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Monday, December 29, 2008

A memorable Olympics

It was to be China’s time to shine, a year of celebrations with the Olympic spirit touching the hearts and minds of one-fifth of the world’s population as the Olympics headed to Beijing.

Instead, months before the August 8-24 Games, human rights groups disrupted the globally televised torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, setting off a chain of worldwide protests.

From Paris and London to San Francisco and Seoul, the Beijing Olympics torch relay became a target for human rights protesters as it meandered across the globe.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) faced mounting criticism and bad press for its decision to award the Games to China, given the country’s human rights record. “We are not an activist organisation,” IOC chief Jacques Rogge said, defending the decision and saying the Games would bring change to China.

The word “boycott” crept into discussions months before the Games but in the end none materialised. Even Iraq, temporarily suspended weeks before the Olympics, managed to send athletes to China. By the time the Olympics started with a record 204 teams from around the world parading in the spectacular Bird’s Nest stadium, both local organisers and the IOC were under intense media scrutiny.

Internet restrictions for foreign media, pro-Tibet protests and Beijing’s air quality grabbed the headlines in the days running up to the Games. However, the dazzling opening ceremony showcasing the might of modern China, which invested an estimated $40 billion to prepare for the Games, set the stage for memorable performances in breathtaking venues.

US swimmer Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals while Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt captured the 100 and 200 metres sprint double as well as a 4x100m relay gold in world record-breaking time.

Defending Olympic 110 metres hurdles champion Liu Xiang added drama when he hobbled off the track minutes before his first heat, stunning a capacity Bird’s Nest crowd. Team China, though, were unstoppable, topping the medals table with 51 golds, leaving the United States second with 36. Russia were third and Britain fourth .

The IOC saw record television audiences in most major markets and used the YouTube video-sharing website to post Olympic footage online, recording more than 16.5 million hits and unlocking the potential of new media to attract younger viewers. The opening ceremony alone was seen by 1.2 billion people around the world.

Doping concerns led to extensive pre-Games testing by federations and Olympic teams which rooted out some 50 cheats. An additional 5,000 tests were conducted during the Games, nabbing nine athletes, but the Games were spared the embarrassment and unwanted distraction of a major doping scandal.

The spotlight quickly switched to the 2012 Summer Games after the Beijing closing ceremony, with the British capital already struggling with its biggest project, the one-billion-pound Olympic village.

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At May 25, 2009 at 8:26 AM , Blogger travis the sports man said...

Micheal Pheleps is truely amazing!


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