Beijing Winter Olympics Are Officially Underway as Opening Ceremony Begins in China

The Opening Ceremony also includes the Parade of Nations, where each participating country's athletes proudly display their national flag

Performers create a flower display with LED lights during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Beijing Winter Olympics have begun!

The Opening Ceremony for the 2022 Games kicked off on Friday with — as many Olympics before — fireworks and fanfare.

Welcoming the eventual entrance of spring, the festivities started with 400 performers taking the stage at the Beijing National Stadium (aka the "Bird's Nest"), equipped with giant LED sticks meant to emulate spring willows. The emphasis on spring during the chilly Winter Games is due to the Chinese lunar calendar: Friday marks the beginning of the season in the country.

After the performance, fireworks exploded over the stadium, and China's President Xi Jinping and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach were welcomed by the gathered crowd.

For more on the 2022 Winter Olympics, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

China's national flag was then raised, followed by an ice cube projected on the floor, displaying graphics that honored every Winter Games in history, starting in Chamonix in 1924. Eventually, the ice disintegrated, revealing the six Olympic Rings and welcoming Greece to kick off the Parade of Nations.

During the Parade of Nations, athletes walked along the LED-enabled floor, which rotated through some impressive projections.

Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
David Ramos/Getty Images

A later segment featured snowflakes bearing the names of every participating country. The snowflake, NBC said during its coverage, was utilized by the Opening Ceremony's director to bring the East and West together. Each spoke of the snowflakes used was in the shape of a Chinese knot, symbolizing how "a snowflake this is a unique coming together of friends and people."

Opening Ceremony - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Children were a main component of the ceremony, appearing in numerous segments, including one where gathered kids sang the Games' theme song about snowflakes as others ran around the Bird's Nest floor with lit-up doves.

Much like the Tokyo Games last summer, the public is not in attendance at the Opening Ceremony.

The Winter Games will operate in a "closed-loop management system" after participants arrive — limiting travel to only Games-related venues within "designated vehicles."

Beijing 2022 – Opening Ceremony
Julian Finney/Getty Images

All participants will be required to be tested for COVID-19 daily for the duration of the Games, regardless of vaccination status. Athletes will also be encouraged to wear masks and avoid crowded areas even if they are vaccinated, the playbook states.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

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