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2008 Summer Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, People's Republic of China, from August 8 (except football, which started on August 6) to August 24, 2008. A total of 10,500 athletes competed in 302 events in 28 sports, one event more than was on the schedule of the 2004 Games. The 2008 Beijing Olympics marked the first occasion that either the Summer or Winter Games were hosted in China, making it the 22nd nation to do so. It also became the third time that Olympic events have been held in the territories of two different National Olympic Committees (NOC), as the equestrian events were being held in Hong Kong (the other two instances being the 1956 games, where the equestrian events were hosted in Stockholm, Sweden, due to strict Australian quarantine rules, and the other events were hosted in Melbourne, Australia; and the 1920 games which were hosted in Antwerp, Belgium, but the final two races of the 12ft dinghy event in sailing were held in The Netherlands).

The Olympic Games were awarded to Beijing after an exhaustive ballot of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on July 13, 2001. The official logo of the Games, titled "Dancing Beijing," features a stylised calligraphic character jīng (京, meaning capital), referring to the host city. Several new NOCs have also been recognised by the IOC.

The Chinese government promoted the Games and invested heavily in new facilities and transportation systems. A total of 37 venues were used to host the events including 12 newly constructed venues. At the closing ceremony IOC president Jacques Rogge declared the event a "truly exceptional Games" after earlier asserting that the IOC had "absolutely no regrets" in choosing Beijing to host the 2008 Games. The choice of China as a host country was the subject of criticism by some politicians and NGOs concerned about China's human rights record. China and others, meanwhile, warned against politicizing the Olympics.

The Games saw 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records set. A record 87 countries won a medal during the Games. Chinese athletes won 51 gold medals altogether, the second largest haul by a national team in a modern, non-boycotted Summer Games. Michael Phelps broke the record for most golds in one Olympics and for most career gold medals for an Olympian. Usain Bolt secured the traditional title "World's Fastest Man" by setting new world records in the 100m and 200m dashes.

Bid

2008 Summer Olympics bidding results
City NOC Round 1 Round 2
Beijing China 44 56
Toronto Canada 20 22
Paris France 15 18
Istanbul Turkey 17 9
Osaka Japan 6
Beijing was elected the host city on July 13, 2001, during the 112th IOC Session in Moscow, defeating Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka. Prior to the session, five other cities (Bangkok, Cairo, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and Seville) submitted bids to the IOC but failed to make the short list in 2000. After the first round of voting, Beijing held a significant lead over the other four candidates. Osaka received only six votes and was eliminated. In the second round, Beijing was supported by an absolute majority of voters, eliminating the need for subsequent rounds.

After winning the bid, Li Lanqing, the vice premier of China, declared "The winning of the 2008 Olympic bid is an example of the international recognition of China's social stability, economic progress and the healthy life of the Chinese people." Eight years earlier, Beijing led every round of voting for the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, but lost in the final round to Sydney by just two votes.

Development and preparation

A total of an estimated US$42 billion were spent on the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, making it the most expensive games ever; the British Olympic Association has announced that no more than US$19 billion will be spent on the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, while the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2004 Athens Olympics cost US$7 billion and US$15 billion respectively.

Venues

By May 2007, construction of all 31 Beijing-based Olympic Games venues had begun. The Chinese government has also invested in the renovation and construction of six venues outside Beijing as well as 59 training centres. Its largest architectural pieces are the Beijing National Stadium, Beijing National Indoor Stadium, Beijing National Aquatics Center, Olympic Green Convention Center, Olympic Green, and Beijing Wukesong Culture & Sports Center. Almost 85% of the construction budget for the six main venues was funded by US$2.1 billion (RMB¥17.4 billion) in corporate bids and tenders. Investments were expected from corporations seeking ownership rights after the 2008 Summer Olympics. Some venues will be owned and governed by the State General Administration of Sports, which will use them after the Olympics as facilities for all future national sports teams and events. The 2008 Beijing Olympics are the most expensive Games in history with a total of $40.9 billion spent between 2001 and 2007 on infrastructure, energy, transportation and water supply projects.

Some events were held outside Beijing, namely football in Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Tianjin; sailing in Qingdao; and, because of "uncertainties of equine diseases and major difficulties in establishing a disease-free zone", equestrian in Hong Kong.

