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What does eight mean to China?

It is just a coincidence that the Chinese associate eight with prosperity and wealth. No other Games in the history of Olympics have been dominated by just one figure -- 8, writes Indraneel Das.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2008 01:02 IST
Indraneel Das

What does eight mean to China?

Phonetically “Eight” in Mandarin (Pinyin: bâ) sounds similar to “prosper” or “wealth”.

A telephone number 8888-8888 was sold for $270,723 in Chengdu.

A motor number plate reading A88888 for RMB 1.12 million.

The Opening Ceremony began on 08/08/08 at 8 seconds and 8 minutes past 8 pm (local time)

What does eight means to Beijing Olympics?

Michael Phelps.

It is just a coincidence that the Chinese associate eight with prosperity and wealth. No other Games in the history of Olympics have been dominated by just one figure -- 8. It became a recurring theme of this Olympics and it culminated on Sunday when a gentleman called Michael Phelps won his eighth gold. It was one better than Mark Spitz and it took 32 years for man to overhaul.

For a man who lives by seconds, nay hundredth of second after Saturday’s close finish, waiting for 3.29.34 to know his fate must have been killing.

Everything else seemed irrelevant as Phelps, along with team USA, chased his dream in 4x100m medley. As the TV camera panned on him -- he had his earphones and his longish robe on -- the stadium exploded.

Sometimes sport can be cruel. The other three members of the USA team, who made it possible, were forgotten. They were dismissed as mere supporting cast to the greatest sportsman on earth.

Aaron Piersol (backstroke) was the first to plunge, Brendan Hansen (breaststroke) followed him, Phelps (butterfly) recovered the lost ground of half-a-body length and when Jason Lezak (freestyle), brought home Phelps’ final gold, the world stopped in amazement.

Even here it was Phelps who made it possible. Swimming the third leg he plunged third behind Japan and Australia. As he did in every event, Phelps touched the wall first after his lap, and America heading towards gold.

How can a 23-year-old, afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder as a child, win eight gold medals? Wasn’t it impossible to win eight gold with five individual and two team world records within a week? Not if you are Phelps. He came here with his goals and quietly accomplished them gaining immortality in the process.

For once even Phelps was speechless. “I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” he said on Sunday. But then in Phelps’s lexicon impossible is nothing. “I have dared to dream big and I have worked hard to accomplish those dreams,” he said, voice still quivering with excitement.

“Everything was accomplished that we wanted ? all the best times and winning every race,” he said.

Recollecting the moments that made a momentous week, Phelps said: “I have memories, I have pictures and I have the medals for ever. Every suit, every cap I wore here, every pair of goggles (even if it malfunctioned), I have everything.”

With more assurance and self-belief he has set eyes on different events. “Over the next four years I would like to try some other events. Events I have not tried before and then we will see what happens. Coach Bob (Bowman) wants to start afresh,” he said.

As of now he would like to enjoy his moment. “I would like to take a vacation. I just want to be able to relax and hang out with some friends. I am looking forward not doing anything at all.”

On reaching his goal he said: “I have dreamed a lot of things and written down a lot of goals. This was the biggest one that I have written down. I always think of all the memories I have had in my career to reach here. Mum and I still joke about, in middle school I had an English teacher who said I would never ever be successful. I think back on little things like this. It’s funny.”