Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 Entertainers of the Year: 3) 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics

What to say about the month of August '08 other than that it was freakin' awesome. And it was so awesome for one reason- the Beijing Olympics, or the Games of the XXIX Olympiad as it is officially known. For 16ish glorious days, we were treated to a barrage of 10,500 athletes, 302 events, 28 sports, 43 new world records and 132 new Olympics records set. In the US, NBC Universal paid lots of money for the sole rights of broadcasting the Olympics, and it paid off- the Summer Games became the most viewed event in American TV history, with 211 million people tuning in for the 16 days of coverage. Worldwide, some 4.7 billion viewers watched the Games, compared to 3.9 billion who tuned into the 2004 Athens Games.

The 2008 Summer Olympics was so entertaining for numerous reasons. We had the stars- the record breaking Michael Phelps, the "World's Fastest Man" Usain Bolt, the director of the spectacular Opening Ceremony Zhang Yimou. We had the heartbreak- Chinese hurdler/national hero Liu Xiang unable to compete in his home country due to a busted Achilles tendon, US men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon's father in law dying of wounds from a knife-wielding man on the first full day of competition. And oh, the controversies- people protesting China's human rights abuses and crackdown in Tibet, which made the Olympic torch relay difficult, threats of terrorist attacks, and boycotts before the Games, and of course, questioning the age of the Chinese women's gymnast team, most of whom barely looked 12, let alone the minimum competing age of 16.

All in all, controversies and pre-Games worries aside, the 2008 Beijing Olympics is widely received to be a logistical success, as well as boosting the national pride of the Chinese people, who fought so hard to be a host of the Games. I was not as invested in the Athens Games 4 years ago, and so the 2008 Games made me realize just how amazing the Olympics are. The dedication and perseverance of the athletes, who spend pretty much 4 years of their lives training and training for this one moment on the world's biggest stage, it's pretty amazing to think about. And it shined the spotlight on some of my faves- the 41 year old swimmmer Dara Torres and the bubbly gymnast Shawn Johnson- proving that the Olympics really are about anyone and everyone- young and old, from all walks of life and from all corners of the earth. Amazing. See you in London, 2012!