2008 Summer Olympics

Facts

Competition type Olympic Games
Host city (Venues)
Opening ceremony 8 August
Closing ceremony 24 August
Competition dates 6 – 24 August
OCOG Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad
Participants 10899 from 204 countries
Medal events 302 in 41 disciplines
Other events 15 in 1 disciplines

Overview

China bid for the 2000 Olympic Games and considered themselves the favorite, and they were upset when the bid went instead to Sydney, which put on a nonpareil Olympic Games. China returned to bid again for the 2008 Olympic Games, and was this time successful. China hoped to use the Olympics as Tokyo had in 1964 and Seoul in 1988 to prove itself to the international community. The IOC awarded the bid to Beijing despite many people’s concerns about human rights abuses and media censorship within the nation.

Other problems arose with the bid as the Olympics came closer to fruition. The athletes’ biggest concern was the atmosphere in Beijing itself. On a typical day, the Beijing sky made a London pea-souper appear like minestrone. Distance athletes, such as marathoners and cyclists, were particularly concerned and a few even declined to compete in those events.

The Chinese planned the most international ever Torch Relay, even planning on taking the Torch to the top of Mount Everest. What they did not plan on was the response of the international community, which found in the Torch Relay a way for them to express their displeasure with many of China’s policies. The media was also unhappy with the Chinese and with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, as the Internet was not fully available to the media, which greatly limited the media’s access.

The Games began with a majestic Opening Ceremony, and the world’s press significantly changed its tune. Although the background problems were still around, they were somewhat ignored once the Olympics were underway. The Opening Ceremony was considered the most spectacular ever presented, although it came with a price tag rumored at $300 million (US) – for the ceremony alone. The venues were first-rate as well, highlighted by the track & field main stadium – the National Stadium, but called the Bird’s Nest for its appearance; and the aquatics main stadium, called the Water Cube. Also spectacular were the equestrian venues in Hong Kong. The equestrian events were held in Hong Kong because of quarantine restrictions in mainland China, similar to what occurred in 1956 with Melbourne and Stockholm.

And it was in the Water Cube that the highlight of the sports occurred in Beijing. There, American swimmer Michael Phelps, who had won six gold medals in Athina, entered eight events, and won eight gold medals. He won in almost every way possible – smashing world records and winning easily, such as in the 400 individual medley; having his teammate Jason Lezak pull out a narrow 4×100 freestyle relay upset victory on the anchor leg; and narrowly out-touching silver medalist Milorad Cavić of Serbia in the 100 metre butterfly, winning by only 1/100th of a second. His medal haul brought his overall Olympic total to 14 gold medals and 16 medals in all – the most ever gold medals by any athlete, and the most ever medals by a man at the Olympics. His eight gold medals at a single Olympics surpassed the mark of seven set by Mark Spitz in 1972 at München.

On the track the individual star was Jamaica’s young sprinter Usain Bolt. Bolt was only 21-years-old, but had first come to international prominence in 2002 at the World Junior Championships. Considered primarily a 200 runner until 2008, in May of the Olympic year he had broken the world record for 100 metres. His first event was the 100, which he won with a world record time of 9.69, but it was more the manner that he won. Well ahead by 70 metres, he shut down at 80, looking back, waving his arms in celebration and virtually jogging in. He still won the race by two metres and broke the world record. A few days later, he won the 200 gold medal in 19.30, breaking the supposedly inviolable world record of 19.32, set by Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics. Finally, Bolt helped his Jamaican teammates win gold in the 4×100, again breaking the world record. Following in the footsteps of triple Olympic sprint gold medalists Jesse Owens, Bobby Joe Morrow, and Carl Lewis, only “The Lightning Bolt” could claim to have won all three golds with world records.

As a group the story of track & field was the Jamaican sprinters. In addition to Bolt and the Jamaican men’s 4×100 relay, Shelly-Ann Fraser won the women’s 100, leading a Jamaican medal sweep, Veronica Campbell-Brown won the women’s 200, followed by Kerron Stewart who won a bronze, Shericka Williams took bronze in the women’s 400, and Melaine Walker won the women’s 400 hurdles. Their only stumble came in the women’s 4×100, which they were heavily favored to win until they dropped the baton during an exchange in the final, and did not finish.

On another track, Great Britain dominated cycling. After making a nationalized effort to win medals in cycling, they came thru in a big way in Beijing as they won five of seven gold medals in men’s track cycling and two of four in women’s track cycling. The star of the velodrome was Britain’s Chris Hoy, who won the match sprint, the keirin, and led his British teammates to gold in the Olympic team sprint.

Overall, the Chinese had made a huge effort, as do most host countries, to improve their medal standings. For the Chinese, this worked, as they led the gold medal table with 48 gold medals to the 36 won by the United States. Overall, the US won the most medals, with 112, but the Chinese improved to second there with 100 total medals.

In the end the Beijing Olympics were considered one of the most beautifully conducted Olympic Games ever. The IOC had always stated that they hoped bringing the Olympics to China would help open up the country politically, as the 1988 Seoul Olympics had done. Whether that would occur was still to be determined but the Games themselves were magical.

Bid process

Bid voting at the 112th IOC Session in Moscow on 13 July 2001. Because of the number of candidate cities, an Evaluation Commission of the IOC was nominated whose task was to pare the number of candidates down to a more workable four or five prior to the final vote. There were five eliminated cities: Bangkok (Thailand), Cairo (Egypt), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Seville (Spain).

