The 2008 Olympics in Beijing were officially kicked off, and the NY Times reported that the festivities were an "opening ceremony of soaring fireworks, lavish spectacle and a celebration of Chinese culture and international good will." The ceremonies were produced by director Zhang Yimou, and NBC will be broadcasting the ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. EST tonight, but in case you want to get a sense of the highlights to look for, USA Today has a liveblog.

As for live reaction, it seems China's making good on its promise to impress the world:

USA Today's Christine Brennan said, "In its first 30 minutes, it had easily outdone any of the previous 12 Opening Ceremonies I have covered. At times there was a rigidity to the performances that reminded you exactly where you are, in Communist China, but the ingenuity and beauty of the scenes quickly overwhelmed that thought." And the NY Times' Lynn Zinser says up till now, the Sydney Olympics' opening was the most memorable "But this one was mesmerizing on such a grand scale, with the meaning of this event to a huge, formerly closed country obvious in every minute. And the culminating lighting of the cauldron was s jaw-droppingly cool. In a word, wow."

Earlier, Chinese President Hu Jintao said, "The historic moment we have long awaited is arriving. The world has never needed mutual understanding, mutual toleration and mutual cooperation as much as it does today.” But there were some worries today: There was a bomb threat that diverted a plane (not headed to Beijing, but the city of Chongqing) back to Japan while there were a few protests, inside and outside of China, as well--BBC News has a rundown.