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Opening Ceremony wraps up with unconventional lighting of Olympic flame

Instead of the usual cauldron lighting, the torch was placed at the center of a snowflake made of placards used to introduce the athletes.

WASHINGTON — The Olympic flame has now officially arrived at the Beijing Games.

An Opening Ceremony on a frosty night had a fiery conclusion Friday, when the flame was placed inside a giant snowflake to give China’s first Winter Olympics the symbolic opening — followed by the third major fireworks show of the night.

The snowflake was composed of placards used to introduce the athletes from the 91 different nations that will compete in China through Feb. 20. Some watching at home may have been a bit confused though, because there wasn't really any physical cauldron to light, the traditional end to the Opening Ceremony in past Olympics.

A group of six Chinese Olympians - each born in different decades starting in the 1950s - brought the flame into the stadium and to its final destination. 

Chinese athletes Zhao Jiawen and Dinigeer Yilamujiang delivered the flame to the center of the snowflake. Yilamujiang's involvement in the Games is especially noteworthy because she is a member of the Uyghur community, according to state media, who was born in the western China region of Xinjiang.

Credit: AP
The Olympic cauldron is lit by China's athletes Dinigeer Yilamujian and Zhao Jiawen during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (Anthony Wallace/Pool Photo via AP)

Human rights groups and governments such as the U.S. have condemned the internment and oppression of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, calling the crackdown a genocide. 

Diplomats from the U.S. and several other nations boycotted the games over China's human rights violations, although athletes were not restricted from the games.

Competition in some events started Wednesday and Saturday is the first full day of events at the Games, with the first medals to be awarded.

These Olympics are the second to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic, after the Tokyo Games last summer.

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