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Ratings gold for NBC

For anyone who wondered about American interest in the Beijing Games:

The network's coverage of the Games got off to a roaring start Friday with the most-watched and highest-rated non-U.S. summer opening ceremony telecast ever.

The Beijing event averaged 34.2 million viewers and received an 18.6 national household rating.

In the nearly 50 years of televised Olympics, that's higher than any previous non-domestic summer opener -- up 35% in viewers from the Athens ceremony in 2004 (25.4 million, 14.6 rating) and 25% higher than Sydney in 2000 (18.5/32). The household rating bested the 1960 Rome Games on CBS (18.1) -- a record that's stood for 48 years, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The mammoth figures weren't quite enough to overturn all opening ceremonies based in the U.S., however. The rating was 14% shy of the Atlanta Games in 1996 (39.8 million, 23.6 rating).