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


Great performances but not the best Games. Sydney or Barcelona beat these for sheer fun. Great to see the Brits win so many golds, though. Perhaps I’ll change my mind.

Posted by jf | Report as abusive

Bolt, Phelpsy, Yams – what more could you want?

Posted by dave | Report as abusive

Every game has it’s own performance, Beijing is outstanding in nearly every aspect,but it’s not necessary to compare it with other citis.

Posted by Leon | Report as abusive

Definitely by far the BEST game ever. I can’t believe Rogge would understate it like that. Unforgivable!

Posted by Lucy | Report as abusive

Not the “best ever”.

Watching two Chinese officials tear (one of the many) match balls from the arms of the winning American basketball coach was just one reason (I have footage!)

Athletes told to “leave laptops at home — internet access will be everywhere” and then forced to huddle around shared computers is another.

“Best ever” were the magic words that Rogge must have been under incredible pressure to utter. Kudos for not kowtowing that time — what a pity he (and the IOC) bent the knee about so many other broken BOCOG promises.

Posted by Royster | Report as abusive

No, these were the most expensive games ever, London 1908 was the best games ever. There were lots of comedy events like Deer Stalking (OK, not funny for the deer i know) fly fishing and croquet. Much more idiotic than synchronised diving, rhythmic gymnastics and riding a bicycle very slowly.


As it has gone with dream like performances,i think it the better one just in my opinion, one for an audience. And the best one or not,should be commented by the players and the ioc . However,i think it best.

Posted by LK | Report as abusive

Best ever!

Posted by EA | Report as abusive

Each game brings a different aspect. Each host country did their best for the world. The ‘best-ever’ game is not a necessary comparison. Beijing was exceptional, magical and those smiles from ordinary volunteers and the proud Chinese people will be the legend of this fantastic Olympic game. As a Chinese, I can’t be prouder of what was done. Bravo China!

Posted by lei Qu | Report as abusive

I did enjoyed it. Usain Bolt on the track, Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in the Water Cube…those were among my favourite highlights.

‘but it’s not necessary to compare it with other citis.’

Posted by diana | Report as abusive

this olympics games was definately dominated by usain bolt. he is easily most talked about athlete leaving the games. his performances is the greatest anyone have ever seen and likes that will not be repeated in a long time to come. it easy to say that bolt is the athlete of this generation and the greatest display of dominance in the history ot olympic games. he not only won three gold medals but all in blistering world record times in the same games never was it done before by great performers of the past such as jesse owens, carl lewis or even michael phelps.


greatest performances ever but dont now it was the greatest olympics ever.


these are truly the best games ever. China has done an amzing job, the facilities and the pereformances would take somthing extrodinary to beat.

Posted by tracy | Report as abusive

These were definitely exceptional games, no question. but the best ever title rightfully belongs to Sydney. Go you Aussies!

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

Absolutely! Fantastic opening ceremony!Unprecedented athletes performance!Meticulous race schedule arrangement! Can U ask for more?
Though chinese goverment has its problem! But just only considering the games itself bu not the outer factors.

Posted by Zh | Report as abusive

No, probably the ancient Olympians were the best. China’s was just expensive and quite controversial. The athletes always shine and you never know what can happen. The best olympics…I doubt it but a good run no doubt.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

No authoritarian power like China, Russia, or even the current United States should be allowed to compete in the Olympics, let alone host them. The athletes were amazing but the Olympics have lost their meaning. If you remove the blindfold of patriotism and mob mentality, you can see the sad truth of it all.

Posted by Realist | Report as abusive

how to evaluate a game, the limitation on web,the air-pollution,the weather or the hosting government?

the answer is simple, like the author said,

“this was a Games that was taken extremely seriously”

“Faster, Higher, Stronger goes the Olympic motto”

Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt , beijing, right Genius,right time, plus more and more countries got medals……

by the way, bird-nest,water-cube, do you remember the name of any previous stadium?

Posted by piaoguo | Report as abusive

although campared the ever games, i think it’sbest ever ,of course!


I have enjoyed the excellent performing ever. Who cares if it is best ever? I did not see many Olympic games so far yet. I believe I will still remember it when I am 70, em, 90 year old hopefully.

Posted by Franklin | Report as abusive

Celebration of Olympics Bronzes

What happened?
How can we lose gold count to China, a third world country?
Let’s have a national holiday of mourning. No one objects I bet!
Let’s have a national contest of the best excuses of winning so less gold medals.
It has to be the BEST, so it could worth a gold in this category.

What to do?
Borrow more money from China to buy foreign coaches…
No Speedo to Australia and China.
My secret weapon is to import 8 Jamaican runners. Money talks!
Bribe the judges (a little harder as everyone hates us but money talks again).
Change all the rules to our favor: 5 medals for basketball, 1 for table tennis, 0 for diving…
All tiebreakers must go our way as our sponsors own the Olympics.
We will amplify their “shortcomings” like copying our advance lip sing technique (how dare you’re), small size advantage, large size advantage, working too hard…
The Chinese must have put slippery jell on our batons and/or the gym apparatus.
Develop a dope that can take out all dope traces from our body so we take it before dope tests.
“One country, all medals” is our new Olympics slogan.
The more wishfully we think, the closer we succeed.

