The beautiful 16-day Olympic dream came to an end on August 24, 2008 at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium. The world looked in awe as the poignant love story came to an end, bathed in a kaleidoscope of color with the mesmerizing dance patterns, breathtakingly spectacular choreography and grand fireworks.
The closing ceremony of one of the most remarkable Olympics the world has seen in recent times was an emotion filled affair. The celebration of unity, brotherhood of humanity and China’s reassertion that there is nothing impossible was all there for the crowd of more than 90,000 and the whole world to see.
The motto of the Olympics, “Higher, faster, stronger” was outlined in the best possibly way by the athletes, who surged ahead with their world-breaking sporting performances and by the host athletes, who showed excellence and dominance in such a way that they redefined the image of the communist nation internationally.
China was on top of the world and there was not a single soul that grudged them their success. For China, it was a journey of confidence and self-belief. The doubts had melted, leaving feelings of euphoria in their wake.
The IOC President Jacques Rogge declared the games closed with the words, “Tonight, we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever. Through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world. These were truly exceptional games.”
The feeling of a sudden emptiness was felt by all the athletes gathered together, as the Olympic flag was brought down. But the raising of Great Britain’s flag signaled the beginning of a new journey: London 2012 Olympics. The cameo by London, host of the 2012 Summer Games, which included soccer star David Beckham who came into the stadium standing on top of a red double-decker bus and kicked a ball into the stadium, gave life to the crowd.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown attended and the London Mayor, Boris Johnson received the Olympic flag from Beijing Mayor, Go Jinlong.
Before that, Leona Lewis with the song “Whole lot of love” and Led Zappelin set the pulses racing in the stadium. Then it was time to extinguish the Olympic flame.
It was estimated that China invested more than $40 billion in these Olympics and called the world for a party that showcased China’s dramatic economic progress.
China stood first in the gold medals tally with 51 gold medals as compared to 36 by the United States, which stood second. However, in the overall tally of medals, the United States showed it is second to none and did proud to the nation by standing first with a total of 110 medals as against China’s 100.
Here are a few indelible moments in the Olympics:
• Any talk of Beijing Olympics cannot be complete without mentioning the 23-year-old swimming sensation Michael Phelps who became the face of the games, by beating Mark Spitz’s record of 1972 of seven golds in a Games – a dream Phelps realized by winning 8 medals in the Beijing Olympics.
Phelps said he owed his success to his mother who also sent him several cell phone messages of encouragement, and he joyously mentioned that he was the one who taught his mother how to send these messages.
• Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won three golds and beat the 100 meters world record. Bolt already owned the records and in front of a packed Bird’s Nest stadium he ran 9.69 seconds. He thumped his chest in triumph over the last few meters before his “marksman” celebration, which become one of the lasting images of the games.
• The battle of the giants was won by German Weightlifter, Matthias Steiner, who received his gold, choking back on tears over the promise he made to his late wife Susann that he would keep their Olympic dream. The super-heavyweight made the pledge to her at her bedside in hospital as she lay dying after a car crash in 2007. He held up a picture of Susann and said, “I thought of her before the competition.”
• Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva won a gold medal and world record-breaking pole vault performance that captivated the crowd. After spending most of the competition lying under a towel, she broke her own world record with a leap of 5.05 meters.
Not all Olympic moments were filled with joy and happiness and there were a few heart-rending moments too.
American Matt Emmons had just thrown away another gold medal at the Olympics. In the very last shot of a competition of 120 shots, he blew a 3.3-point lead. The same thing happened four years ago in Athens, where he had fired at the wrong target and threw away a 3-point lead. This is looked at as one of the most shocking moments of the Olympics.
Speaking of shocks, the whole of China felt a shock when Liu Xiang had to walk away from the tract because of his leg injury. Liu is the most popular sportsman in China and his departure clouded the Games for millions of fans.
There was a grim moment during the opening weekend and that was the attack on U.S. volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon’s father-in-law, who was stabbed by a Chinese man who later killed himself.
The Beijing Olympics was filled with drama of all kinds and left spectators awed by the impact of it all. All potential liabilities such as concerns over pollution and potential political upheaval vanished into the smog filled air and turned the event into a triumph that will be remembered for a long time to come and has set new standards for all future Olympics.