News & Current Affairs

August 24, 2008

Beijing primed for Olympic finale

Beijing primed for Olympic finale

The Bird's Nest stadium hosts the closing ceremony

Plenty of fireworks are in store at the closing ceremony

The Beijing Games draw to a close on Sunday after what many have described as one of the best Olympics ever held.

China, having beaten the United States to top the medals table, will hand the Olympic flag to the 2012 hosts London at a closing ceremony from 1300 BST.

Great Britain surpassed all targets by winning 19 golds at the 2008 Games – their best haul for a century.

Kenya’s Sammy Wanjiru won the men’s marathon on the final day, with basketball and boxing finals to come.

Six boxing titles are being decided while the men’s basketball final, featuring the United States and Spain, starts at 0730 BST.

Later, the spectacular farewell in front of a packed house of more than 90,000 at the Bird’s Nest stadium is set to last three hours and will include fireworks displays at 18 locations across Beijing.

The organisers have promised a more light-hearted show than the opening ceremony, which focused heavily on Chinese history.

Scottish cyclist Chris Hoy, who claimed three gold medals at the Games, will carry the flag for Team GB at the closing ceremony.

The ceremony will also see London mayor Boris Johnson receive the Olympic flag to signal the countdown to the 2012 Games.

Team GB have been congratulated for their efforts in a message from The Queen.

“As a nation we now look forward to holding the Olympic Games in London in 2012,” she said.”The golden triumphs of the present British team can only serve as further inspiration to those who will be working hard over the next four years to make the London Games a shining example of Olympic success.”

China staged the Olympics against a background dominated by fears of pollution, worries over security and protests about its human rights record.

But the sporting action has been enthralling, with highlights including Michael Phelps swimming to a record eight gold medals and Jamaican Usain Bolt breaking three world records as he bagged a sprint title treble.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who spoke on Sunday of his hope that a UK football team could compete in the next Olympics, will attend the closing event.

Prime minister Gordon Brown and footballer Beckham

Brown rubs shoulders with Beckham in Beijing

The London Olympics will also have a eight-minute slot that will feature a version of Led Zeppelin classic Whole Lotta Love performed by the group’s guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Leona Lewis.Footballer David Beckham will be involved as will the Royal Ballet and the London Symphony Orchestra.

The closing show will also feature a duet by Chinese folk singer Song Zuying and Spanish tenor Placido Domingo, along with a performance by a 350-strong kung-fu group.

There promises to be another spectacular show earlier in the day when the US basketball team, aka the ‘Redeem Team’, look to reclaim their crown against world champions Spain.

There are also six boxing gold medals to be decided, with Ireland’s Kenny Egan going in the light-heavyweight final.

Other finals are taking place in the men’s water polo (0840), men’s volleyball (0500), and men’s handball (0845).

In the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around event, Russia defended their title to take gold, while China claimed silver and Belarus bronze.

In total, there will be 12 gold medals won on the final day of action before the Games are handed on to London.

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August 17, 2008

Phelps wins historic eighth gold

Phelps wins historic eighth gold

Michael Phelps won his eighth Olympic gold medal of the Beijing Games to beat Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven, with victory in the 4x100m medley.

The 23-year-old teamed up with Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen and Jason Lezak to claim the historic gold in a new world record time.

They held off Australia and Japan to win in a world record time of three minutes 29.34 seconds.

Britain finished in sixth, but the race was all about Phelps’ place in history.

Phelps, who swam 17 times over nine days and set world records in seven finals, had already won the 400m medley, 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 4x100m free relay, 4x200m free relay, 200m medley and the 100m butterfly.

With so many people saying it couldn’t be done, all it takes is an imagination
Michael Phelps

Victory in the 4x100m relay rounded off a remarkable Olympics for Phelps, who has dominated the action in the Water Cube.

However, his final triumph was far from straightforward.

Phelps dived into the water for the third leg butterfly with his team in third position but he powered them into the lead.

Australian Eamon Sullivan tried to chase the Americans down but Lezak held on to clinch Phelps’ record win.

It also took Phelps’ Olympic medal haul to 14 golds, and 16 overall.

Phelps admitted to being overwhelmed after achieving his feat, and was quick to pay tribute to his team-mates.

“I don’t even know what to feel right now,” Phelps said.

“There are so many emotions going through my head and so much excitement. I kind of just want to see my mom.

“Without the help of my team-mates this isn’t possible.

“I was able to be a part of three relays and we were able to put up a solid team effort and we came together as one unit.

“For the three Olympics I’ve been a part of, this is by far the closest men’s team that we’ve ever had.

“I didn’t know everybody coming into this Olympics, but I feel going out I know every single person very well. The team that we had is the difference.

“Nothing is impossible.

“With so many people saying it couldn’t be done, all it takes is an imagination, and that’s something I learned and something that helped me.

“It’s been nothing but an upwards roller-coaster and it’s been nothing but fun.”

His team-mate Peirsol added: “It’s a beautiful thing, I am so proud to be a part of this relay team.

“It wasn’t like we were doing this for Michael, but it’s an honor to be part of it. It would have been something if we hadn’t done it.”

Australian swimmer Grant Hackett said: “Michael Phelps – you can’t put it in words what he has done here, his level of achievement is phenomenal and I don’t think it will ever be seen again.”

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