the closing ceremony of the beijing olympic games began in the national stadium， also known as the bird's nest， in northern beijing at 8 p.m. on sunday.
the gala began amid a display of fireworks that formed a huge circle in the sky which symbolizes the complete success of the beijing games.
in traditional chinese culture， circle is a symbol of perfection，harmony and renewal.
the countdown to the closing ceremony started from the number 29， indicating the 29th olympic games.
all the audience joined the countdown from 10，while the numbers were displayed by firework explosions in the sky.
the atmosphere reached a climax at the end of the countdown， as fireworks illuminated the full-packed 91，000-seat stadium.
a 10-minute artistic performances began，with a drum formation on the ground and two "heavenly drums" floating in the sky， and a spectacular show of chinese ethnic dancing and acrobatics.
flags of 204 olympic delegations were then escorted into the arena， followed by world athletes to the games， all in casual wear and some with their medals on the neck. they cheerfully waved hands or flags toward the cheering crowd， smiling and giving thumbs-up in front of the camera lens. some athletes even carried their fellows on their shoulders in celebration.
two-time olympic badminton gold medalist zhang ning carried the flag of the chinese delegation.
zhang，33，defeated fellow chinese and world number one xie xingfang last saturday to successfully defend the women's singles title she won in athens four years ago. she was the oldest woman player to win the olympic title in the sport.
the closing ceremony focuses on "harmony， friendship and joy，" according to artistic director zhang yimou， who masterminded the beijing olympics' opening as well as closing galas.