Beijing National Stadium

The centrepiece of the 2008 Summer Olympics is the Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird's Nest because of its nest-like skeletal structure. Construction of the venue began on December 24, 2003. The Guangdong Olympic Stadium was originally planned, constructed, and completed in 2001 to help host the Games, but a decision was made to construct a new stadium in Beijing. Government officials engaged architects worldwide in a design competition. A Swiss firm, Herzog & de Meuron Architekten AG, collaborated with China Architecture Design & Research Group to win the competition. The stadium features a lattice-like steel outer skeleton around the concrete stadium bowl and has a seating capacity of over 90,000 people. Architects originally described the overall design as resembling a bird nest with an immense ocular opening with a retractable roof over the stadium. However, in 2004, the idea of the retractable roof was abandoned for economic and safety reasons. The Beijing National Stadium was the site of the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the athletics events and soccer finals.

The Beijing Olympic Village opened on July 16, 2008 and to the public on July 26, 2008.

Transport

To prepare for Olympic visitors, Beijing's transportation infrastructure was expanded significantly. Beijing's airport underwent a major expansion, adding the new Terminal 3, the world's largest airport terminal, designed by renowned architect Norman Foster. On August 1, Beijing south railway station was reopened after two years of construction. The 120-km long Beijing–Tianjin Intercity Rail, which opened on the same day, connects the new railway station with Olympic co-host city Tianjin with the world's fastest scheduled train service at 350 km/h.

Within the city itself, Beijing's subway expanded to more than double its capacity and overall size, adding an additional 7 lines and 80 stations to the previously-existing 4 lines and 64 stations, including a new link connecting directly to the city's airport. Also, a fleet of thousands of buses, minibuses and official cars transported spectators, athletes and officials between venues.

A temporary road space rationing based on plate numbers was in effect during the Games in an effort to improve air quality. In addition, 300,000 heavy-polluting vehicles have been banned from operating within the city, and entry into Beijing by vehicles has been strictly limited. These restrictions are enforced from July 20 to September 20. Passenger vehicle restrictions are placed on alternate days depending on the plates ending in odd or even numbers. This measure is expected to take 45% of Beijing's 3.3 million cars off the streets. The boosted public transport network is expected to absorb the demand created by these restrictions and the influx of visitors, which is estimated at more than 4 million extra passengers per day.

Marketing

The 2008 Summer Olympics emblem is known as Dancing Beijing (). The emblem combines a traditional Chinese red seal and a representation of the calligraphic character jīng (, "national capital", also the second character of Beijing's Chinese name) with athletic features. The open arms of the calligraphic word symbolises the invitation of China to the world to share in its culture. IOC president Jacques Rogge was very happy with the emblem, saying, "Your new emblem immediately conveys the awesome beauty and power of China which are embodied in your heritage and your people."

The slogan for the 2008 Olympics is "One World, One Dream" (.) The slogan calls upon the whole world to join in the Olympic spirit and build a better future for humanity. It was chosen from over 210,000 entries submitted from around the world.

The mascots of Beijing 2008 were the five Fuwa, each representing both a colour of the Olympic rings and a symbol of Chinese culture.

Broadcasting

The 2008 Games were the first to be produced and broadcast entirely in high definition television by the host broadcaster. In comparison, American broadcaster NBC broadcasted only half of the Turin Winter Games produced in HD. In their bid for the Olympic Games in 2001, Beijing confirmed to the Olympic Evaluation Commission "that there will be no restrictions on media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games, but according to a report in The New York Times, "these promises have been contradicted by strict visa rules, lengthy application processes and worries about censorship."

According to Nielsen Media Research, 4.7 billion viewers worldwide tuned in to some of the television coverage, one-fifth larger than the 3.9 billion who watched the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The 2008 Olympics was the most-viewed event in American television history.

Online coverage

American broadcaster NBC produced only 2 hours of online streaming video for the 2006 Winter Games but produced approximately 2,200 hours of coverage for the 2008 Summer Games. For the first time "live online video rights in some markets for the Olympics have been separately negotiated, not part of the overall 'broadcast rights,'"; these new media of the digital economy are growing "nine times faster than the rest of the advertising market.

Globally, however, the 2008 Olympics is subject to extensive copyright restriction –which amounts to territorial restrictions– whilst still being covered extensively online within various exclusive copyright autarkies. Thus despite the international nature of the event and the global reach of the Internet, the coverage world wide of assorted nation-states and television networks is not readily accessible; there is no global or supranational media coverage as such. The international European Broadcasting Union (EBU), for example, provides live coverage and highlights of all arenas only for certain of its own territories on their website eurovisionsports.tv. Many national broadcasters likewise restrict online events to their domestic audiences.

Despite the contractual obligations of the digital economy, some of the same technologies used to circumvent the Great Firewall of China (such as UltraSurf) can be used to subvert the Olympic media autarkies on the Internet as well.

