Competitive Exams: Olympics Current Affairs 2009

Current Affairs 2009: Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, were a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, China, from August 8 (except football, which started on August 6) to August 24, 2008. A total of 11, 028 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 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 jang (meaning capital), referring to the host city. Several new NOCs have also been recognised by the IOC. It was the third time that the Summer Olympic Games were held in Asia and the first since 1988, when the Summer Games were in Seoul. The first Summer Olympics to be held in Asia was in Tokyo in 1964.

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 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 and 100 medals altogether, and the United States won 36 gold medals and 110 total medals. Michael Phelps broke the records for most golds in one Olympics and for most career gold medals for an Olympian, and equaled the record for most individual golds at a single Games. Usain Bolt secured the traditional title World's Fastest Man by setting new world records in the 100m and 200m sprints.

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. 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.

Beijing National Stadium

The Beijing National Stadium, dubbed The Bird's Nest. The centrepiece of the 2008 Summer Olympics is the Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed the Bird's Nest because of its nest-like skeletal structure. [22] 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. [23][24] 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.

Torch relay

The design of the Olympic Torch is based on traditional scrolls and uses a traditional Chinese design known as the Propitious Clouds. The torch is designed to remain lit in 65 km/h (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 137, 000 km (85, 000 mi) 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 IOC subsequently barred future Olympics organizers from staging international torch relays.

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 were 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 Xigaza 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.

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 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 9-year-old Lin Miaoke to lip-sync over the singing voice of Yang Peiyi for the opening ceremony song Ode to the Motherland. Miss Yang, 7, had reportedly won a grueling competition to be chosen as the performer, but was considered to be insufficiently photogenic, and a member of the Politburo who oversaw the final preparations ordered that Miss Lin appear in Miss Yang's place. Another portion of the ceremony featured 56 children carrying a large Chinese flag, with 55 of them dressed in traditional costumes of the officially recognized 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 NOC's:

All but one (Brunei) of the 205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated. China and the United States had the largest teams, with 647 for the United States and 639 for China.

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 Oliver 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.

For the first Time India sent swimmers to Olympics.