Changing China

Giant on the move

Beijing 2008: Were these the best Games ever?

August 24, 2008

Fireworks at the closing ceremony

The Beijing Olympic Games closed on Sunday, as China passed on the flame to London.

Former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch was in the habit of describing each Games as “the best ever”, with the notable exception of Atlanta in 1996.

His successor Jacques Rogge does not go in for such superlatives. He described Athens in 2004 as “unforgettable, dream Games” and on Sunday he pronounced the verdict on Beijing, saying they had provided “an exceptional Games”.

Perhaps that was a fitting phrase for an Olympics that began with an opening ceremony on an unparalleled scale and went on to provide highlights that will live on in the memory of all of us.

American swimmer Michael Phelps won eight gold medals, with a little help from his friends on the relay team, to break the record of seven at a single Games, achieved by Mark Spitz in 1972. Usain Bolt took the breath from all of us in the Bird’s Nest stadium when he won the 100 and 200 metres, breaking the world record in each.

Matthias Steiner broke our hearts by offering up his weightlifting gold to the wife he lost in a car crash, while Matt Emmons made us all gasp when for the second Olympics in succession he blew a certain gold medal with a ridiculous mistake on his final shot.

But were they the best Games ever? China provided us with a wonderful experience at and away from the venues and I will never forget the friendliness of the legions of volunteers, and the ordinary Chinese people too.

One thing that did get me after a while is that this was a Games that was taken extremely seriously, by everyone (apart from Usain Bolt).

Faster, Higher, Stronger goes the Olympic motto, and China seemed determined to host a Games with those goals in mind. They did it too, but I sometimes longed for an Eric the Eel in the pool, or even a cock-up in the organisation, just to prove that not even the Chinese are perfect when it comes to running a big event.

The short segment given to London 2012 during the closing ceremony promised a much more modest scale and perhaps a touch of irony and self-deprecation, what with the umbrellas and a double decker bus. I almost expected Austin Powers to come somersaulting out.

For now, though, let’s focus on China. The Games were brilliant, but were they the best ever? Please let us know in the comments.

PHOTO: Fireworks explode during the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 24, 2008. REUTERS/Claro Cortes


Amazing show indeed!! Just spare a thought for all the homeless Chinese and those living in poverty as a direct result of the Olympics. Check out Shame! Shame! Shame!

Posted by Hong | Report as abusive

The greatness of the game may not be in the physical appearance of the Bird Nest or or any outward show. Rather, Beijing 2008 stands out as the foremost venue of resolve, hard work and denouement of sportsmen and women who gave out their best ever. USA performance in the games is a proof to this: China came out better than her economic rival. So did hundreds of athletes from poor countries to whom such a game is an expression of a possible way forward towards a world of unity and prosperity.


I have already done so.


My comment is found above.


Amanda, Communist China cannot afford to host another Game soon. The “human rights” noose is tightening around Beijing’s necks. It will check on its own blood and gall if the Chinese Communist Party is in the spotlight again. The lies and deceptions are unraveling. Thanks Montana for the recommendation of the Epoch Times. The persecution of Falun Gong is just horrendous which I have just located at and Falun Gong practises truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. Free Tibet!! Free Falun Gong!!

Posted by Hong | Report as abusive

Our country has done it’s best to host this event.
I just hope that this Olympic could be a good memory.

Posted by zh | Report as abusive

No, these were not the best games ever. They certainly had their fair share of spectactular moments but every games has that. Sydney 2000 still the best games ever.

Posted by Nathan | Report as abusive

Definitely the best! Like a poster above said, the Chinese organisers never made it about politics, it was about showing the world who China was, what it represented and educating them in dazzling form. And with it, China learnt more about itself; the injury of Liu Xiang saw a nation unite in grief. Appreciate the Olympics for what it is, a unity of countries exhibiting humanity and compassion through the realm of sport, and it certainly did that.

