Bolt, Phelps shine as Games lives up to motto
Athletes at the Beijing Games lived up to the Olympic motto 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' with swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt regarded as most enduring feat of the Games. Spl: Beijing Olympics 2008.india Updated: Aug 25, 2008 11:16 IST
Athletes at the Beijing Games lived up to the Olympic motto 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' and none more so than swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt.
Jamaican Bolt, celebrating his 100 metres world record before he had even finished his gold medal-winning run, provided the most striking image but Phelps's eight gold medals in the pool are likely to be regarded as the most enduring feat of the Games.
American Phelps beat compatriot Mark Spitz's record of seven golds in a single Games, which had stood since 1972. He broke four individual world records and took part in three record-breaking relays, powered by a kick borrowed from dolphins.
Only twice did his goal of overtaking Spitz look in real danger.
He needed Jason Lezak to overtake France's Alain Bernard in a thrilling final leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay and he then beat Serbian Milorad Cavic by one hundredth of a second by using his huge arm span to touch first in the 100 metres butterfly.
Spitz declared his successor to be the "best Olympian of all time" and, while there is more to greatness than medals, his record of 14 career golds is unprecedented in any sport and the 23-year-old could add to his tally in London in 2012.
Bolt already owned the 100 metres world record and in front of a capacity 91,000 crowd at the spectacular Bird's Nest stadium he stormed down the track in 9.69 seconds.
He would have been even quicker had he not begun waving his arms in triumph and slapping his chest well before the finish line.
Bolt had always insisted he was a 200 metres runner and he confirmed his participation in the shorter distance only after arriving in China.
When it came to the 200, Bolt broke American Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record, setting a time of 19.30 seconds. Johnson declared Bolt to be "Superman 2".
Bolt led a magnificent performance by Jamaica on the track -- the Caribbean island nation won six gold medals and took a podium sweep in the women's 100 metres led by winner Shelly-Ann Fraser.
Excellence was on show across 16 days of gold, sweat and tears that ended on Sunday.
Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva achieved what athletes in field events so rarely manage. She occupied centre stage by securing the gold and then returning to break her own world record.
She cleared 5.05 metres at the final attempt after spending most of the competition relaxing under a towel and duvet.
Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba won both 5,000 and 10,000 metres to become the first woman to complete that double and her compatriot Kenenisa Bekele matched her in the men's competition.
The millionaires of major professional sports, the US basketball team and the world's number one tennis player Rafael Nadal of Spain, came, were seen, and conquered.
Others showed that the Olympic success is still within reach for people from troubled countries and modest backgrounds -- Afghanistan's Rohullah Nikpai won his country's first Olympic medal with a bronze in the men's 58-kg taekwondo.
There were disappointments -- China's favourite sporting son Liu Xiang had to pull out of his defence of his 110 metre hurdles title due to an Achilles tendon injury, leaving his legions of fans heartbroken and the U.S's Tyson Gay, who was billed as the main threat to Bolt, failed to even make the final of the 100 metres and then dropped the baton in the relay.
The hosts take pride not only out of putting on a great show but from their results. For the first time they topped the medal table.
Although China have yet to truly break through in track and field they have emerged as a gold medal power in a range of sports where they were once also-rans such as rowing, sailing and weightlifting.
The hosts, who did not even compete in the Summer Games between 1952 and 1984, have taken just 24 years to become the most successful nation at the Games and with the enthusiasm generated by hosting the event they are likely to continue expanding their sphere of success.
The next hosts of the Summer Games, Britain, enjoyed their biggest haul of gold medals since 1908 thanks, in large part, to their excellent performances in cycling and rowing.
Like China in Beijing, the British will be under intense pressure to succeed in four years time in London and other countries will have learnt from both nations' intelligent targeting of resources in the search for gold.