• Beijing 2008

Beijing 2008 - Key Moments

ESPN staff
October 12, 2011
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Sammy Wanjiru celebrates his victory © PA Photos
The 29th Olympics and only the third to take place in Asia, the 2008 Beijing Games was the most watched in history with a global audience of 4.7 billion.

With more than two-thirds of the world's population looking on the Games were a success in diversity, with athletes from 86 countries winning medals to set a new record. Moving with the digital revolution the Beijing Games was also the first ever to be produced entirely in HD quality by the host broadcaster, with an opening ceremony which lived up to its billing.

The main concerns prior to the Games about freedom of press coverage and air quality turned out to be largely unfounded, as the focus fell on the on-track exploits of the world's finest athletes.

American swimmer Michael Phelps took the term success to a new level as he collected eight gold medals, setting a new record for the most garnered by an individual in a single Games, as well as becoming the athlete with the most career gold medals as he took his tally to 14.

Beijing also saw the formal crowning of Usain Bolt as the 'World's Fastest Man', the Jamaican obliterating the opposition by setting new world records in both the 100 and 200 metre finals. Bolt completed a hat-trick of gold medals when he and his compatriots triumphed in the men's 4x100m event, and his famous marksman celebration became one of the lasting images of the Games.

Host nation China was the most successful in terms of gold medals with 51, gymnast Zou Kai one of the Games' standout performers with three of those, and the United States amassed 36 golds with a double sweep in both the men's and women's 4x400m contributing.

Only five athletes won three or more gold medals, and joining Phelps, Bolt and Zou Kai were Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice and British cyclist Chris Hoy.

Hoy's haul was the pinnacle of Great Britain's best medal performance in a century as a total of 47 included 19 golds. Cycling was by far Britain's most productive sport, with Bradley Wiggins winning double gold and Nicole Cooke, Rebecca Romero and Victoria Pendleton all taking individual golds as well.

Christine Ohuruogu won the women's 400m having had a lifetime BOA ban overturned the previous year, and James DeGale went all the way in the middleweight category in boxing. Rebecca Adlington was a double-gold winner in the pool too as UK Sport targets were exceeded by some distance.

Triumphing in the face of adversity South African swimmer Natalie du Toit became the first amputee to qualify for the Games since 1936, and there was an emotionally charged and memorable podium ceremony when German weightlifter Matthias Steiner kissed a photo of his late wife while collecting gold, having promised her he would take the medal before her passing away.

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