The eighth World Athletics Championships are underway in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The competition got underway with a rousing opening ceremony that highlighted Canadian culture and the challenge of competition.

A celebration that included hundreds of dancers, as well as puppeteers, the parade of nations and the start of the men's marathon kicked off the Eighth World Athletics championships in Edmonton Friday night.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, newly elected International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, and Britain's Prince Edward were among the crowd of nearly 60-thousand that watched the spectacular show. Mr. Chretien greeted the world and opened the championships, "I declare the championships officially open. Je declare l'overture des championnats!"

Prince Edward brought greetings from Queen Elizabeth for the first World Athletics championships in North America. "And may I also take this opportunity to pass on her majesty, the Queen of Canada's warmest greetings to you all," he said. "And to wish Edmonton, the athletes and the IAAF a successful World Championships in Athletics. Thank you very much."

The opening ceremonies were punctuated by an exciting end to the men's marathon. Ethiopia's Gezahegne Abera, the Olympic champion, sprinted past Kenyan Simon Biwott in the final 200 meters to win the gold medal. The championships continue through August 12.