The 2022 Winter Olympics fittingly took flight from The Bird's Nest early Friday when the Olympic Cauldron was lit at the Opening Ceremony in Beijing.
The ceremony was a visual spectacle and -- while there was plenty of performance and pageantry -- was not without deeper political intrigue, though the focus on this tournament's Parade of Athletes kept the dedication of the competitors in focus.
Messages of unity ran deep throughout the event and Team USA's Olympians gave their passion and excitement to proceedings that had approved spectators and was not accessible to the general public.
The event began with a compelling, LED-led change of seasons as 400 students on the floor of the stadium made long green LED sticks sway before the props changed color to a snowy white. Showtime, indeed, in China.
Enter The Athletes and The Flame
Team USA's elected flag bearer Elana Meyers Taylor cheered on her teammates via social media as 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Brittany Bowe and 2018 Olympic gold medalist John Shuster led the Americans into the Bird's Nest in their snazzy team gear.
North Americans had entered the stadium beforehand and not just in the form of traditional Team USA rival Canada. Ecuador's Sarah Escobar, born in New Jersey, and Eritrea's Shannon-Ogbani Abeda -- Canadian-born -- entered as flag bearers for their nations. Read more about single-athlete nations, here.
Finally, the torch took its path to the cauldron. China's torchbearers represented decades of its Winter Olympic stars: world champion speed skater Luo Zhihuan, 2010 Olympic gold medal winner Zhang Hui, five-time short track medalist Li Jiajun, figure skating medalist Shen Xue, aerials skiing gold medalist Han Xiaopeng, 2014 gold medal-winning speed skater Zhang Hong, and cross country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang, who is reportedly of Uyghur heritage.