China's top legislator and other senior officials joined in the sea of joy at Tian'anmen Square Wednesday evening when the country started its one-year countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"On this moment next year, the 2008 Olympic Games will open in Beijing. Today we gather here to mark the one-year countdown and express again the Chinese people's strong will to host a grand event and pursue the Olympic spirit as well as our enthusiasm to support and participate in the Olympics," said Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
Some 10,000 guests were invited to be present at the ceremony, which was televised live across the nation and around the globe.
"It has been a century-long dream for the Chinese to host an Olympic Games," Wu said. "With these Games, the Chinese will have better understanding and cooperation with the rest of the world."
Beijing will try its best to host a unique and quality Olympic Games, he said, adding that the Chinese Government will fully cooperate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and support all preparation works in a bid to make it successful.
China welcomes athletes, coaches, officials, sport fans and journalists from across the world and promises to provide a high quality service and convenience, he said.
"We believe the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will create a new record in the history of Olympics with joint efforts from all sides," Wu said.
The visiting IOC President Jacques Rogge attended the ceremony at the Tian'anmen Square.
"The world is looking at China and Beijing with great expectation," Rogge said in his speech.
He said he believes Beijing will not only host a successful Olympic Games for top athletes from all countries but also provide them a good chance to get to know China.
Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG), was also present together with other senior officials from BOCOG and the State Council.
At the ceremony, Rogge presented invitation cards of the 2008 Olympics to presidents of the Olympic committees from Greece, Canada, Britain, Russia and China.
Fireworks, singing, dancing and cheering filled the square on Wednesday evening.