Games of the XXIX Olympiad
The 2008 Olympic Games were the first to be held in China and there was no holding back on the pomp and splendor. The torch relay was the most international in Olympic history, as the flame travelled to every continent as well as the peak of Mount Everest. The awe-inspiring Opening Ceremony has been commonly called the most spectacular ever, featuring more than 15,000 performers. The venues were also impressive, highlighted by two showcase pieces, the National Stadium and the National Swimming Centre, each better known by their respective nicknames, the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. Beijing’s thousand year old history was also on display as cycling’s road race route followed the Great Wall and passed in front of the Forbidden City.
A record 204 NOCs participated, with 87 of them winning medals, including first-timers Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Mauritius, and Togo. There were more than 40 world records and 130 Olympic records broken.
Canadian athletes won 19 medals, making it the country’s second-best non-boycotted summer Games ever behind the 22 won at Atlanta 1996. Eric Lamaze was the country’s only double medallist, winning Canada’s first ever individual equestrian gold medal after being part of the jumping team that won silver. Also on that team was Ian Millar, who in his ninth Olympic appearance finally won his first medal at age 61.
In rowing, the confident men’s eight raced to gold in the dominant fashion that they expected of themselves. Inspired by the image of the crew, particularly Adam Kreek, singing O Canada loudly and proudly on the dock, the phrase “Sing Like Kreek” became a mantra for other athletes on the Canadian team, notably triathlete Simon Whitfield who taped the words to the handlebars of his bike as he raced to silver. It was the rowing team that had gotten the Canadians onto the medal table, thanks to a silver medal from the pair of Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen to start the second week of the Games. There were also bronze medals from the men’s lightweight four and the women’s lightweight double sculls.
Canada’s first gold medal of the Games came from wrestler Carol Huynh. It was just Canada’s second ever Olympic gold in wrestling and the first by a woman. Tonya Verbeek added a bronze. Canada’s other combat sport medal was a silver won by Karine Sergerie in taekwondo.
Trampolinists Karen Cockburn and Jason Burnett each won a silver medal. For Cockburn, it was the third straight Games at which she had stood on the podium, an accomplishment that was recognized by her being named Closing Ceremony flag bearer.
At the pool, Alex Despatie won his second straight silver in the 3m springboard, while Ryan Cochrane put Canada back on the podium in swimming for the first time since Sydney 2000 with his bronze medal in the 1500m freestyle. It was Canada’s first Olympic medal in that event since Antwerp 1920.
Priscilla Lopes-Schliep won bronze in the 100m hurdles for Canada’s first athletics medal since Atlanta 1996. And in the category of better late than never, shot putter Dylan Armstrong finally received his bronze medal in February 2015 for Canada’s first Olympic medal in a throwing event since Stockholm 1912. After initially missing the podium by one centimetre, Armstrong was given the medal upgrade following the disqualification of original third place finisher Andrei Mikhnevich for doping.
Olympic Oath (athletes): Zhang Yining (table tennis)
Olympic Oath (officials): Huang Liping (gymnastics)
Olympic Oath (coaches): None
Lighting Olympic Cauldron: Li Ning
Official Opening: The President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao