Monday, September 8, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, People's Republic of China, from August 8 (except football, which started on August 6) to August 24, 2008. A total of 10,500 athletes competed in 302 events in 28 sports, one event more than was on the schedule of the 2004 Games The 2008 Beijing Olympics also marked the third time that Olympic events have been held in the territories of two different National Olympic Committees (NOC), as the equestrian events were being held in Hong Kong (the other two instances being the 1956 games, where the equestrian events were hosted in Stockholm, Sweden, due to strict Australian quarantine rules, and the other events were hosted in Melbourne, Australia; and the 1920 games which were hosted in Antwerp, Belgium, but the final two races of the 12ft dinghy event in sailing were held in The Netherlands).

The Olympic Games were awarded to Beijing after an exhaustive ballot of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on July 13, 2001. The official logo of the Games, titled "Dancing Beijing," features a stylised calligraphic character jīng (京, meaning capital), referring to the host city. Several new NOCs have also been recognised by the IOC. The 2008 Olympics was the third time the Olympics had taken place on the Asian continent, and the fifth time for an Olympics outside of Europe and North America.

The Chinese government promoted the Games and invested heavily in new facilities and transportation systems. A total of 37 venues were used to host the events including 12 newly constructed venues. At the closing ceremony IOC president Jacques Rogge declared the event a "truly exceptional Games" after earlier asserting that the IOC had "absolutely no regrets" in choosing Beijing to host the 2008 Games. choice of China as a host country was the subject of criticism by some politicians and NGOs concerned about China's human rights record. China and others, meanwhile, warned against politicizing the Olympics.

The Games saw 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records set. A record 87 countries won a medal during the Games. Chinese athletes won 51 gold medals altogether, the second largest haul by a national team in a modern, non-boycotted Summer Games. Michael Phelps broke the record for most golds in one Olympics and for most career gold medals for an Olympian. Usain Bolt secured the traditional title "World's Fastest Man" by setting new world records in the 100m and 200m dashes.

Bids for Olympic Games

Countries around the world have selected cities within their national territory to put forward bids for hosting the Olympic Games. Since the creation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, which successfully revived the Ancient Greek Olympics into what is currently their modern version, the interested cities have rivaled for the selection as host city of the Summer Olympic Games (or Games of the Olympiad) or Winter Olympic Games.

What follows is a list of the cities that have bid to host any of the Summer and Winter Olympics. Olympics have been chosen to be held in 50 cities (including repeats) since its "rebirth", twice in Eastern Europe, 5 times in East Asia, once in Central America, and the remainder in Western nations. No African, South American, Central Asian, Middle Eastern or South Asian nation has ever been chosen as host for the Olympics.

Typically, the decision is made at an IOC session approximately seven years prior to the games; for example the 2012 Summer Olympics were awarded to London on July 6, 2005 and the decision for the 2016 games will be made in July 2009.

Medals per country

The IOC does not publish lists of medals per country, but the media often does. A comparison between countries would be unfair to countries with fewer inhabitants, so some have made calculations of medals per number of inhabitants, such as for the 2004 Olympics and a few more. A problem here is that for a very small country, gaining just one medal could mean the difference between the very top and the very bottom of the list (a point illustrated by the Bahamas' per capita number one position in 2004). On the other hand, a large country may not be able to send a number of athletes that is proportional to its size because a limit is set for the number of participants per country for a specific sport.

A comparison of the total number of medals over time is further complicated by the fact that the number of times that countries have participated is not equal, and that many countries have gained and lost territories where medal-winning athletes come from. A case in point is the USSR, which not only participated relatively rarely (18 times, versus 45 times for the UK), but also ceased to exist in 1991. The resulting Russian Federation is largely, but not entirely, equal to the former USSR. Also, one would have to use population statistics at the time.

The IOC medal tally chart is based on the number of gold medals for a country. Where states are equal, the number of silver medals (and then bronze medals) are counted to determine rankings. Since 1996, the only countries that have appeared in the top 10 medal tallies for all three subsequent Summer Olympics have been the Russian Federation, United States, China, France, Germany, Australia and Italy. Since 1994, the only countries that have appeared in the top 10 medal tallies for the subsequent Winter Olympics have been Norway, the Russian Federation, the United States, Canada, Germany, Austria, South Korea, Switzerland, France and Italy.