YouTube has removed a video of a regional German network's (NDR) coverage of the opening ceremonies as "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by a third party.; a video from Australia's Seven Network has been removed "for violation of terms of service". Furthermore, the General National Copyright Administration of China has announced that "individual (sic) and websites will face fines as high as 100,000 yuan for uploading recordings of Olympic Games video to the internet, part of an extensive campaign to protect the pertinent intellectual property rights.

Torch relay

The design of the Olympic Torch is based on traditional scrolls and uses a traditional Chinese design known as the "Propitious Clouds" (祥云). The torch is designed to remain lit in 65 kph (40 mph) winds, temperatures as low as -40°C and in rain of up to 50 mm (2 in) per hour.

The relay, with the theme Journey of Harmony, lasted 130 days and carried the torch —the longest distance of any Olympic torch relay since the tradition began at the 1936 Berlin Games. The torch relay was called a "public relations disaster" for China by The Times, with protests of China's human rights record, particularly about Tibet.

The relay began March 24, 2008, in Olympia, Greece. From there, it traveled across Greece to Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, and then to Beijing, arriving on March 31. From Beijing, the torch followed a route passing through every continent except Antarctica. The torch visited cities on the Silk Road, symbolizing ancient links between China and the rest of the world. A total of 21,880 torchbearers have been selected from around the world by various organizations and entities.

The international portion of the relay was problematic. The month-long world tour saw wide-scale protests to China's human rights abuses and recent crackdown in Tibet. After trouble in London saw several attempts to put out the flame, the flame was extinguished in Paris the following day. The American leg in San Francisco on April 9 was altered without prior warning to avoid such scenes, although there were still demonstrations along the original route. The relay was further delayed and simplified after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake affecting western China.

The flame was carried to the top of Mount Everest on a 108 km (67 mi) long "highway" scaling the Tibetan side of the mountain especially built for the relay. The $19.7 million blacktop project spanned from Tingri County of Xigazê Prefecture to the Everest Base Camp. In 2008 March, China banned mountaineers from climbing its side of Mount Everest and later persuaded the Nepalese government to close their side as well, officially citing environmental concerns. It also reflected concerns by the Chinese government that Tibet activists may try to disrupt its plans to carry the Olympic torch up the world's tallest peak.

The originally proposed route would have seen the torch carried through Taipei after leaving Vietnam and before heading for Hong Kong. Taiwan authorities (then led by the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, however, objected to this proposal, claiming that this route would make the portion of the relay in Taiwan appear to be part of the torch's domestic journey through China, rather than a leg on the international route. This dispute as well as demands that the flag of the Republic of China and the National Anthem of the Republic of China be banned along the route led the Taiwan authorities to reject the proposal that it be part of the relay route, and the two sides of the Taiwan Strait subsequently blamed each other for injecting politics into the event.

The Games

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was held in the Beijing National Stadium. It began at 8:00 pm China Standard Time (UTC+8) on August 8, 2008. The number 8 is associated with prosperity and confidence in Chinese culture, and here it was a triple eight for the date and one extra for time (close to 08:08:08 pm). The ceremony was co-directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou and Chinese choreographer Zhang Jigang. It featured a cast of over 15,000 performers, and was dubbed beforehand as "the most spectacular Olympics Opening Ceremony ever produced".

A rich assembly of ancient Chinese art and culture dominated the ceremony. It opened with the beating of Fou drums for the countdown. Subsequently, a giant scroll was unveiled and became the show's centerpiece. The official song of the 2008 Olympics, titled You and Me, was performed by Britain's Sarah Brightman and China's Liu Huan, on a large spinning rendition of the globe. The last recipient in the Olympic Torch relay, former Chinese gymnast Li Ning ignited the cauldron, after being suspended into the air by wires and completing a lap of the National Stadium at Stadium roof height in the air.

The entry parade of the competing athletes differed in order from previous Olympic ceremonies, as the national teams did not enter in alphabetical order by the host nation's alphabet. Since Chinese does not have an alphabet, teams entered the stadium in order (lowest first) of the number of strokes in their Simplified Chinese character transcriptions; this is a common collation method for the Chinese language, such as the surname stroke order system. As a result, Australia (normally one of the first teams to enter the stadium) became one of the final teams to arrive, as the first character of the Chinese name of Australia (澳大利亚) has 16 strokes. The Olympic traditions of Greece entering first and the host nation (China) entering last were still observed.

