Dexter Roberts writes in the Business Week:
The 2008 Games didn’t go so well for everyone, though. Here’s my selective and personal list of the many winners and a few losers:
Whether they were the Chinese and overseas crowds who came to watch live or the billions of TV watchers around the world, the Games’ spectators were unqualified winners. As they watched countless awe-inspiring athletic performances, they also witnessed China’s dramatic rise to gold-medal powerhouse, unseating the U.S. At the same time, spectators were treated to the performances of 23-year-old American swimmer Michael Phelps, who won an unparalleled eight gold medals, and Jamaican Usain Bolt, who combined supreme, world-record-breaking sprinting with lighthearted antics. After breaking the 200-meter world record with a time of 19.30 seconds on Wednesday night—a little more than an hour before his 22nd birthday—Bolt celebrated by taking off his Puma Golden Theseus II running shoes before he danced around the perimeter of the National Stadium.
The rise of the Chinese team—winner of 51 gold medals, 15 more than second-place U.S.—certainly has provided a huge boost to Chinese pride, and likely will strengthen the popularity of athletics and lead to a healthier China. An Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide survey released on Aug. 22 shows that 90% of Chinese believe that athletics will become more important following the Olympics, with more than one-third saying they now will care more about sports. This is a big change for China, where traditionally sports have not been really popular.
Although Beijing said it was committed to a “smoke-free Olympics” and banned smoking in all venues, Beijing restaurants by and large still had their customary gray nicotine haze. Beijing, however, has plans to become a more smoke-free city over the next few years. Let us hope it pulls this off, since China today is the largest puffer of cigarettes in the world.