Olympic champions and medalists

The athletes (or teams) who place first, second, or third in each event receive medals. The winners receive gold medals. (Though they were solid gold until 1912, after which they were made of gilded silver, though nowadays plated silver. However, every gold medal must contain at least 6 grams of pure gold) The runners-up receive silver medals, and the third-place athletes, bronze medals. In some events contested by a single-elimination tournament (most notably boxing), third place might not be determined, in which case both semi-final losers receive bronze medals. The practice of awarding medals to the top three competitors was introduced in 1904; at the 1896 Olympics only the first two received a medal, silver and bronze, while various prizes were awarded in 1900. However, the 1904 Olympics also awarded silver trophies for first place. It was at the Intercalated Games of 1906 that the three medal award format was first introduced. Since the IOC no longer recognizes these games as official Olympic games, the first "official" awarding of the three medals came in the London Olympics of 1908. In addition, from 1948 onward athletes placing fourth, fifth and sixth have received certificates which became officially known as "victory diplomas;" since 1976 the medal winners have received these also, and in 1984 victory diplomas for seventh- and eighth-place finishers were added, presumably to ensure that all losing quarter-finalists in events using single-elimination formats would receive diplomas, thus obviating the need for consolation (or officially, "classification") matches to determine fifth through eighth places (though interestingly these latter are still contested in many elimination events anyway). Certificates were awarded also at the 1896 Olympics, but there they were awarded in addition to the medals to first and second place. Commemorative medals and diplomas—which differ in design from those referred to above—are also made available to participants finishing lower than third and eighth respectively. At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the first three were given wreaths as well as their medals. Because the Olympics are held only once every four years, the public and athletes often consider Olympic medals as more important and valuable than world championships and other international tournaments, which are often held annually. Many athletes have become celebrities or heroes in their own country, or even world-wide, after becoming Olympic champions.

The question of which athlete is the most successful of all time is a difficult one to answer. The diversity of the sports, and the evolution the Olympic Games have undergone since 1896 complicate the matter. On top of this is the fact that some sports such as wrestling or boxing allow the competitor to win only one medal in an Olympics. It is further complicated by the fact that the IOC no longer recognises the Intercalated Games which it originally organised. While it may not be the most equitable way to measure success, a list of the most titles won at the Modern Olympic Games by individuals is one way to determine the greatest Olympic athletes of all time.

Olympic sports

Currently, the Olympic program consists of 35 different sports, 53 disciplines and more than 400 events. The Summer Olympics includes 28 sports with 38 disciplines and the Winter Olympics includes 7 sports with 15 disciplines. Nine sports were on the original Olympic programme in 1896: athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, weightlifting, shooting, swimming, tennis, and wrestling. If the 1896 rowing events had not been cancelled due to bad weather, they would have been included in this list as well.

At the most recent Winter Olympics, 15 disciplines in seven sports were featured. Of these, cross country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been featured on the programme at all Winter Olympics. In addition, figure skating made it's debut at the London Summer Olympics of 1908 and ice hockey was first contested at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp before the introduction of a separate Winter Olympics.

In recent years, the IOC has added several new sports to the programme to attract attention from young spectators. Examples of such sports include snowboarding and beach volleyball. There is currently an effort underway to make Cricket an Olympic sport. It appears though the growth in the number of sports included at an Olympics has . The IOC decided to discontinue baseball and softball beginning in 2012. Rugby was played in the 1900, 1908, 1920 and 1924 Olympics but was discontinued in 1928.

Rule 48.1 of the Olympic Charter requires that there be a minimum of 15 Olympic sports at each Summer Games. Following its 114th Session (Mexico 2002), the IOC also decided to limit the programme of the Summer Games to a maximum of 28 sports, 301 events, and 10,500 athletes. The Olympic sports are defined as those governed by the International Federations listed in Rule 46 of the Olympic Charter. A two-thirds vote of the IOC is required to amend the Charter to promote a Recognised Federation to Olympic status and therefore make the sports it governs eligible for inclusion on the Olympic programme. Rule 47 of the Charter requires that only Olympic sports may be included in the programme.

