With a chant of "President Ma! President Ma!" resonating through the hall, more than 12,000 people packed the Taipei Arena yesterday morning to celebrate the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The inauguration ceremony featured a series of performances, ranging from a traditional hand puppet show and Chinese opera to hip hop.
The Formosa Aboriginal Song and Dance Troupe opened the ceremony with a traditional dance symbolizing a tribal prayer for the harvest and happiness.
Performers from the Diabolo Dance Theater wowed the audience by tossing around diabolos, a traditional Chinese juggling prop, on and off the stage, attracting deafening applause.
Other performing groups livening up the ceremony included U-Theater, a reclusive group of performers who combine elements of zen in their drumming performances, and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.
Taiwanese pop stars from different generations, including Feng Fei-fei (鳳飛飛), Wu Bai (伍佰) and China Blue, Wang Lee-hom (王力宏) and Christine Hsu (�?E), warmed up the crowd with some of their better known songs.
After the performances, cheers and applause rose from the audience as the swearing-in ceremony held at the Presidential Office was broadcast live on a big screen.
Ma and Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) entered the arena at 11am.
A 21-gun salute was fired outside the arena to honor the new president and vice president upon their arrival.
Ma’s inauguration speech also received rounds of applause, with some enthusiastic members of the audience shouting: “Go, go, President Ma!”
After the speech, Ma and Siew were joined by the performers onstage and waved their hands as they sang A Better Tomorrow at the end of the three-and-a-half-hour-long event.
Later yesterday, Ma and Siew accompanied a group of foreign guests on the Taiwan High Speed Rail to an inauguration banquet in Kaohsiung City.
Ma met former White House chief of staff Andrew Card and American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt on the train.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said Card presented Ma with a letter from US President George W. Bush congratulating him on his inauguration, while Ma gave Card a letter expressing his hope for continued US-Taiwan relations to the US president.
A crowd cheered and waved at Ma and first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) when they arrived at the High Speed Rail station in Kaohsiung.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) led a group of students in chanting, “President Ma, welcome to Kaohsiung.”
Chen Chu accompanied Ma and his guests as they took the Kaohsiung MRT to the Grand Hi-Lai Hotel, where the banquet was held.
Chen later downplayed the implications of a dispute about seating arrangements at the state banquet last night.
Ma’s office had initially put Chen at Table 14 instead of at the host table, but after the city government lodged a protest she was moved to Table 3, where she joined Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Chan Chun-po (詹春柏).
Chen said seating her at Table 14 might have given offense to Kaohsiung residents, as the mayor, in accordance with conventional practice, was always seated at the host table whenever the city hosted state dinners.
Patty Hou, a 25-year-old Kaohsiung resident, said she was excited to see the new president in Kaohsiung, and said she expected Ma to lead Taiwan to a better future.