How to heal now, really?
Write to Dear Abby for starter.
Bronze is the same as gold if not better. If you do not believe me, ask any blind person.
It is harder to get a bronze as we have to LET two others to win.
We’ll train our athletes for the bronze from now on.
We will ask NBC to interview bronze winners only as they are the real winners.
Actually we’ll be happier to be #3 and build a better relationship with other nations. Stop laughing. It is a fact!!!
Phelps, we love you more with 8 bronze medals – it is no easy job to let 2 and ONLY 2 pass you 8 times.

If everything does not work, turn ugly.
Ask McDonald’s and KFC to give away their “food” (better than opium) to China FREE, so their next generation will be so fat that they cannot walk to the subway station.
Send soldiers to grab the medals, esp. gold. Hey, we have the best offense.
Will the world be better if we only fought for gold medals only (bronze medals in our case)?
What an Olympic spirit to celebrate the winning of the bronze!

– The author is Tony Pow. 8/22/08. Created for fun. No politics. No dumb nationalism. No ego. 90% false, 10% true. 100% fun. Hope no offense to you. Please feel free to distribute/change… —

Posted by TonyPow | Report as abusive

Summer games this time, definitely,were one of the best ones. What I don’t understand is that why we(westerners) are coming up with different kind of allegations against China, it’s not like only Europeans and Americans and my be Japanese are the only ones who can host it perfectly, there are many issues that come up and are ignored whenever the games were organized in WEST, but I never heard any comments made by people from western hemisphere. These games far better than those that were hosted in Sydney or Athens and were better organized. (BTW I am a Proud American, but just can’t stand this indirect racism and racist feelings.)

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

The greatest games ever. China-you are a great country. Please make Tibet independent as a good gesture. The world will view you with high respect.

Posted by Chalama Reddy | Report as abusive

In addition, you have conducted these games at a such high standards, future future games may have tough time matching it. Superb, Superb. I and my family enjpyed all events and enjoyed learning about China in nothing but positive light. Our hats off to the people of china.

Posted by Chalama Reddy | Report as abusive

It was definitely the most memorable. If one was to examine what it takes to host an olympic one has to give credit the the chinese and the olympic organizers. They did a remarkable job. The venues and ceremonies will never be matched. In all accounts this was the most successful olympic ever because of the challengese faced by China. Some were real such as infrastructure, terroism, and polution but some were artificial-created by a small group of people who wanted to hijack this wonderful gathering of citizens of the world to server their own agenda. Whatever biased opinion bloggers and so called journalist writes, the one thing that stands true is the passion of the Chinese people to stage a monumental event and hopefully show the world what the media seldom shows-that the China is not a nation to be feared but a nation yearning to be respected. A nation of 1.3 billion people can teach the world a thing or two.

Posted by Connor | Report as abusive

For me it was one of the best Olympics ever, apart from the Sydney games 8 years ago. The Chinese open ceremony was fantastic. I do not think London 2012 can even touch Beijing 2008. SO well done to China… I watched nearly every event….

Posted by Marcel | Report as abusive

The worst games ever. More corruption and lack of objectivity than I have ever seen before. IOC can’t tell the difference between athletics and opera. Is the Bolshoi ballet coming to London? In the States, we saw no Judo, Tae Kwan Do, shooting, archery, shot put, javelin, hammer throw, discus…you know, the traditional Olympic field events. No coverage at all. But we got to see young girls prance about like divas. What a load of codswallop.

Posted by Mr. Mick | Report as abusive

I really enjoyed them and I felt a bit part of them by writing on the blogs.

Posted by lauder | Report as abusive

No doubts the best games ever!!! I actually watched almost all of the games. Bravo for Beijing olympics 08!

Posted by cindy | Report as abusive

in my opinion i think the olympics this year was amazing! definitely in my opinion the best games ive seen! but as many people say every city has something special.
but from my opinion it was the best, although there are problems with the chinese govt. but thats got nothing to do with the people and politics shoudlnt be involved as the olympic games should be an event of the world coming together!

Posted by amy | Report as abusive

Best ever? No way! Athens was better. And no fake fireworks in the opening ceremonies.

Posted by Kibbles | Report as abusive

It’s absolute the best Olympics ever! It’s a lot of fun and most notably athletes are treated most graciously! Good job China!

Posted by HW | Report as abusive

From TV watching point of view

I was not particularly paying attention or looking foward to the olympics it definitely caught my attention.

Fascinating Performances -thanks to Usain Bolt, the doctor of all doctors, the king of all kings.

Architcture of venues-The birds nest and water cube were smartly designed.

And the Chinese seem dedicated and well prepared, put their best foot foward

Posted by D_KittyKat | Report as abusive

Yes! For me it was one of the best Olympics.. if not the very best. The broadcasters should think about upgrading though. I heard some very dissatisfying, not to mention ignorant commenters talking over performances of athletes. And like “Mr. Mick” said (although I don’t agree with the rest of his message), a lot of “unimportant” (less popular) events were not shown and replaced with the more popular ones.. The sheer effort put into it was amazing.

