China’s capital Beijing hosted a truly spectacular Olympic Games in 2008. For the world’s most populous nation it was their first time hosting and an outstanding success.
IOC President Jacques Rogge closed the Games by saying, “through these Games, the world has learned more about China, and China more about the world…. These were truly exceptional Games!”
The Chinese excelled both on and off the sporting arena. The 37 venues, Olympic Village and thousands of friendly volunteers will be talked about for years to come.
Australia at these Games
Six-time Olympic rower James Tomkins carried the Australian flag in the Opening Ceremony and the star of the team Stephanie Rice, with three gold and three world records in the pool, carried the flag in the Closing Ceremony.
Australia’s women dominated in the pool. Some ‘expected gold’ from world record holders didn’t eventuate but stirring wins in events like the 4x200m relay more than made up for it.
The most anticipated final in the pool was the men’s 1500m final as Grant Hackett was striving to make history and win the event for the third consecutive time. He gave it absolutely everything and came agonisingly close, missing the gold by 0.69 seconds from Mellouli of Tunisia.
There were plenty of brave performances and other highlights for the team.
Outside of downtown Beijing towards the Great Wall Emma Snowsill dominated the women’s triathlon for gold and Emma Moffatt produced the race of her life for bronze.
At the regatta centre there was double rowing gold when Drew Ginn and Duncan Free won the men’s pair and David Crawshay and Scott Brennan the men’s double scull. For Ginn it was his third Olympic gold from three attempts.
Kayaker Ken Wallace at his first Games won bronze in the K1 1000m and then stormed home two days later to win the K1 500m.
470 sailors Elise Rechichi/Tessa Parkinson and Malcom Page/Nathan Wilmot defeated the conditions and the world’s best sailors to win gold.
The main stadium was a happy hunting ground for the athletics team. Steve Hooker produced an Olympic record and kept Australia on the edge of their seats with his pole vault gold medal. Sally Pearson (then McLellan) showed scintillating form and determination in the 100m hurdles to win a surprise silver. Jarred Tallent fulfilled his potential with an amazing silver (50km) and bronze (20km) in the race walks.
The Games finished on a high for the Australian team. On the last night of the Games, diving sensation Matthew Mitcham produced the highest scoring dive in Olympic history to move to the top of the podium and deny China a clean sweep of diving gold.
In team sports Australia won minor medals in women’s basketball (silver), team eventing, men’s hockey (bronze), women's softball (bronze) and women’s water polo (bronze).