BEIJING -- The games of the 29th Olympiad are shaping up as a coming out party for China, a country that seeks to show the world it has arrived as a 21st century power. But China remains a country of contradictions -- an ancient culture amid restless ambition to create a modern society, poverty alongside ostentatious wealth, and political repression in parallel with economic openness. On the eve of the opening of the games in Beijing, journalist and photographer Iason Athanasiadis visited Beijing and the northern city of Shenyang.
Photo Feature: China at the Start of the Olympics
A man walks past Shenyang's central train station in northern China in heavy rain. China has been experimenting with controversial cloud seeding techniques to cause rainfall ahead of the Olympics and disperse pollution.
A neighborhood in Shenyang, a little-known city of 9 million people in northern China.
Heavy security on the streets of Shenyang on the eve of the Olympics.<<*page break*>>
Young people play computer games in an Internet cafe in a neighborhood of Shenyang.
Shenyang's shifting skyline rises behind a park and a lake.
Pollution in Shenyang, where some of the Olympic soccer tournament will be hosted.
As in most of China's cities, the pace of construction in Shenyang is furious.
A female DJ spins records in the lobby of Beijing's upscale J.W. Marriot hotel on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony.
A beggar lies prone on a footbridge across a busy highway in Shenyang. China's dramatic development has been accompanied by growing income gaps.
A traditional pagoda rises in the midst of modern apartment and office blocks in Shenyang.
A doorman at the entrance to the Red Moon Club, a fashionable live music and karaoke bar in Beijing's trendy Sanliten district.
Partygoers live it up inside the Red Moon Club, a Beijing hotspot featuring live karaoke and an Olympic torch theme.