The 2008 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, was a major international multi-sport event that took place in Beijing, People's Republic of China, from August 8 (except football, which started on August 6) to August 24, 2008. A total of 10,500 athletes competed in 302 events in 28 sports, one event more than was on the schedule of the 2004 Games. The 2008 Beijing Olympics also marked the third time that Olympic events have been held in the territories of two different National Olympic Committees (NOC), as the equestrian events were being held in Hong Kong.
The Olympic Games were awarded to Beijing after an exhaustive ballot of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on July 13, 2001. The official logo of the Games, titled "Dancing Beijing," features a stylised calligraphic character jing (meaning capital), referring to the host city. Several new NOCs have also been recognised by the IOC. The 2008 Olympics was the third time the Olympics had taken place on the Asian continent, and the fifth time for an Olympics outside of Europe and North America.
The Chinese government promoted the Games and invested heavily in new facilities and transportation systems. A total of 37 venues were used to host the events including 12 newly constructed venues. At the closing ceremony IOC president Jacques Rogge declared the event a "truly exceptional Games" after earlier asserting that the IOC had "absolutely no regrets" in choosing Beijing to host the 2008 Games. The choice of China as a host country was the subject of criticism by some politicians and NGOs concerned about China's human rights record. China and others, meanwhile, warned against politicizing the Olympics.
The Games saw 43 new world records and 132 new Olympic records set. A record 87 countries won a medal during the Games. Chinese athletes won 51 gold medals altogether, the second largest haul by a national team in a modern, non-boycotted Summer Games. Michael Phelps broke the record for most golds in one Olympics and for most career gold medals for an Olympian. Usain Bolt secured the traditional title "World's Fastest Man" by setting new world records in the 100m and 200m dashes.
The program for the Beijing 2008 Games was quite similar to that of the Athens Games held in 2004. The 2008 Olympics saw the return of 28 sports (some of which, such as athletics, aquatics, gymnastics and cycling, were divided into multiple disciplines), and held 302 events (165 men’s events, 127 women's events, and 10 mixed events), one event more in total than in Athens.
Overall, 9 new events were held, which included 2 from the new cycling discipline of BMX. Women competed in the 3000 m steeplechase for the first time. In addition, marathon open water swimming events for men and women, over the distance of 10 kilometres, were added to the swimming discipline. Team events (men and women) in table tennis replaced the doubles events. In fencing, women's team foil and women's team sabre replaced men's team foil and women's team epee.
In 2006, the Beijing Organizing Committee released pictograms of 35 Olympic disciplines (for some multi-discipline sports, such as athletics and cycling, a single pictogram was released).
The following were the 28 sports to be contested at these Games. The number of events contested in each sport is indicated in parentheses (the four aquatic disciplines are also specified).
- Diving (8)
- Swimming (34)
- Synchronized swimming (2)
- Water polo (2)
Field hockey (2)
Modern pentathlon (2)
Table tennis (4)
In addition to the official Olympic sports, the Beijing Organising Committee was given special dispensation by the IOC to run a wushu competition in parallel to the Games. The Wushu Tournament Beijing 2008 saw 128 athletes from 43 countries participate, with medals awarded in 15 separate disciplines; however, these were not to be added to the official medal tally.
A variety of concerns over the Games, or China's hosting of the Games, have been expressed by various entities; including allegations that China violated its pledge to allow open media access, various alleged human rights violations, air pollution in both the city of Beijing and in neighbouring areas, proposed boycotts, warnings of the possibility that the Beijing Olympics could be targeted by terrorist groups, potentially violent disruption from pro-Tibetan protesters, religious persecutions, the banning of ethnic Tibetans from working in Beijing for the duration of the Games, criticisms of the electronic surveillance of internationally owned hotels, displacement of residents, manhandling of foreign journalists, dubious protest zones, as well as alleged harassment, house arrests, forced disappearances, imprisonment, and torture of dissidents and protest applicants.
In addition, there are allegations that some members of China's women's gymnastics team were too young to compete. Previous sources, including reports from Xinhua News Agency and registration lists maintained by the General Administration of Sport of China, gave ages for Chinese gymnasts that would mean they were underage, although Chinese gymnastics officials dismissed these reports as mistaken. On August 21, the IOC ordered a probe into the legal ages of double gold medal winning gymnast He Kexin and her fellow teammates. A day after the probe began, the IOC stated that they had confidence that the gold medal winning Chinese gymnasts were eligible to compete at the Beijing Games after reviewing their birth certificates and passports provided by the Chinese government, however, the governing body of gymnastics continued to investigate the situation and had not made a decision on the case as of the Closing Ceremonies.