Flags of many nations at the Beijing 2008 Olympics

Flags of many nations at the Beijing 2008 Olympics

This pin features flags of many nations participating in the 2008 Beijing, China Olympics. The 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (第二十九届夏季奥林匹克运动会), was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, China, from August 8 to 24, 2008. A total of 10,942 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees 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, making it the third time the events of the same Olympics were held under the jurisdiction of two different NOCs, while sailing was contested in Qingdao, and football events took place in several different cities.

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 specifically for use at the Games. The official logo of these Olympic Games, titled “Dancing Beijing”, featured a stylized calligraphic character jīng (京, meaning capital—see below for how to pronounce “jing”), 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 to date, an achievement later surpassed by the 2012 Games. Some politicians and non-governmental organizations criticized the choice of China as Olympic host because of the country’s human rights record, and protests by pro-Tibetan independence activists and critics of China’s human rights record marred the international portion of the Olympic torch relay.

There were 43 world records and 132 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 total medals with 110. American swimmer Michael Phelps broke the records for most gold medals in one Olympics and for most career gold medals by winning eight swimming events.

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 (though Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian tossed his bronze medal in disgust over judging), and the air quality – due largely to favorable weather patterns – was not as bad as many had feared beforehand despite being the worst in Olympics history. [Believe me, it can be oppressive!]

Many in China viewed the Olympics as “an affirmation of a single nationalistic dream” and saw protests during the international torch relay as an insult to China. The Games also bolstered domestic support for the Chinese government, and for the policies of the Communist Party, giving rise to concerns that the Olympics would give the state more leverage to suppress political dissent, at least temporarily. Efforts to quell any unrest before and during the Games also contributed to a rapid expansion in the size and political clout of China’s internal security forces, and this growth continued through the following years. Reports also indicated that the Olympics boosted the political careers of pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong, as many Chinese gold medal winners campaigned on behalf of the pro-Beijing DAB during the 2008 election, although any trend towards greater identification by Hong Kongers with Mainland China appears to have been short-lived.

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. Four years after the Games, many of the specially constructed facilities were underused or even deserted. It is generally expected by economists that there will be no lasting effects on Beijing’s economy from the games

I visited Beijing in 1987 staying at an athletic university. The food was, of course, excellent, much better than I found in Xian (horrible, everything gray.) Beijing (there is NO “zh” sound in Bei-Jing – its “j” as in Jeep, just, jealous, Jersey, etc. The “Francinization” of the j sound is just plain wrong. The train trip from Beijing to Shanghai was 23 hours and not very pleasant, although I’ve had worse trips. The heat was the biggest problem.

Location: 09-D1