The opening ceremony was lauded by spectators and various international presses as spectacular and spellbinding. Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the XXIX Olympiad, called the ceremony "a grand, unprecedented success. A review of the opening ceremony from around the world called it "spectacular and devoid of politics". It was deemed that the real fireworks were too dangerous to film from a helicopter; as such, some footage were generated to provide simulated aerial shots of the scene. Another cosmetic enhancement in China's quest for a perfect Summer Games was using a girl considered a better performer to lip-sync over the singing voice of a less pretty girl during the opening ceremony song Ode to the Motherland. Another portion of the ceremony featured 56 children carrying a large Chinese flag, with 55 of them dressed in traditional costumes of the ethnic minorities of China. The children wearing the ethnic minority costumes were described in the official program as members of these minorities, but it was later revealed that they were actually Han Chinese.

More than 100 sovereigns, heads of state and heads of government as well as 170 Ministers of Sport attended the Beijing Olympic Games.

Closing ceremony

The 2008 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony concluded the Beijing Games on August 24, 2008. It began at 8:00pm China Standard Time (UTC+8), and took place at the Beijing National Stadium.

The Ceremony included the handover of the Games from Beijing to London. Guo Jinlong, the Mayor of Beijing handed over the Olympic flag to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, followed by a performance organized by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

Participating NOCs

All but one (Brunei) of the current 205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated. China and the United States had the largest teams, with 639 and 596 competitors respectively. Several countries were represented at the Games by a single athlete.

Three countries participated for their first time: the Marshall Islands, Montenegro and Tuvalu.

South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, five time gold medalist at the Athens Paralympics in 2004, qualified to compete at the Beijing Olympics, thus making history by becoming the first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games since Olivér Halassy in 1936. Natalia Partyka (who was born without a right forearm) competed in Table Tennis for Poland.

As in the previous Games since 1984, athletes from the Republic of China (Taiwan) are competing at the Olympics as Chinese Taipei (TPE) under the Chinese Taipei Olympic flag and using the National Banner Song as their official anthem. The participation of Taiwan had been in doubt due to disagreements over the designation of the team in the Chinese language, and concerns that Taiwan would march in the Opening Ceremony next to the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Unlike in previous games, supporters were not able to legally display the flag of the Republic of China even outside the venues.

List of Participating NOCs
Below is a list of all the participating NOCs (the number of competitors per delegation is indicated in parentheses)

Participation changes

The Marshall Islands and Tuvalu gained National Olympic Committee status in 2006 and 2007 respectively, and are participating in the Games.

The states of Serbia and Montenegro, which participated at the 2004 Games jointly as Serbia and Montenegro, are now competing separately. The Montenegrin Olympic Committee was accepted as a new National Olympic Committee in 2007. After the declaration of independence in Kosovo, IOC specified the requirements that Kosovo needs to meet before being recognised by the IOC; most notably, it has to be recognised as independent by the United Nations.

North Korea and South Korea held meetings to discuss the possibility of sending a united team to the 2008 Olympics, but the proposal failed, due to disagreements between the two NOCs on the proportion of athletes from the two countries within the team.

On July 24, 2008, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Iraq from competing in the 2008 Olympic Summer Games due to "political interference by the government in sports. On July 29, the IOC reversed its decision and allowed the nation to compete after a pledge by Iraq to ensure "the independence of its national Olympics panel" by instituting fair elections before the end of November. Until then, Iraq's Olympic Organisation will be run by "an interim committee proposed by its national sports federations and approved by the IOC.

Brunei Darussalam were due to take part in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. However, they were disqualified on August 8, having failed to register either of their athletes. The IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said in a statement that "it is a great shame and very sad for the athletes who lose out because of the decision by their team not to register them. The IOC tried up until the last minute, midday Friday August 8, 2008, the day of the official opening, to have them register, but to no avail. Brunei's Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports submitted a Press release why Brunei decided not to participate in Beijing, stated that "one athlete competing in the shot putt event Mohd Yazid Yatimi Yusof (who) has undergone intensive training since March ... injured himself in June (right liotibial strain with mild lateral ministrial knee injury), when he was competing in the Pesta Sukan Kebangsaan (National Sports Festival)". The Brunei Darussalam Olympic Council (BNOC) issued a Press release stating that "it had to wait for approval from the Youth and Sports Department under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports as to whether Brunei Darussalam could be represented at the Olympic Games". It is also noted that the withdrawal can lead Brunei to being sanctioned and appropriate action will be taken after the closing of the Olympics on August 24.

Georgia announced on August 9, 2008 that it was considering withdrawing from the Beijing Olympic Games due to current military conflict in South Ossetia.

