Olympics Shake Summer

Heather Brown

BEIJING–The number eight is considered a lucky number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word meaning “prosper” and “wealth.” Keeping this in mind, it was only fitting that the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games aired in the U.S. on the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month in the year 2008.

The show of the opening ceremonies was performed on a scale more grandiose than any other ceremony. Thousands of people from the Chinese community helped make it spectacular. The opening ceremonies showcased many of the beliefs and traditions that are special and important in the Chinese culture.

Rather than the traditional march of athletes (in alphabetical order by country), the athletes entered the stadium, dubbed “The Bird’s Nest” because of its remarkable Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Olympics.jpgresemblance, in order based upon the number of brush strokes it takes to write out the country’s name in Chinese. This meant that the U.S. athletes got to enter the stadium a little earlier than usual.

Once all of the athletes were in and the Olympic torch was lit, the games commenced.
Some of the first events of this year’s Olympic Games took place in the Water Cube, the indoor swimming arena so named because if it’s shape and exterior appearance. Over the course of a week, U.S. swimmers won a total of 31 medals in 32 events. Even more amazing, Michael Phelps won eight of the 12 gold medals.

Phelps, 23, won seven of the gold medals in world record time and the other in Olympic record time. His eight gold medals brings his total medal count over two Olympic games to 14, more than any other athlete in history. The games also saw him surpass the record of total gold medals won in a single Olympic game, a record of seven achieved by Marc Spitz at the 1972 games.

Another landmark was reached by an American swimmer when Dara Torres, 41, became the first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games: 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008. This time around she competed in three events and took the silver medal in each.

Another noteworthy event was gymnastics, in which the men’s U.S. team brought home a surprise bronze medal and the women’s team brought home the silver in the team all-around competition. In the individual all-around competition, U.S.’s Nastia Liukin won the gold medal and Shawn Johnson took home the silver. At these Beijing Olympics, Liukin has won a total of five medals. Earning the fifth medal ties her with Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller for the most medals earned by a gymnast in a single Olympic game.

In track and field, the birth place of the world’s fastest man and woman is Jamaica. Usain “Lightening” Bolt ran the men’s 100m leg in 9.69 seconds, a world record. He also won the 200m dash in world record style, 19.30 seconds. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraiser won the gold in the women’s 100m dash.

U.S.’s Bryan Clay won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon competition. The men also swept the 400m hurdles and the 400m dash.

On a not-so-good note, both the men’s and women’s 4x100m relay teams failed to qualify for the finals in Beijing. Both favored to win gold, but the teams dropped the baton before carrying it past the finish line.

In beach volleyball, Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh defended their gold medal title by defeating China in the final match. Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser won in the final match to win gold as well. Dalhausser went on to be named the most outstanding player in beach volleyball.

The men’s basketball team, the “Redeem Team,” did in fact redeem the “Dream Team” of the last games, which failed to capture gold. In a spectacular overall showing the team of NBA stars won a gold medal.

The overall medal count so far stands at the U.S. leading with 36 gold, 38 silver, and 36 bronze medals for a total of 110. China is a close second with a total of 100 medals: 51 gold, 21 silver, and 28 bronze. Finishing out the top five are the Russian Federation, Great Britain, and Germany (in order by total medal count).

The Beijing Olympic Games came to a close on Sunday, Aug. 24, but anticipation and training have already begun for the next Olympic Games , which will be held in London, England in 2012.