History of the Olympic Games


Site: Beijing, China
Dates: August 8-246
Nations: 204
Total Athletes: 10,708
Sports: 28

The closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on Sunday night ended 16 days of competition at a record-setting Games.

It featured a handoff to the 2012 London Olympics that included a quintessential red double-decker bus, trailed into the stadium by gold medal winners from Great Britain's track cycling team.

The bus converted to a stage, and Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page performed the band's "Whole Lotta Love" with pop singer Leona Lewis. Soccer star David Beckham kicked a ball into a crowd of onlookers.

Later, world-famous tenor Placido Domingo had a duet with Chinese singer Song Zuying.

The ceremony -- about two hours long -- was far shorter and far lighter in tone than the lavish four-hour production that opened these Olympics on Aug. 8.

Fireworks ringed the upper part of the National Stadium at the beginning and end -- typical for a closing ceremony -- and thousands of performers moved in unison on the floor of the "Bird's Nest" in choreographed moves that echoed the well-received opening.

Athletes entered National Stadium together, not country by country like in the opening ceremony.

"Tonight we come to the end of 16 glorious days which we will cherish forever," said International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge. "Thank you to China, to all the wonderful volunteers and to BOCOG (the Beijing organizing committee).

"Through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the World."

London mayor Boris Johnson received the Olympic flag from Beijing mayor Go Jinlong, also typical of a closing ceremony. Both mayors waved the flag. But the ceremony lacked the international political presence of the opening, when U.S. president George W. Bush was among the heads of state in attendance.

The slow extinguishing of the Olympic flame ended a record-setting Olympics -- and the biggest in more ways than one.

A record 204 nations represented by at least one athlete. More women participated than in any other Olympics in history, including 48 percent of the United States team.

There were more than 130 Olympic records broken in Beijing, and 43 world records passed -- including seven by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps in the Water Cube pool and three by runner Usain Bolt in the Bird's Nest.

An Olympic-record 87 countries won at least one medal, including firsts for Afghanistan, Mauritius, Tajikistan and Togo. Bahrain, Mongolia and Panama won their first-ever gold medals, and India claimed its first individual gold.

The Games were popular around the world, especially with a formerly dwindling U.S. Olympic audience captivated by, among other things, Phelps' successful chase of the gold medal record for a single Games.

The Beijing Olympics were broadcast to more people in more regions than ever, the IOC said. It was the first Olympics to have global digital coverage.

There were positives in other areas, as well.

Rogge's prediction at the start of the Olympics that there would be between 30 and 40 positive doping cases in Beijing, there were just six cheaters caught during the Games.

Of course, almost 40 were nabbed before the Olympics started.

And it wasn't for lack of testing: Under a stringent new plan, the IOC had performed more than 4,600 urine and blood tests through the end of last week, up from the 3,500 performed in Athens four years ago. There were 26 positive tests at the 2004 Olympics.

Spectators turned out across the board. And although attendance didn't quite reach the sold-out status that had been reported before the Olympics started, the numbers more than tripled from the beginning of the Games to the end, the IOC said.

There were unfortunate sporting incidents, the last and perhaps most serious coming when a Cuban athlete kicked a taekwondo referee in the face following a disqualification on Saturday night. But there were also plenty of positive examples of Olympism, especially between teams from the warring countries of Russia and Georgia.

Of course, outside the spectrum of athletics there were real-world issues. Despite the promise of designated protests areas, every application for demonstration was either denied or withdrawn.

Unauthorized protests, especially concerning China's contentious relation with Tibet, were dealt with swiftly by authorities. Journalists caught in the middle were roughed up.

But the Games unfolded without any major security issues, something that was a concern leading up to them.

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