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Beijing Olympics 2008

On August 8 2008 at 08.08.08 p.m. the Beijing olympics in the 29th Olympiad were opened. The opening took place in the Bird’s Nest, Beijing National Stadium, built for the occasion and named after its spectacular architecture. 90.000 spectators were present at the opening and approximately 2˝ billion TV-viewers around the world.

In the 16 days from the opening until the closing ceremony on August 24, Beijing and its 18 million citizens delivered what some reporters called “the perfect games” and it was always clear that the aim was to reach the highest standards in all respects.

Beijing had been chosen as host city of the 2008 olympics on July 13, 2001 during the 112th IOC session in Moscow. Beijing was a clear winner in front of the other candidates, Toronto, Paris, Istanbul and Osaka. This resulted in the fifth Olympics in Asia after Tokyo 1964, Sapporo 1972, Seoul 1988 and Nagano 1998.

Prior to the Beijing olympics there were worldwide protests against arranging the Olympics in a country where human rights were compromised especially in relation to the situation in Tibet. The torch – bringing the Olympic fire from Olympia in Greece to the Beijing olympics - was met by demonstrations in many countries. In addition to these controversies the environmental situation in Beijing was the focus of much attention.

The number of participating countries was larger than ever before. 204 of IOC’s 205 members were present in Beijing – only Brunei turned down the invitation. Three new nations participated: Marshall Islands, Montenegro and Tuvalu. Serbia was new participators as well but substituted the former NOC of Serbia and Montenegro. More than 11.000 athletes competed in the Beijing olympics.

The event programme in Beijing 2008 was the same as in Athens 2004. In total there were 302 events – one more than in Athens. 165 events for men, 127 for women and 10 mixed events. In athletics women ran the 3000 m steeplechase for the first time which completed the process of having identical programmes for men and women in athletics. In cycling the BMX events for men and women were introduced. In swimming a new marathon distance of 10 km was new in the programme and in table tennis the doubles were substituted for team events.

The Beijing olympics produced 40 world records and more than 130 olympic records. Two athletes were outstanding in Beijing 2008. One was American swimmer Michael Phelps who wrote Olympic history by winning 8 gold medals – the highest number at one Olympic Games. With this accomplishment Phelps overcame his compatriot Mark Spitz’ old record from Munich 1972 of 7 gold medals. The other outstanding achievement was made by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. He won three gold medals in athletics, set three world records in an overall performance that deserves comparison to Jessie Owens’ in Berlin 1936 and Carl Lewis’ in Los Angeles 1984. 

The host nation was expected to dominate competitions in the Beijing olympics. China did not disappoint and for the first time became the most winning nation. With 51 gold medals China superseded USA with no less than 15 gold medals. Russia came third with 23 gold, Great Britain 19, Germany 16 and Australia 14. The Chinese success was partly a result of a major project for securing medals that was initiated immediately after Beijing was announced hosts in 2001.

Follow this link for a detailed and interactive medal standing for Beijing 2008.
This story about the Beijing olympics 2008 is based on the official olympic reports and the games-encyclo database
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