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BEIJING, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- The 15th World Athletics Championships opened here on Saturday with around 2,000 athletes from around participating.

Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the games open at a ceremony held in Beijing's iconic "Bird's Nest" National Stadium.

Among those present at the ceremony were International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and outgoing International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) President Lamine Diack.

"During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese people felt the charm of athletics. In the next few days, Beijing will come to the spotlight and the elite event will help demonstrate the Chinese people's love for athletics once again," said Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun, also chairman of the organizing committee.

After the flags parade of the IAAF member associations, there was a brief but intriguing art performance at the ceremony, a brilliant combination of music, dance and cultural extravaganza.

The show reached the climax when all the performers shouted "Welcome to Beijing, my dear friends!"

The world championships is the first world-class event held in Beijing after the Chinese capital won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics at the adjacent Zhangjiakou of Hebei Province.

Beijing hopes to impress the world again with successful hosting of the athletics world which will run through to Aug. 30.

China sent a 81-strong team to the championships and will compete in 34 out of 47 events.

The Chinese athletes are expecting medals from the race walking and the women's throwing events and also looking forward to breakthroughs in the men's high jump and long jump.

In a speech at the opening ceremony, IAAF President Diack said he believes China has what it takes to become an athletics powerhouse.

Earlier on Saturday, Ghirmay Ghebreselassie from Eritrea stunned a strong field of East African stars to win the men's marathon gold.

It was Eritrea's first-ever world championships gold and the 19-year-old Ghebreselassie became the youngest ever world marathon champion.