The cauldron of the Beijing Olympic Games was lit by former gymnastics star Li Ning in the National Stadium in north Beijing on Friday night.
The triple gold medalist at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, who is now a successful entrepreneur, took a stunt-like and painstaking journey around the top of the stadium, better known as the Bird's Nest, before setting ablaze the giant cauldron.
Lifted with computer-controlled wires around his waist, the 45-year-old Li imitated running along the 500-meter-long, 14-meter-wide brim of the bowl-shaped, roofless top of the Bird's Nest, which is also a gigantic screen.
Video of the Olympic torch's global relay, covering a record distance of some 137,000 kilometers in 129 days, was shown on the screen, closely following Li's running paces as if a painting scroll was being unfolded.
"Today, the Olympic flame lit in Olympia has come to the end of its odyssey and will be kindled to adorn the night sky of Beijing," said Liu Qi, head of the Games' organizing committee, in an earlier speech, saying the cauldron lighting would be a "dazzling historic moment."
The worldwide relay of the Beijing Olympic torch, designed to be a "journey of harmony," endured many unexpected hardships, particularly violent protests by "Tibet independence" supporters and even attempts to seize and extinguish it. Its domestic relay was also halted for three days as the nation mourned the quake victims in May, and the route rescheduled to avoid the impacts on the relief work in the quake-stricken Sichuan Province.
"The way of lightening the torch is amazing, I didn't expect he (Li Ning) will run the long way along the stadium," said Valkerie Mangnall, a journalist from Australian Associated Press.
"At the beginning I was guessing what is the image on the screen before I realized it's the scroll being unfolded with so many torch bearers. That is so full of imagination," she added.