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Beijing's Amazingly Cheap Fireworks

Wednesday, 6 Aug 2008 | 8:54 AM ET
Fourth of July fireworks
Fourth of July fireworks

Friday's Opening Ceremonies are going to be what I'm calling the most expensive four hours in sports history. The Chinese are going to spare no expense in their coming out party to the world.

While it's hard to nail down the costs of such an endeavor -- it's hard enough to get details on the ceremony itself -- I was shocked when I read the press notes from last month from a conference about the fireworks themselves.

A reporter asked Sun Weide, the spokesman for the Beijing Organizing Committee, how much the light show was going to cost and this is how he responded:

"As you know, China is the birthplace of the gunpowder and fireworks. We have a lot of products to choose from. As for the specific number, I can only give you a percentage points. Fireworks will take less than 1 percent of the total cost of the Opening Ceremony."

Here's what we know. There will be 35,000 shells launched. It will last about 20 minutes. It will include the first ever aerial display of the Olympic rings and, at some point, will include 2,008 smiling faces at the same time.

I'm still blown away at how low the number is. I originally guessed that the fireworks would make up at least half the cost. I'm not a fireworks expert, but I'm going to speculate that much of the cost of a firework display has to do with the cost to get it to the United States from China, where 80 percent of the world's fireworks are made.

According to a recent article in the Tuscaloosa News,the cost of shipping a crate of fireworks -- due to fuel prices -- from China to the U.S. this year went from $4,800 to $11,800.

The fireworks launched on Friday night will have a much shorter travel route. They're coming from the city of Liuyang, which is about 930 miles from Beijing. Half of the town's economic output is generated from the production and sale of fireworks.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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