Posted by Arine | Report as abusive

I can’t say whether these are the greatest Games ever, but certainly for me they are the greatest that I have witnessed in my life, surpassing the excellent Barcelona Games of 1992.
The success of these Olympics is made even more poignant given the fact that there was always a vocal element of the Western media who tried to derail the spirit of the Olympics simply because they were being held in the nominally communist China.
For me, there was never any need for this attitude. The Chinese government never made the Olympics about politics. Instead they put on a great stage for athletes to compete, as they were supposed to do so, and I commend them for their efforts.
Thank you China. Thank you Beijing.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Being an American, I was a bit disappointed that the US didn’t win the gold medal count. But you know what, you have to tip your hat off to China. The Chinese athletes were amazing-performing up to the expectations of an entire nation. China also put on an amazing show and she deserves the praises from all around the world. No nation is perfect and we often point fingers at others when we are also guilty of our own shortcomings. I hope the rest of the world will have a better understanding and appreciation for China and her people. I sure do now.

Posted by Megan | Report as abusive

The Olympics are a huge event. In this age of tech why isn’t there more coverage. For those of us who have to work it would be nice to have TV and web coverage of every event. Like a Net Flix or Pay For View for every minute of every event. Choices void of time slot for replays should be made available. At least a highlight reel. Maybe 2012? I hope so.

Posted by KevinA | Report as abusive

Not really. Let’s see, dopping, China cheating w/babies being passed off as 16 years old. Oh and did I say doping? Shall I cover the Eastern Sports, Judo/Karate/ more cheating… and did I mention China’s cheating with babies. Oh and yeah, the China government shutting down websites, especially those that exposed them for who and what they are? Oh and did I mention China cheating with babies.

Games were okay…. best ever no way…. OIC needs to get a handle, a grip, what ever it takes…. soon no one will take the Olympics seriously. Unless China is looking to host the games again ASAP, in that case ….

Posted by Annett Ford | Report as abusive

Best ever.

Posted by Elaine | Report as abusive

“No authoritarian power like China, Russia, or even the current United States should be allowed to compete in the Olympics, let alone host them. The athletes were amazing but the Olympics have lost their meaning. If you remove the blindfold of patriotism and mob mentality, you can see the sad truth of it all.”
- Posted by Realist

I’m going to have to disagree with you “Realist”. The idea of the Olympics are that countries can come together despite their difference and compete in sports together, a representation of peace.

Posted by Nestor | Report as abusive

man, this olympics got the most records broken, WHAT MORE CAN YOU ASK FOR?
the best opening and closing ceremonies ive see with my own eyes. energetic and spetacular performances
lets just home london will be half as good

Posted by olympicman | Report as abusive

It is definately the greatest game for China not only hosting a sport with so many venues but als achieve number 1 for the number of gold medals. Good Job China!

Posted by TickleToe | Report as abusive

No matter the best or not,for me it will be one of my best memories.

Posted by Sammi | Report as abusive

I feel that these Olympics were the best ever overall. From the caliber of the opening ceremonies, to the athletes, competition and now the closing ceremonies. It clearly shows that China has stepped it up and will be looking towards being one of the top economic powerhouse.

Posted by John Benylin | Report as abusive

It’s definitely the best games for me. Because I was in the Bird’s Nest 14 hours ago, in the closing ceremony! Everyone is so happy and so excited, all the audiences, athletes, volunteers and performers, it was a huge party~ I will never forget the beautiful night.
Also because of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and all the athletes, they gave us the wonderful wonderful Games.

Posted by mary | 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.

Posted by bah | Report as abusive

I think this question is perhaps asked after every Olympics. I think you can only
compare performances (since they are measured in terms of numbers) but not organization or ceremonies. In performances, Usain Bolt’s appears exceptional and so does Michael Phelps’ and perhaps these two records will be with us for a long time. But people must have been excited like now about Carl Lewis or Mike Spitz and hordes of others?

Posted by Gautam M. | Report as abusive

Everyone enjoy the Beijing 2008. I hope China can host another game soon.

Posted by Amanda | Report as abusive

How can it possibly be the best? The controversies surrounding the whole Games, leading up to and during the Games were just relentless… never seen before in the history of the Games. Only the IOC is fooled enough to think that a Communist State like China is going to play the democratic values of the Olympaid Games fair and square.

Posted by Montana | Report as abusive

As a Chinese, I would say that the Games have come far beyond expectation of most audience (including myself, of course), instead of claiming it the best Games ever.
China has tried its best to just present a wonderful Game for people from all nations, despite different background of them.
Thanks to the Olympics Games, China has got the chance to be learned by outside and to learn from the other nations throughout the world. Though some institutes, or medias always look China with stubborn bias and ignorance, they should not fail to see the archievements and progress of China today.
Good luck to London, and I wish a success of you to host the 2012 Games.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see