Exactly three hours into the ceremony, a roar began to emerge from near the tunnel through which the athletes processed. With the appearance of the Chinese flag, and basketball superstar Yao Ming carrying it, the roar intensified, resounding inside the Bird's Nest.
Fans stood and swayed and waved red-and-white scarves wildly as the largest Olympic delegation filed in, its more-than 600 athletes stretching out over more than 200 meters. President Hu Jintao got huge cheers when he appeared on the large screen, looking happy but reserved. The men wore red jackets and yellow shirts with white pants. The women wore yellow jackets with red blouses and white skirts. Nearly all carried tiny Chinese flags as the crowd cheered and chanted for more than 10 straight minutes.
By this time, many athletes in the other delegations--some of whom had been standing in high 80s temperatures for 90 minutes--were seated on the National Stadium infield, but everyone arose for the ceremony's finale.
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