Once-reclusive 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.
To the beat of sparkling explosions, the crowd counted down the final seconds before the show began. A sea of drummers - 2,008 in all - pounded out rhythms with their hands, then acrobats on wires gently wafted down into the stadium as rockets shot up into the night sky from its rim.
President Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were among the glittering roster of notables who watched China make this bold declaration that it had arrived. Bush, rebuked by China after he raised human-rights concerns this week, is the first U.S. president to attend an Olympics on foreign soil.
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Already an economic juggernaut, China is given a good chance of overtaking the U.S. atop the gold-medal standings with its legions of athletes trained intensely since childhood. One dramatic showdown will be in women's gymnastics, where the U.S. and Chinese teams are co-favorites; in the pool, Chinese divers and U.S. swimmers are expected to dominate.
Second-guessed for awarding the games to Beijing, the International Olympic Committee stood firmly by its decision. It was time, the committee said, to bring the games to the homeland of 1.3 billion people, a fifth of humanity.
The games, said IOC President Jacques Rogge, "are a chance for the rest of the world to discover what China really is."
– Associated Press
Sugarland founder files $1.5M lawsuit against band
A founder of the country band Sugarland is suing the two current members of the popular group for $1.5 million.
According to a lawsuit filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Kristen Hall was supposed to get a cut of the group's profits even after she left in 2005 for a solo career. The lawsuit says Hall, who founded the band in 2002, has an agreement with Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush to equally share profits and losses.
Hall says in the lawsuit that she has been excluded from the group's profits since she left.
Sugarland's publicist referred calls to the band's attorney, Gary Gilbert, who was unavailable for comment.
The band's album, "Love on the Inside," which came out last month, is No. 1 on the Billboard music charts.
– Associated Press
Judge to rule today in geriatric love triangle case
A judge is set to decide Friday whether an elderly woman convicted of shooting and killing her ex-boyfriend should get a new trial.
In 2006, an Atlanta jury convicted Lena Driskell of murder in the death of 85-year-old Herman Winslow in June 2005 at the assisted living home where they both lived.
Police say Driskell was angry that their romance had ended. She was sentenced to life in prison plus five years.
During her trial, the defense acknowledged that Driskell shot Winslow, but argued for a verdict of not guilty by reason of mental defect.
– Associated Press
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