Every 4 years the world is treated to the ultimate test in athletic prowess and determination and 2008 is Beijing’s year to host the big show. This will mark the first time ever the Olympic Games will be held beyond the Great Wall. The ‘2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremonies kick off at the Beijing National Stadium on August 8th and are set to conclude on the 24th.
Beijing won the chance to host the 2008 games, back in 1998. A surprise winner, Beijing wowed the Olympic Committee, with plans to create some of the most unique and awe inspiring buildings to help host the worldwide event, beating out strong bids from Toronto, Paris and Osaka. The Chinese delivered on that promise, creating 12 brand new buildings to add to their 25 existing venues, set to house this year’s games. The Beijing National Stadium and the Beijing National Aquatics Center are 2 that have received the most attention. The Bird’s Nest (Beijing National Stadium) which will host all the track and field events, looks just like its moniker; a mishmash of steel and style, the stadium is an architectural marvel. No less impressive (and right next door to the Bird’s Nest) is the Water Cube (Beijing National Aquatics Center) built for all the aquatic competitions. Resembling a monstrous sponge, the architectural award-winning cube, lights up at night casting an eerie glow over Beijing.
In 1984, the Summer Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles and were remarkable for a number of reasons: Russia’s boycott of the games, incredibly tacky 80’s track suits, Carl Lewis’s winning 4 gold medals while sporting a terrible slanted hair cut, perky gymnast Mary Lou Retton becoming the belle of the games (and subsequent desire of advertising executives everywhere) and it also marked the first time the Chinese ever won an Olympic medal. Xu Haifeng blasted her way to a gold medal in the 50m Pistol event. Since then, China has been on a tear winning 112 gold, 94 silver, and 75 bronze medals, with the majority being awarded in diving, gymnastics and weightlifting.
As per usual, this year the United States and Russia are expected to haul a bunch of medals home. With the 2008 version of the United States basketball “Dream Team” featuring Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, the race appears to be on for the silver and bronze. Jamaica’s Asafa Powell is set to leave the Bird’s Nest track scorched. The former world record holder in the 100m has been sending dust into the eyes of his competition lately, as he amps up for the games at various meets. Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi lead their respective Brazil and Argentine football squads into the games, both with a legitimate shot at the gold. However with all the well known stars competing, it’s the lesser-known athletes that seem to rise to the occasion during the Olympics, creating the drama and excitement of which is legend.
With the spotlight set squarely to shine and Beijing and all of China, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the world views the eastern power after the games. China, if you didn’t know, has had a somewhat stormy relationship with the rest of the world. It’s technically still a communist country (but don’t tell Hong Kong that), it occasionally gets into trouble for human rights issues, and it really isn’t a world leader for environmental causes. But recently, the intensely private Chinese government has started to show a different side. In the wake of the terrible earthquake earlier this spring that killed thousands and left more injured and homeless, the world received a better look at the Chinese and how they treat their own. How China and its 3 billion residents, will be perceived in the aftermath of the intense media focus the Olympic Games brings, is anyone’s guess. One thing for sure, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch how everything unfolds.