Impeccable organisation, beautiful displays, it was just superb! A little spontaniety could’ve helped but hey, if that was the only factor missing, it was hardly noticed under everything else!

Well done China! And good luck London! Can’t wait!

Posted by Lulu | Report as abusive

Brilliant performance of course, outstanding standards. But as the years go on, technology imporves, so that more advanced and amazing things happens. And I agree, it isn’t really nessacery to compare with other cities. And no, the Chinese aren’t brates. At least they don’t get as jealous and are much more honest than the United Shits of America!

Posted by Me | Report as abusive

The main point of the Olympic spirt is to come together, complect and do your best and make world peace, not argue and complain about the opening ceremony, closing ceremony and stuff like that. The Chinese have tried their hardest to prove that they are part of the the world and not a place for everyone to stare down and sneer about. The Olympic spirt is not about whether they are the best or the worst, but how much effort they have put in. If you point the finger of blame far west enough, you will find that it only comes back to you.

I’m no going to stay here anymore and listen to you “children” (and yes, I say children because you are acting like one) complain and fight and challenge each other about the “Best Games Ever”. I’ve got better things to do. And just remember, a good cause costs for some bad faults. Every Olympics has them. And it isn’t your duty to go around mentioning them day and night and day and night and day and night and blah, blah, blah…

If you really have a heart, if you really are a true human, you will know and understand how much the Chinese people have suffered and sacifised for this Olympics.

I think that I have put that in quite well.

Posted by Dude | Report as abusive

Best ever — here is why.
Spectacular achievements internationally, not just in athletics, but in engineering, world friendship, artistry, coordination and security.

For example: the concept of the water cube was presented and approved before the architect knew how it could be possible to construct!

The complexity of the ceremonies and the incredible number of VIPs including Bush – yet no significant accidents or mess-ups.

I believe many new friendships worldwide will be created. Misconceptions and cultural barriers will be broken by this.

I for one having watched these Olympics have renewed the pride I have both in my original heritage as well as the country I now call home.

Those criticizing the money spent and political control:
-The Chinese in China are looking for a better future; they know that this “coming out party” will help their kids. As an Asian/American I understand what the people in China would sacrifice. Even the New Testament hints at this when Jesus rebukes his disciples when Mary Magdalene anoints his feet with expensive perfume that could be sold “to help the poor”.
-the Olympics is supposed to be a vacation from world politics and war, I think it is unforgivable that some countries and groups try and use it to stage political protests
-How do you expect to maintain such massive control over security, political agenda etc. without some censorship or control.

Of course some things could have been done better, but doesn’t that apply to pretty much everything in this world?

FYI I’m a proud US citizen, who is of Chinese descent, and have lived and been educated all over the world, but ironically never been to China.

Posted by ES | Report as abusive

Definetely best games ever.

The script couldn’t have been written better.

1) Super opening and closing ceremonies
2) super performances from all athletes (bolt and phelps)
3) super stadiums and locations
4) super controversies over differences in western/eastern schools of thought on governing a country.

hey… you can’t have a show without an antagonist eh?

best games ever, best games ever, best games ever… those whining about the abovementioned 4) just adds to the flavour haha

Posted by Five Times | Report as abusive

All Olympics had their merits.

But Beijing 2008 exceeding all because it was grand, magnificent, memorable. Loved the moments.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Sure they were a fun and flashy olympics but they lacked something to make them the best ever.

It doesnt just matter how many world records were broken or medals were taken home. It matters about the whole package from the lead up to the event and the wind down.

How well were they staged? Did the city fulfill it Olympics commitments? Were the games run smoothly? How friendly were the residents of the host city? And, was the ‘Olympics Spirit’ present in the city as the world watched on? ect….

For these reasons, the best games goes to either Barcelona or Sydney for not only staging a magical games. But staging a games that were not dogged by angry mobs of protestors, upset journalists, over commercialisation or buildings that wern’t quiet finished on time.