Sports

The program for the Beijing 2008 Games was quite similar to that of the 2004 Summer Olympics held in Athens. The 2008 Olympics saw the return of 28 sports (some of which, such as aquatics, gymnastics and cycling, were divided into multiple disciplines), and held 302 events (165 men’s events, 127 women's events, and 10 mixed events), one event more in total than in Athens.

Overall, 9 new events were held, which included 2 from the new cycling discipline of BMX. Women competed in the 3000 m steeplechase for the first time. In addition, marathon open water swimming events for men and women, over the distance of 10 kilometres, were added to the swimming discipline. Team events (men and women) in table tennis replaced the doubles events. In fencing, women's team foil and women's team sabre replaced men's team foil and women's team épée.

In 2006, the Beijing Organizing Committee released pictograms of 35 Olympic disciplines (for some multi-discipline sports, such as cycling, a single pictogram was released). This set of sport icons is named the beauty of seal characters, due to each pictogram's likeness to Chinese seal script.

The following were the 28 sports to be contested at these Games. The number of events contested in each sport is indicated in parentheses (in sports with more than one discipline, as identified by the IOC, these are also specified).

  • Aquatics (46)

  • Slalom (4)
  • Flatwater (12)
  • BMX (2)
  • Road (4)
  • Track (10)
  • Mountain Bike (2)
  • Dressage (2)
  • Eventing (2)
  • Jumping (2)

  • Artistic (14)
  • Rhythmic (2)
  • Trampoline (2)

  • Beach Volleyball (2)
  • Volleyball (2)
  • Freestyle (11)
  • Greco-Roman (7)

In addition to the official Olympic sports, the Beijing Organising Committee was given special dispensation by the IOC to run a wushu competition in parallel to the Games. The Wushu Tournament Beijing 2008 saw 128 athletes from 43 countries participate, with medals awarded in 15 separate events; however, these were not to be added to the official medal tally since Wushu was not on the programme of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Calendar

In the following calendar for the 2008 Olympic Games, each blue box represents an event competition, such as a qualification round, on that day. The yellow boxes represent days during which medal-awarding finals for a sport are held. Each bullet in these boxes is an event final, the number of bullets per box representing the number of finals that was contested on that day.

Medal table

The top ten ranked NOCs at these Games are listed below. (Host nation is highlighted)

1 51 21 28 100
2 36 38 36 110
3 23 21 28 72
4 19 13 15 47
5 16 10 15 41
6 14 15 17 46
7 13 10 8 31
8 9 6 10 25
9 8 10 10 28
10 7 16 17 40

Concerns and controversies

A variety of concerns over the Games, or China's hosting of the Games, have been expressed by various entities; including allegations that China violated its pledge to allow open media access, various alleged human rights violations, air pollution in both the city of Beijing and in neighbouring areas, proposed boycotts, warnings of the possibility that the Beijing Olympics could be targeted by terrorist groups, potentially violent disruption from pro-Tibetan protesters, religious persecutions, the banning of ethnic Tibetans from working in Beijing for the duration of the Games, criticisms of policies mandating the electronic surveillance of internationally owned hotels, displacement of residents, ticket adversities, manhandling of foreign journalists, dubious protest zones, as well as alleged harassment, house arrests, forced disappearances, imprisonment, and torture of dissidents and protest applicants.

Furthermore, there are allegations that some members of China's women's gymnastics team were too young to compete under the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique's rules for Olympic eligibility. On August 21, the IOC ordered a probe into the legal ages of double gold medal winning gymnast He Kexin and her fellow teammates. After a five and a half week investigation, the Chinese gymnasts were deemed eligible to compete and the original results were allowed to stand.

In the lead-up to the Olympics, the government allegedly issued guidelines to the local media for their reporting during the Games: most political issues not directly related to the games were to be downplayed; topics such as Pro-Tibetan independence and East Turkestan movements were not to be reported on, as were food safety issues such as "cancer-causing mineral water. As the 2008 baby milk scandal broke in September 2008, some western media evoked suspicions that China's desire for a perfect games may have been a factor contributing towards the delayed recall of contaminated infant formula.

Legacy

In the short term, the 2008 Olympic Games have been generally accepted by the world's media as a logistic success. Contrary to fears before the game, no terrorists struck Beijing; no athlete protested at the podium; and thanks largely to favorable weather conditions the city had the best air quality in ten years.

For the Chinese people, the Olympics itself, as well as the medals won by Chinese athletes, were a great source of national pride. The Olympics have also bolstered domestic support for the Chinese government, and support for the policies of the Communist Party of China, giving rise to concerns that the state will have more leverage to disperse dissent.

The long-term economic impact is not yet clear, but it is generally expected that there will be no lasting effect on the city due to the games.

See also

References

External links

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