's ceremony, in which some 5,000 years' worth of Chinese culture, history and technology dazzled an estimated worldwide audience of 4 billion people, as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad officially were launched.

During the elaborate spectacle, a giant globe rose from the floor of the National Stadium (an architectural wonder simply called the Bird's Nest), and a glittering fireworks display extended as far over the city to the ancient Great Wall, as if to illuminate the entire country.

Spectacle – and Tragedy – Open Beijing Olympics| Olympics Summer 2008, Yao Ming

Fireworks explode over the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

Goff / INF

In all, the presentation involved 14,000 performers, including 9,000 from the People's Liberation Army and, significantly, 2,008 drumbeaters.

Yao Ming, the Chinese professional hoop star who plays for the Houston Rockets, carried his home nation's flag into the stadium. (Per Olympic tradition, the host country is the last of the 204 nations to appear.) A young schoolboy who had survived the devastating May earthquakes in western China accompanied the 7'6" Yao into the stadium.

The Bushes Wave Flags

President Bush and his wife, Laura, sat in the stands along with about 90 international dignitaries, including Russia's Vladimir Putin and France's Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Bushes stood up and waved their hands and miniature American flags at the U.S. delegation, which was comprised of nearly 600 athletes dressed in a Ralph Lauren-designed, 1930's-style outfits of blue blazers, red, white and blue silk ties and scarves, canvas shoes and white twill hats.

On Saturday, Katerina Emmons, of the Czech Republic, won the first gold medal of this year's games, in the women's 10-meter air rifle.

"It really doesn't get any better than this – representing this country," said U.S. basketball's LeBron James. "All these Olympic athletes are here and we are competing but we are representing more. The Olympics is more then just basketball, soccer and track and field, we're all representing each other. When I am out there playing basketball, I am representing a gymnast and the swimmers, not just my teammates. This is the biggest stage."

Reporting by CYNTHIA WANG

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