Press hails 'greatest ever' Olympic opening show

LONDON (AFP) — The press was united Saturday in declaring the spectacular Beijing Olympics opening ceremony the best ever and a stunning display of China's new-found confidence.

Yet most front pages reflected that as the Olympics opened to scenes of fireworks and brilliantly choreographed dancers in the Chinese capital, conflict broke out in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region.

"08.08.08 -- day of war and peace" was the front page headline of The Guardian.

"The ceremony that opened the 29th Olympic Games last night outdid all of its predecessors in numbers, colour, noise and expense, demonstrating to the world that the new China intends to make its presence felt," said the accompanying article.

The Daily Telegraph headlined its front page: "Beijing wows the world... Moscow sends in the tanks".

A second headline, "China marches on to world stage", topped a photograph of hundreds of Chinese dancers wearing feather headdresses to represent the age of Confucius at the opening ceremony.

The paper said China had flexed its muscles to the world leaders in the stadium and to a television audience of billions.

It wrote: "One Olympic ideal -- the separation of sport and politics -- died in the Chinese night.

"This was the choreographed demonstration of might the like of which the Olympics has never seen; a rebuke to George W. Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy, vocal critics of Chinese foreign and domestic policy sitting in the audience."

The tabloid Daily Mail's front page also contrasted the fireworks in Beijing with a photograph of a blazing Georgian tank, but splashed colour photographs of the opening ceremony over six inside pages.

The paper said: "The age of Chinese power dawned in a spellbinding and futuristic curtain-lifter which featured 15,000 different types of costume and 14,000 performers, 9,000 of them on loan from the People's Liberation Army.

It continued: "To say these Games would be a landmark in world politics was no idle claim. Last night proved it."

Hollywood, the paper added, "will study the DVD for years to come and plunder Beijing's visual tricks".