When the 2008 Summer Olympic Games kick off on August 8th, the eyes of the world will be on Beijing, where more than 10,000 athletes will compete for gold in 302 events and 28 sports.
Though there’s nothing bigger on the international sports scene, the 2008 Summer Olympic Games might not be as popular in North America, often due to confusing time zone differences and the fact they take place at a key time of year on the pro-sports calendar. After all, the baseball season is about to hit the home stretch and the NFL is gearing up. Perhaps the average sports fan’s attention is on multimillion dollar athletes instead of amateurs who only see the spotlight every four years. Regardless of what you think, however, the Olympic Games are a crowning moment in sports, and even if table tennis and field hockey aren’t exactly your thing, they’re worth flipping channels to catch.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
1- No world records will be setHoping to see some world records broken at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games? Don’t hold your breath. Health and sporting experts predict that because of Beijing’s serious air-quality problem, outdoor events will be run at times well off the record pace because the smog will impact the athletes’ lung capacity. Just how bad is the Beijing smog? It’s two to three times higher than what the World Health Organization deems safe. The Chinese have taken several measures to combat their air pollution, including relocating 200 factories, taking 60,000 buses and taxis off the road and expanding the subway system, and ordering 340 factories around the Games’ sites to close during the Olympics. Still, their actions may be a case of too little, too late.
2- Baseball is gone, but handball continuesThe 2008 Summer Olympic Games may not be the last Olympics to feature baseball, but they’ll be the last for a while. The 2012 Games will not include America’s sport (but the 2016 or 2020 Games might), much to the chagrin of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. His Cuba squad has won three of four gold medals in baseball since it became an official Olympic sport in 1992, and the former pitcher has condemned the “rich and powerful masters” of the Olympics for getting rid of a sport at which Cuba has excelled. When you’re not watching baseball this summer, however, check out the competition in handball. Similar to soccer, the players in this medal sport since the 1970s use their hands rather than their feet. This summer’s Olympic Games will include 10 handball teams, including the unlikely qualifier Iceland.
3- The torch has already been extinguished several timesThe Olympic Torch may be able to withstand 65 km/h winds and rain up to a rate of 50 millimeters per hour, but it’s already been snuffed out a handful of times on its 129-day, 137,000-kilometer relay that began in March. Because the relay has faced protesters demonstrating against China’s less-than-stellar human rights record (and pro-Chinese groups demonstrating against the demonstrators) on nearly every leg of its journey, the Torch has been extinguished for safety reasons. Additionally, out of respect for the victims of China’s Sichuan earthquake, the torch relay was stopped for three days in May.
4- You can’t eat dog at this year’s OlympicsIf you were planning to attend the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to feast on man’s best friend, you’ll be disappointed. Chinese officials have announced that canines won’t be offered on menus at specified Olympic restaurants. Dog meat was also banned at the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea. Additionally, in an effort to maintain order at the Games, the Beijing organizing committee has released a list of rules for those attending the events to follow. Attendees are prohibited from spitting, being rude, standing in the seating sections, waving flags of nations other than those competing, and carrying such items as crossbows, daggers, fireworks, guns, radioactive material, laser pointers, and musical instruments.
5-The Games have forcibly moved 1.5 million peopleWhile the Chinese government may be condemned globally for its treatment of Tibet and of citizens who practice Falun Gong, it’s not making many friends in Beijing either. Geneva’s Centre of Housing Rights and Evictions says that more than 1.5 million Chinese citizens have been displaced due to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games -- a claim the government denies. Even worse, the Beijing police is said to have imprisoned countless residents for protesting the evictions.
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