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Fri. 9 a.m.: Beijing Games open

Dancers perform during the pre-show ahead of the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

BEIJING (AP) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has spoken at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, thanking those around the globe who he says have gone “beyond the call of duty” to make the events happen as a global pandemic continues raging.

These Olympics are the second to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, after the Tokyo Games last summer.

Bach talked about how the Olympics highlight “ambition, courage and strength.” He likened those qualities to what China has done to grow Olympic winter sports to its residents.

Bach also addressed the athletes of the Beijing Games directly, saying: “Dear fellow Olympians, your Olympic stage is set. You have arrived here after overcoming so many challenges. … But now your moment has come, the moment you have been longing for, the moment we all have been longing for. Now your Olympic dream is coming true.”

Bach’s remarks immediately preceded the games being officially opened by Chinese President Xi Jinping, his words prompting the setting off of fireworks that lit up the sky over the Bird’s Nest.

President Xi Jinping stood and waved as the Chinese delegation entered the Bird’s Nest to complete the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony for the Beijing Games.

The host nation always is the last team announced in the parade, and there were loud roars and flag-waving throughout the stadium as the Chinese athletes made their way into the event.

The Chinese have about 175 athletes expected to compete in the Olympics. They are traditionally not a winter-sports power, though are expected to have opportunities in Beijing to add to the nation’s all-time total of 13 winter golds.

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