2008 Beijing, China

The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, China, from August 8 to August 24, 2008.

A total of 11,028 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competed in 28 sports and 302 events (a total of one event more than the schedule of the 2004 Games). China became the 22nd nation to host the Olympic Games and the 18th to hold a Summer Olympic Games. It was the third time that the Summer Olympic Games were held in Asia, after Tokyo, Japan, in 1964 and Seoul, South Korea, in 1988. The equestrian events were held in Hong Kong.

Beijing was awarded the Games over four competitors on July 13, 2001, having won an absolute majority of votes from members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after two rounds of voting.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China 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 constructed for use at the Games. The official logo of these Olympic Games, titled “Dancing Beijing”, featured a stylised calligraphic character jīng, referring to the host city. Media outlets reported unprecedented audience interest in the Games, and these Olympics had the largest television audience in Olympic history. Some politicians and non-governmental organizations criticized the choice of China as Olympic host because of the country’s human rights record.

There were 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records set at the 2008 Summer Olympics. An unprecedented 86 countries won at least one medal during the Games. Chinese athletes won the most gold medals, with 51, and 100 medals altogether, while the United States had the most medals total with 110. Michael Phelps broke the records for most gold medals in one Olympics and for most career gold medals for an Olympian by winning eight swimming events.

Beijing was elected as 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 chosen by the IOC Executive Committee 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.

Members of the IOC did not disclose their votes, but news reports speculated that broad international support led to China’s selection, especially from developing nations who had received assistance from China in the construction of stadiums. The size of China, its increased enforcement of doping controls, and sympathy concerning its loss of the 2000 Summer Olympics to Sydney were all factors in the decision. Eight years earlier, Beijing led every round of voting for the 2000 Summer Olympics until they lost in the final round to Sydney by two votes.

Human rights concerns expressed by Amnesty International and politicians in both Europe and the United States were considered by the delegates, according to IOC Executive Director François Carrard. Carrard and others suggested that the selection might lead to improvements in human rights in China. In addition, a number of IOC delegates who had formerly been athletes expressed concern about heat and air quality during the Games. China outlined plans to address these environmental concerns in its bid application

Highlights of the Beijing Olympics

The program for the Beijing Games was quite similar to that of the 2004 Summer Olympics held in Athens. There were 28 sports and 302 events at the 2008 Games. Nine new events were held, including two from the new cycling discipline of BMX.

Women competed in the 3000 metre steeplechase for the first time. Open water swimming events for men and women, over the distance of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), 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. Two sports were open only to men, baseball and boxing, while one sport and one discipline were open only to women, softball and synchronized swimming. Equestrian andmixed badminton are the only sports in which men and women compete together.

Athletes from 86 countries won medals, 54 of which won gold medals, both setting new records for Olympic Games. 118 participating countries did not win a medal. Athletes from China won 51 gold medals, the most of any nation at these Olympics, becoming the first nation other than the United States and Russia (Soviet Union) to do so since the 1936 Summer Olympics. Athletes from the United States won the most total medals, with 110.

Afghanistan, Mauritius, Sudan, Tajikistan and Togo won their first Olympic medals. Athletes fromMongolia (which previously held the record for most medals without a gold) and Panama won their nation’s first gold medals. An athlete from Serbia won its first medal under that name, having previously won medals as part of Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro.

All but one of the 205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that existed as of 2008 participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics, the exception being Brunei. Three countries participated in the Olympic Games for their first time: the Marshall Islands, Montenegro and Tuvalu.

The Marshall Islands and Tuvalu gained National Olympic Committee status in 2006 and 2007 respectively, and 2008 was the first games in which they were eligible to participate. The states of Serbia and Montenegro, which participated at the 2004 Games jointly as Serbia and Montenegro, competed separately for the first time. The Montenegrin Olympic Committee was accepted as a new National Olympic Committee in 2007.

Neighboring Kosovo, however, did not participate. After the declaration of independence in Kosovo, the IOC specified 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. China and the United States had the largest teams, with 639 for China and 596 for the United States.

Concerns at the Beijing Olympics

The 2008 Olympic Games have been generally accepted by the world’s media as a logistical success. Many of the worst fears about the games failed to materialize: no terrorists struck Beijing; no athlete protested at the podium, and the air quality – due largely to favorable conditions – was not as bad as many had feared beforehand despite being the worst in Olympics history.

For the Chinese government, the Olympic events, as well as the medals won by Chinese athletes, were a great source of national pride. It was seen as a symbol of China’s pride and place in the world, while protests against the relay that occurred overseas were presented in the state media as the attempt of foreigners to deny the Chinese people that place. The Olympics seem to have also bolstered some 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 possibly have more leverage to disperse dissent, at least momentarily.

It is also believed that the number of gold medals won at the Olympics helped the pro-Beijing party (DAB) win at Hong Kong legislative election, 2008, in which the DAB remained the largest party. In the days before the election, a number of Chinese gold medalists visited Hong Kong to rally support behind the DAB, although some analysts had expected larger gains as a result of this than actually occurred.

The long-term economic impact of the games on China and Beijing in particular is not yet clear. Some sectors of the economy may have benefited from the influx of tourists, and other sectors such as manufacturing lost revenue because of plant closings related to the government’s efforts to improve air quality. It is generally expected by economists that there will be no lasting effects on Beijing’s economy from the games.