Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Next stop London as Beijing Olympics end

After 17 days of sporting achievements the Beijing Olympic Games came to a close on Sunday. Although the ceremony which closed the event were not as grand as the opening a little over two weeks ago, it was nonetheless a spectacle of light, colour and sound. The games were declared a success by IOC president Jacques Rogge as the Olympic banner was then handed to London's Mayor Boris Johnson. After waving the flag rather awkwardly there then followed an 8 minute display to celebrate Britain’s position as the next host city for the Olympics. On rolled a red London Bus, not a route master as Boris may have preferred, and from it emerged Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page who launched into a slightly truncated version of “Whole Lotta Love” sung by Leona Lewis. Then soccer star David Beckham appeared who kicked a football into the crowd. Back in London, crowds gathered in front of Buckingham Palace for a free concert cheered. But the ceremonies were not yet finished for the 2008 host city as a series of astounding acrobatic displays and fireworks brought to an end the Beijing 2008 Olympiad.
There were muted cheers as the torch on the Bird’s Nest stadium was extinguished. For Beijing, the dream had come to an end so there may maybe a touch of sadness across China that the Olympics has ended. Billions of Yuan have been spent on hosting the Olympics and the event have brought together Chinese people in a huge patriotic embrace. Even criticism of China by the Western media dwindled as the games got underway. There were a few pro-Tibetan protests and Channel Four News made particular criticism of the stamping out of legitimate protests. But it was the terror threat that nearly overshadowed the games. However, bomb blasts in Yunnan province and attacks on police by Muslim separatists in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region failed to dampen spirits and even the fatal stabbing of an American tourist did not stop the battle for Gold medals. And it was a record breaking Olympics for many countries. Michael Phelps smashed several records in a number of swimming events. Phelps took a record 8 Gold medals in Beijing surpassing records held by the American swimmer Mark Spitz. Team GB also did exceedingly well in the Beijing Olympics coming 4th on the Gold medal table behind China, the US and Russia.
The past few weeks have been memorable, not only for the sporting achievements and festivities but also for China’s attempts to open up to the world. The changes may not be fast enough for some, but China has come a long way since Deng Xiaoping began China’s opening up policy.

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