Beijing - The Beijing Olympics will be a "historic" event and "a significant milestone" for China, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said on Monday.
Speaking at the official opening of the 120th IOC Session at Beijing's Opera House in front of China president Hu Jintao and other dignitaries, Rogge praised Olympic hosts China and did not touch sensitive issues, speaking only of "some challenges."
"I believe these Games will be historic. They are already a landmark event for the Olympic Movement. The mere fact that the Olympic Games are coming to China home to nearly 20 percent of the worlds population is significant.
"I am equally confident that the Games will leave a great legacy for China. China is a nation in transition, with a great future, tremendous potential and some challenges. I believe history will view the 2008 Olympics as a significant milestone in Chinas remarkable transformation," Rogge said.
The final countdown was marred by wordwide protests on China's crushing of unrest in Tibet, its human rights record overall, the pollution issue and internet censorship which was only partly lifted for the accredited media late last week.
Rogge said that "Chinas role as our Olympic host has opened a window to the worlds most populous nation" and praised the "courage and determination of the Chinese people" after the Sichuan earthquake on May 12 which left an estimated 70,000 people dead.
Rogge also said that the Games will be a big leap forwards for China in other areas, with state-of-the-art venues such as the Bird's Nest and Water Cube to serve future athletes, the population profiting from a "construction legacy" which "will improve the quality of life and contribute to Chinas economic development over the long term."
Hu said that "through the Games we can show the honest attempts of the Chinese people" to share the development of the country with the rest of the world for a bright future.
The Games itself will see various new records, Rogge said: 205 competing countries, 45 per cent of them women, 4,500 doping tests and new steps to combat illegal betting.
The IOC Session Tuesday and Wednesday will see elections for three places on the powerful IOC executive board. IOC members will also hear progress reports from the upcoming Olympic hosts Vancouver (2010), London (2012) and Sochi (2014). (dpa)