That emphasis on security was evident today in the hours before the first fireworks exploded as the usually teeming Tianamen Square was swept clean of tourists and Chinese, leaving it eerily quiet and empty.
Despite the controversies and the heavy-handed security, Beijing was bursting with pride over its role as host to the world. China declared the day a national holiday. Taken aback by its citizens' enthusiasm, a Thursday night emergency meeting of Beijing district officials decided to decrease the number of outdoor screens showing the anticipated opening ceremonies out of fear that the city couldn't handle the crowds.
But as the world braced for the games, diplomacy asserted itself. On the eve of the ceremony, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Bush and other heads of state sat for a state banquet in the People's Congress. With around 80 heads of state and royal family members in attendance, the Chinese government did its best not to seat any enemies or rivals next to one another.
At the head table, Hu entertained Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, both of whom have been among the most vocal about the government's actions in Tibet and China's human rights record. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also sat with Hu. Seated next to Hu was International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, the guest of honor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report