The IOC reviews the Olympic programme at the first Session following each Olympiad. A simple majority is required for an Olympic sport to be included in the Olympic programme. Under the current rules, an Olympic sport not selected for inclusion in a particular Games remains an Olympic sport and may be included again later with a simple majority. At the 117th IOC Session, 26 sports were included in the programme for London 2012.

Until 1992, the Olympics also often featured demonstration sports. The objective was for these sports to reach a larger audience; the winners of these events are not official Olympic champions. These sports were sometimes sports popular only in the host nation, but internationally known sports have also been demonstrated. Some demonstration sports eventually were included as full-medal events.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The ancient Games had only a few events. Foot racing was in every game and each race had a variety of lengths - the longest being the marathon named after the Greek city and famous battle. The pentathlon, supposedly developed by Jason of Golden Fleece fame, had five events (running, jumping, wrestling, discus throwing and javelin throwing) which were all scored together. Three pentathlon events were important and popular enough to have their own events. Wrestling, discus throwing and the javelin were all recorded in the Homeric poems and were seen as vital for all men to be skilled in. The javelin throw was separated into two categories: length and accuracy (aimed at a specific target). Boxing was one of the oldest events and was written about by Homer. Finally there was the pancration, a combination of boxing and wrestling and various events with horse racing.

Today, of course, there are many more events. The chart below lists the most popular modern events in the Summer and Winter Olympics.

Summer Winter
kayaking boxing down hill skiing snowboarding
swimming diving hockey speed skating
equestrian hurdles curling bobsledding
gymnastics track & field figure skating luge
volleyball basketball biathlon ski jumping
tennis wrestling skeleton cross country skiing

NB. The following summer sports have been recently recognized and are now legitimate events: air sports; automobile; bandy; billiards; boules; bowling; bridge; chess; dancesport; golf; karate; korfball; life saving; motorcycle racing; mountaineering and climbing; netball; orienteering; pelote basque; polo; racquetball; roller sports; rugby; squash; surfing; tug of war; underwater sports; water skiing; wushu.


As in ancient times, those who participate in the Games are famous for the rest of their lives. Today, it's estimated that some 100,000 people have competed in the Games. These athletes, all supposed to be amateurs (people who play and get no money for their play), have to qualify or win regional and national events. They often play on their countries' national teams. If they are ill or can't make it for an event, they have substitutes. When they start playing, they become competitors or opponents on the playing field.

Officials, referees, scorekeepers and umpires monitor their play, and judges score their performances. Spectators watch the events, and fans cheer the athletes on.

Helping the athletes in their chosen sports are their trainers and coaches. Helping the athletes in their business affairs are their agents and managers. Sometimes athletes have sponsors and after the Games are over the athletes become spokesmen for companies.

The Olympic Games also require people to take on the jobs of announcers, commentators and broadcasters. These people comment on, report and describe the events that are happening and tell us about the standings of the countries and the athletes who play the Games.

Unfortunate events in world history (the 1972 Munich Olympics and 9/11) mean that security is a major concern for the Games. Thus the Olympics also employs those who are responsible for the safe-being of the athletes and spectators, including police (city, provincial and federal) and even national troops or soldiers. They are pitted against 'common' criminals (thieves, pickpockets, vandals...) and terrorists.

In addition, the support staff get the fields, grounds and arenas ready and help to maintain the equipment and facilities.

The nationalities you hear of in the Olympics fall mostly into certain suffix groups, for example:

(mostly European)
(mostly Asian)
(mostly Middle Eastern)
an/ian ch other
British Burmese Bahraini American Czech Filipino
Finnish Chinese Iraqi Australian Dutch Greek
Irish Japanese Israeli Canadian French Icelandic
Polish Portuguese Kuwaiti German - Swiss
Spanish Taiwanese Pakistani Indonesian - Thai
Turkish Vietnamese Saudi Korean - Malagasy