Beijing is buzzing with excitement as the Olympic countdown nears its end, reports the Washington Post. The nation boldly steps into the international spotlight as the 29th Olympiad begins at the auspicious hour of 8:08 pm Chinese time. China's people are eager to impress the world, and the ruling Communist Party hopes a successful Olympics will cement its grip on power.
Many Chinese regard the Olympics as recognition of China's dramatic achievements over the last 30 years, and a hint that more progress and freedoms are on the way. Few believe he Games will spark monumental change, but there are hopes that smaller changes—such as efforts to clean up Beijing's chronic pollution—will take root.