Well done China for putting on a pretty good facade. But you can’t pull woll over our eyes that easily.

Posted by Christian | Report as abusive

“Each Olympics is the “best” at the time they end – its just a fact that our thoughts are focused to the current games. However after a few years most fade away to just a place and time (eg Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004) and are – to put it bluntly – forgettable. The noteable exceptions are: Barcelona 1992 and Sydney 2000. Both of which were exceptional.
In the end I think Beijing 2008 will end up like LA 1984 (forgotten), but only time will tell.”

It’s a pity to say that Athens Games 2004 are forgettable. It seems that you cannot realize the olympic ideal and the its deep meaning that the Organizers in Athens served it like no other.
‘Unforgettable , dream Games” said Roggue for Athens and I would add “unique” as well.
Marathon athletes run the classical Marathon root from Marathona ( where thousands years ago, Phidipides run from there to Athens to announce to Atheneans that they have won the war against the persians ), can this be forgotten ??? ( only if you are not aware of history ). For the first time in history women compete in ancient olympia ( in ancient times women were not allowed to enter even the stadium ), can this be forgotten ???
What could I say for the opening ceremony in Athens … The ancient greek civilization, which gave birth to the Olympic Games in front of billion of eyes … HOW Can this be forgotten ?
The Olympic Games is not only fireworks, or giant things, or anything impressive. It’s about harmony, friendship and above all, human scale. It’s just what ancient greeks had in their mind when they were celebrating the Games …
For me Athens 2004 was simply unique …

Posted by pantelis | Report as abusive

I found the Games 2008 were really good and the opening and closing ceremony were spectacular beyond measure!

I must say that the Caribbean must apply to see the games from a website that is not American based since the americans have always been extremely bais in their coverage of the games


Beijing games were great,for me though ive always loved the Moscow olympics of 1980,Barcelona was awesome.Sydney is a great city,but the Sydney games were hopeless,they were the most boring olympics of the modern era,

Posted by jett | Report as abusive

China is ruled by a dectatorship dressed as if it were a communist party. How can it be possible to organize the best ever Olympic Games with absence of freedom felt at every corner??? This is not what the Games should be about.

NO these were not the best Games ever for me.

Let us not forget Athens 2004 organized by the smallest ever nation to host the modern gigantic Olympics.
The Greeks delivered an opening ceremony that superceded Beijing by far in aesthetics and was focused on the human values of the ‘individual’ rather than the centraly governed ‘masses’.

How can we forget the moments at Ancient Olympia were our athlets competed for the first time since Ancient Olympics’ era?

For me Athens was an honest attemt to search for the true spirit of the Games.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

In spite of the problems of cheating and doping, and nationalism which can be divisive, the Olympic Games carry on and remain popular. This is possibly because the Games show us what we as humans are capable of and that humanity is capable of engaging in friendly competition. We should keep in mind what the father of the modern Games, Baron Pierre de Courbertin, once said: “Olympism is not a system, it is a state of mind”. This is the real meaning of the Olympic Games. And this meaning was beautifully expressed and served during the Athens 2004 games. Those Games were by far the best ever! Simple, meaningful, based on the human scale. Athens 2004 showed the greatest opening ceremony ever held! A celebration of the diversity of human beings. A poem dedicated to the beauty of mankind! Greeks renewed the Olympic movement; In Athens, it was the human being itself that was in the centre of the Games!


I have to agree, that these last olympics were one of the best games ever. I have been to three olympics in my life, and these were among the most exciting.


These were truly the greatest games of all time. The passion, energy, time and imagination put into it’s organization and execution was truly legendary! These games provided for me the greatest memories that any olympics ever will because they had elements to them that all others will lack. The controversies, the competition between the current and future superpower, the unbelievable record shattering performances from the athletes, and the most stunning opening and closing ceremonies. It’s not just any olympics where a 5000 years old society with 1.3 billion people opens up to the world! oh and the paralympics were just as memorable.

Posted by john | Report as abusive

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