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DateLine Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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Beijing Olympics had something for everyone

The 2008 Olympic host city of Beijing is the countryís top destination for sightseeing after the 204-nation sporting extravaganza, an online poll disclosed here today.

An online poll of one thousand netizens showed that the Chinese capotal will turn out to be the biggest tourist attraction in the post-Olympic era. August is traditionally a prime month for traveling, but the attraction of the Olympic Games made would-be tourists opt to stay home to enjoy the events on television, the poll suggests.

A high percentage of as many as 90 respondents indicated that they had made plans for vacationing after the Olympic Games. Beijing won the hearts of up to 60 percent of the respondents, and co-host cities Hong Kong (venue for equestrian events) and Qingdao (which hosted sailing events) attracted almost 40 percent of those polled. Chinaís leading travel website, Ctrip.com. conducted the survey.

The Beijing Olympics was a rich blend of a new sporting culture which served aspirations of many competitors and nations. Hosts China had double success in stanging the best ever Games as well as topping the final medals standings for the first time in the 112-year-old history of modern summer Olympics.

Then the mighty Jamaicans destroyed the traditional American sprint power base in Olympic track and field. Though China had a record 51 gold medals, it was a collective effort and there were no superlative individual brilliance which could boast of a record number of gold medals.

The US had that rare honour as swimmer Miachel Phelps bagged a record eight gold medals - the highest ever at a single Olympic Games, With his previous six golds won in Athens four years ago, Phelps increased his Olympic gold haul to 14 - the first ever man to do do so.

But the American dominance faded away at the olympic track because of a man called Usain Bolt, the latest sprint mercant who has started his business in a big way. Bolt arrived at the Games having lowered the 100m world record to 9.72 in May. He did not disappoint, winning both the 100m and 200m in astonishing world record runs of 9.69 and 19.30.

Shelly-Ann Fraser led home a Jamaican clean sweep in the Womenís 100m with her compatriots Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson sharing silver. Then Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica retained the 200m gold she had won at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Jamaicaís near-total domination of the sprints was underlined in the Menís 4 x 100m Relay. The team, featuring Bolt on the third leg and former world-record holder Asafa Powell on the anchor, raced home with a new world record of 37.10. But the Americans bounced back to win both the menís and womenís 4 x 400m relays.

Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia retained their long distance supremacy by winning the menís and womenís 5,000m and 10,000m titles respectively.

In total, 42 different countries won Athletic medals. The United States took the most golds with seven - only half the tally they achieved at the Osaka 2007 World Championships - and the most medals overall with 23.

Jamaica was the most-improved nation since Osaka with their haul of golds up from one to six.

But it was Phelps who had the richest goal haul with an astonishing eight gold medal performance. As if that werenít enough, all but his 100m butterfly victory were accompanied by a world record.

Along the way, he broke a host of other records, including surpassing Mark Spitzís Munich 1972 Olympic Games effort of seven gold medals at a single summer Olympic Games. Many had said that was impossible.

Phelps began his assault on the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with a bang, winning the Menís 400m Individual Medley on day two in a world record time of 4:03.84, slicing 1.41 seconds off the old mark. Hungaryís Laszlo Cseh collected the silver medal and American Ryan Lochte won the bronze medal.

His second gold was in the 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay. His tilt at history almost ended when Frenchman Alain Bernard turned at the 50 meter mark on the final leg. Thirty-two-year-old American Jason Lezak was a body length behind the flying Bernard and it looked as though Phelps, who had swum the lead-off leg, and his team would have to settle for silver.

Lezak had other plans and produced one of the most stunning final 50m splits ever, a lightning quick 46.06, to overpower the Frenchman on the wall by 0.08 seconds and keep Phelpsí dream of eight golds alive. France collected the silver medal and Australia the bronze.

Phelpsí third gold came in the Menís 200m Freestyle final on day four, in which he broke the world record by nearly one second with a time of 1:42.96.

Park Taehwan of the Republic of Korea won the silver medal and Peter Vanderkay of the United States the bronze.

Victory in the Menís 200m Butterfly final on day five took Phelpsí gold medal tally to four and gave him another world record - 1:52.03 in this, his pet event.

Cseh had another great swim to finish with the silver medal and Matsuda Takeshi of Japan took the bronze.

The Menís 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, also on day five, was next for Phelps.

His teamís world record of 6:58.56 broke the magical seven-minute barrier and netted Phelpsí fifth gold. Russia won the silver medal and Australia bronze.

Phelpsí then won gold in the Menís 200m Individual Medley on day seven, setting a world record by 0.57 seconds. Cseh took silver and Lochte, the bronze.

