By Nathan Duke
More than 100 borough residents lined up Friday to watch the kickoff of the 29th Summer Olympic Games in Beijing on a large screen above a Commerce Bank on 39th Avenue at Main Street in Flushing, cheering the opening ceremony's fireworks, speakers and performers.
The 2008 games are already among the most controversial in recent history, following the decision in 2001 to hold the Olympics in China. Leaders of nations around the world, including French President Nicholas Sarkozy, have criticized China's human rights policies toward its citizens and Tibet, as well as the country's pollution problems.
But residents of the heavily Asian neighborhood of Flushing began turning out in droves between 8 a.m. and early afternoon Friday to watch the Olympics' opening ceremony.
Chen Yuan, who lives in Flushing, said he was pleased that the games were being held in China.
“I think it will be very good for the whole world,” said Yuan, who was looking forward to the Olympic basketball games. “I hope it will bring peace between nations.”
Flushing resident Taca Sui, who goes to school upstate, said he was glad to be able to watch the ceremony on the large outdoor screen.
“I'm here to support the Olympic Games,” he said. “Most of my friends are really happy they are taking place in China and it's very nice to be able to watch them on the street.”
Forest Hills resident Ling Li said he took the day off from work to watch the opening ceremony. He said he was excited that China would have its own Olympic baseball team for the first time this year.
“I know they won't win anything, but it's great they'll be able to compete since they are hosting the games,” he said.
Manhattan resident Gretta Owens said she stopped to watch the kickoff on her way to school at Flushing's Long Island Business Institute.
“I just stumbled across it on my way to school,” she said.
Owens, a Caribbean native, said she would follow the acrobatics and soccer games during this year's Olympics.
The Games kicked off Friday after Chinese President Hu Jintao declared them open and former Chinese gymnastics champion Li Ning lit the Olympic cauldron at the National Stadium in Beijing.
More than 200 nations will compete in this year's games.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.