Thursday was the 1st October and the day of the Big Parade. Lesley and I were lucky to have seats in the second row of a streetside gallery slightly east of the famous Mao portrait on the Tian an Men Gate at the entrance to the Forbidden City.
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Blue skies over Tiananmen Square: After two days of grim, grey foggy weather and overnight rain October the first dawned suspiciously fine. Yes, the PLA cloud-seeding planes (and various civilian cannons) had been out overnight sprinkling silver iodide into the cloud to induce rain! With the clouds emptied of moisture, the sun soon burnt off any misty remnants and the rest of the day was blue-sky perfect. Almost too good in fact - many of us in the crowd suffered in the heat.

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Not many folk could make it this close to the action. We were very privileged to be here. Our convoy of police-escorted VIP coaches had swept us to a carpark INSIDE the Forbidden City along deserted closed-off streets. Most of the ordinary citizens of Beijing had been "requested" to stay indoors and watch the celebrations on TV.
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Naval officers have a photo session on Chang'an Avenue. The portrait behind in Tiananmen Square is of Sun Yatsen, founder of the failed first Republic of China in 1911.
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After the raising of the flag and national anthem the next event on the programme was Hu Jintao (Chinese President and Chairman of the Central military Commission) reviewing the troops. He whizzed past us a couple of times (see photo) as he inspected his forces lined up on Chang'an Avenue to our left. We watched on the large screen TV. "Greetings Comrades!" he called out (in Chinese) as he passed each unit. His voice echoed around us - it was all a bit spooky. No Kennedy moments though. Security was pretty tight.
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All the men whipped their cameras out for this group of all-female militia as they strutted past in their pink mini-skirts and silver boots, machine guns in hand. It was all a bit surreal, what with the increasingly large nuclear warheads that were to follow.

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After the 66-minute military parade, the 60-minute civilian parade began - the time distribution symbolic of the balance of power in China? One of the most colourful bands was the 'China's-diverse-ethnicity' group, some of whom are pictured left. At the very end 500 children released bundles of balloons into the sky (below) and white doves swooped around our heads.

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Paul
6/10/2009

Great photos! What a memory!

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