China virtually shut down the centre of Beijing yesterday, sealing off the Forbidden City, shops and hotels near Tiananmen Square, for an extravaganza to mark 60 years of communist rule. Using it to showcase the country's military, the celebrations are expected to rival the Olympic opening ceremony. But they will also include a "civilian parade" with about 100 000 people and 60 floats, thousands of doves, 5 000 balloon-toting children and a massive chorus. Chinese film-maker Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics, will oversee the evening fireworks display. China has been ramping up security over the past few weeks ahead of the super-party, banning the sale of knives and barring residents from flying kites as a precaution against aerial hazards. People in the diplomatic apartments lining the parade route have been told to keep windows shut and not go on their balconies to watch.