As expected, the Menís 100m Butterfly on day eight provided Phelps with his tightest race, but the challenge didnít come from the man expected, American Ian Crocker. Little-known Milorad Cavic of Serbia turned at the 50m in front of Phelps and 0.09 seconds under the world record split. Phelps dug deep to touch out Cavic on the wall by 0.01 seconds to keep the dream alive.

Phelpsí final and eighth gold medal, which launched him into the Olympic stratosphere, came with a comfortable win in the Menís 4 x 100m Medley Relay on day nine. Australia challenged momentarily but the US relegated them to silver. Japan took the bronze.

Stephanie Rice of Australia picked up three gold medals and three world records with victories in the 200m and 400m Individual Medley events and the 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay - the latter producing the biggest surprise.

The Australians were rank outsiders and obliterated the world record by 5.78 seconds.

Japanís Kitajima Kosuke briefly stepped out of Phelpsí enormous shadow to claim his own place in Olympic history at the Water Cube.

Kitajima defended both his Olympic titles from Athens 2004 in winning the Menís 100m Breaststroke in a world record time and also the Menís 200m Breaststroke.

The highlight for China was its 1-2 finish in the Womenís 200m Butterfly, their only gold medal in the swimming events. Chinaís Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang upset world record holder Jessicah Schipper of Australia, relegating her to the bronze medal and driving the crowd into wild celebration.

One of the finds of Beijing 2008 was 21-year-old first time Olympian Rebecca Soni of the United States. Soni, returning from heart surgery, had events added to her Olympic program after American Jessica Hardy withdrew from competition. Soni caused a huge upset on day seven, when she won gold in the Womenís 200m Breaststroke from world record holder and hot favorite Australian Leisel Jones.

Soni also won silver behind Jones in the 100m Breaststroke and silver in the 4 x 100m Medley Relay.

Great Britain unearthed a star at the Water Cube in Rebecca Adlington. The bubbly British distance swimmer didnít go into either of her two gold medal events as the favorite but triumphed in both.

She won the Womenís 400m Freestyle and, in winning the 800m Freestyle, she broke the longest standing record left in the swimming pool. Adlington beat the great American Janet Evansí19-year-old 800m Freestyle mark of 8:16.22 by 2.12 seconds to record 8:14.10.

The US topped the swimming medal count with 12 gold, nine silver and 10 bronze medals; Australia won six gold, six silver and eight bronze medals; Japan won two gold and three bronze medals.

More importantly the Americansí dream of basketball gold was fulfilled.

The 2006 world champion Spanish squad brought its best effort to make sure the ďRedeem TeamĒ didnít coast through the gold medal match, but the USA survived some anxious moments before pulling off a nai-biting 118-107 to take the gold. Both the American and Spanish teams had players reaching an historic mark.

US captain Jason Kidd becomes the 13th menís basketball player to win two gold medals, and Spainís 17-year-old guard Ricky Rubio becomes the youngest player to ever win an Olympic menís basketball medal. Rubio had six points and six rebounds in Sundayís gold medal game.

Argentina retained the menís Olympic soccer crown.

It was Angel Di Maria who made the difference at an exciting game with the solitary goal of the match which came when the second half was just eight minutes old.

Lionel Messi sparked the winning goal with a fine pass down the left side of the field, which was strategically picked up by Di Maria, who calmly chipped the ball over advancing goalkeeper Ambruse Vanzekin from outside the box. Despite losing their upper hand in athletics, the Americans had double success in volleyball, winning gold medals in both the menís and womenís tournaments.

Four countries shared the gold medals at the 2008 Olympic tennis competition. Rafael Nadal of Spain won a first-ever gold medal for Spain in Olympic tennis, while Russia took the womenís singles for the first time through Elena Dementieva. Serena Williams and Venus Williams of the United States and Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland completed a top-ranking group of gold medallists.

Menís Singles World No. 1 Lin Dan of China thrashed Malaysiaís world No. 2 Lee Chong-wei 21-12, 21-8 to win the gold in the badminton tournament.

Hosts China made a clean sweep in the menís singles Table Tennis competition at the Peking University Gymnasium. It was the first time one country has won all the medals in the Menís Singles event. Ma Lin won gold, while silver went to Wang Hao and bronze to Wang Liqin.

The Chinese Menís trio emulated the feat of their female Table Tennis compatriots, who, 24 hours earlier, had occupied all three steps of the womenís singles victory podium.

The balance of power in amateur boxing seems to have shifted slightly after Cuba bacame the disspoinment at the Beijing Olympic ring. .Cuba, the traditional boxing powerhouse, failed to win a gold medal, the first time that it hasnít won a gold medal in boxing since the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.

BEIJING, Monday.

 

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