Round 1 Round 2
Beijing China 44 56
Toronto Canada 20 22
Paris France 15 18
Istanbul Turkey 17 9
Osaka Japan 6

Ceremonies

Officially opened by Hu Jintao (President)
Torchbearer(s) Xu Haifeng, Gao Min, Li Xiaoshuang, Zhan Xugang, Zhang Jun, Chen Zhong, Sun Jinfang, Li Ning (Lit flame)
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Zhang Yining
Taker of the Official's Oath Huang Liping (Artistic Gymnastics)
Flagbearers Full list
Olympic Flag Bearers Zhang Xielin, Pan Duo, Zheng Fengrong, Yang Yang (A), Yang Ling, Mu Xiangxiong, Xiong Ni, Li Lingwei

Medal Disciplines

Archery Cycling Track Sailing
Artistic Gymnastics Diving Shooting
Artistic Swimming Equestrian Dressage Softball
Athletics Equestrian Eventing Swimming
Badminton Equestrian Jumping Table Tennis
Baseball Fencing Taekwondo
Basketball Football Tennis
Beach Volleyball Handball Trampolining
Boxing Hockey Triathlon
Canoe Slalom Judo Volleyball
Canoe Sprint Marathon Swimming Water Polo
Cycling BMX Racing Modern Pentathlon Weightlifting
Cycling Mountain Bike Rhythmic Gymnastics Wrestling
Cycling Road Rowing

Other Disciplines

Wushu

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
People's Republic of China CHN 48 22 30 100
United States USA 36 39 37 112
Russian Federation RUS 24 13 23 60
Great Britain GBR 19 13 19 51
Germany GER 16 11 14 41
Australia AUS 14 15 17 46
Republic of Korea KOR 13 11 8 32
Japan JPN 9 8 8 25
Italy ITA 8 9 10 27
France FRA 7 16 20 43
Netherlands NED 7 5 4 16
Ukraine UKR 7 4 11 22
Kenya KEN 6 4 6 16
Spain ESP 5 11 3 19
Jamaica JAM 5 4 1 10
Poland POL 4 5 2 11
Ethiopia ETH 4 2 1 7
Romania ROU 4 1 4 9
Cuba CUB 3 10 17 30
Canada CAN 3 9 8 20
Hungary HUN 3 5 2 10
Norway NOR 3 5 1 9
Brazil BRA 3 4 10 17
Belarus BLR 3 4 7 14
Czech Republic CZE 3 3 1 7
Slovakia SVK 3 3 0 6
New Zealand NZL 3 2 4 9
Georgia GEO 3 2 2 7
Kazakhstan KAZ 2 3 4 9
Denmark DEN 2 2 3 7
Democratic People's Republic of Korea PRK 2 2 2 6
Thailand THA 2 2 2 6
Mongolia MGL 2 2 0 4
Switzerland SUI 2 1 4 7
Argentina ARG 2 0 4 6
Mexico MEX 2 0 2 4
Belgium BEL 2 0 0 2
Zimbabwe ZIM 1 3 0 4
Slovenia SLO 1 2 2 5
Azerbaijan AZE 1 1 4 6
Indonesia INA 1 1 4 6
Bulgaria BUL 1 1 3 5
Turkey TUR 1 1 3 5
Chinese Taipei TPE 1 1 2 4
Finland FIN 1 1 2 4
Latvia LAT 1 1 1 3
Dominican Republic DOM 1 1 0 2
Estonia EST 1 1 0 2
Portugal POR 1 1 0 2
Trinidad and Tobago TTO 1 1 0 2
India IND 1 0 2 3
Islamic Republic of Iran IRI 1 0 1 2
Cameroon CMR 1 0 0 1
Panama PAN 1 0 0 1
Tunisia TUN 1 0 0 1
Sweden SWE 0 4 1 5
Lithuania LTU 0 3 2 5
Croatia CRO 0 2 3 5
Nigeria NGR 0 2 3 5
Colombia COL 0 2 1 3
Greece GRE 0 2 1 3
Armenia ARM 0 1 4 5
Uzbekistan UZB 0 1 3 4
Austria AUT 0 1 2 3
Ireland IRL 0 1 2 3
Kyrgyzstan KGZ 0 1 2 3
Serbia SRB 0 1 2 3
Algeria ALG 0 1 1 2
Morocco MAR 0 1 1 2
Tajikistan TJK 0 1 1 2
The Bahamas BAH 0 1 1 2
Chile CHI 0 1 0 1
Ecuador ECU 0 1 0 1
Iceland ISL 0 1 0 1
Malaysia MAS 0 1 0 1
Samoa SAM 0 1 0 1
Singapore SGP 0 1 0 1
South Africa RSA 0 1 0 1
Sudan SUD 0 1 0 1
Vietnam VIE 0 1 0 1
Egypt EGY 0 0 2 2
Afghanistan AFG 0 0 1 1
Israel ISR 0 0 1 1
Mauritius MRI 0 0 1 1
Republic of Moldova MDA 0 0 1 1
Togo TOG 0 0 1 1
Venezuela VEN 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Michael Phelps USA 8 0 0 8
Chris Hoy GBR 3 0 0 3
Zou Kai CHN 3 0 0 3
Steph Rice AUS 3 0 0 3
Libby Lenton-Trickett AUS 2 1 1 4
Yang Wei CHN 2 1 0 3
Leisel Jones AUS 2 1 0 3
Aaron Peirsol USA 2 1 0 3
Matt Grevers USA 2 1 0 3
Ryan Lochte USA 2 0 2 4

All medalists at these Games