Dan Baynes reports in Bloomberg:
The Beijing Games closed tonight with an endorsement from the top Olympics official, China on top of the gold-medal standings and wins for the U.S. men’s basketball and volleyball teams on the final day.
“These were truly exceptional Games,” said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge in his address to the closing ceremony of the 17-day sports event at the Bird’s Nest stadium.
Rogge passed the Olympic flag to London Mayor Boris Johnson as part of the symbolic handover to the 2012 host, ending China’s seven-year buildup to its first Olympics as host.
France won the final event in Beijing to leave China as the leading gold-medal winner for the first time with 51. Only the U.S. or Soviet Union had won the most golds since Germany in 1936. The U.S. led the total medal table 110 to China’s 100.
“We consider this one of our most successful performances in the Olympic Games ever,” said U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr in a statement today.
The New York Times also provides a sum-up of the Olympics closing ceremony and a look ahead to what a post-Olympics China might look like:
The Games were seen as an unparalleled success by most Chinese — a record medal count inspired nationwide excitement, and Beijing impressed foreign visitors with its hospitality and efficiency. And while the government’s uncompromising suppression of dissent drew criticism, China also demonstrated to a global audience that it is a rising economic and political power.
But a new, post-Olympic era has begun. The question now is whether a deepening self-confidence arising from the Olympic experience will lead China to further its engagement with the world and pursue deeper domestic political reform or if the success of the Games and the muted Western response to repression will convince leaders that their current model is working.
“China was eager to present something that shows it is a new power that has its own might,” said Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. “It has problems, but it is able to manage them. It has weaknesses in its institutions, but also strengths in those same institutions.”
The Washington Post also weighs in, declaring the Games “A Victory for China – Spectacularly Successful Games May Empower Communist Leaders”:
In its scope and its splendor, the pageant proved yet again that China’s Communist Party, while clinging to its Leninist political system, has accumulated the wealth and know-how to pull off a glittering Olympics worthy of a world power. The nation also showed itself able to field a team of impressive athletes, who walked away with 51 gold medals, more than the contingent from any other country.
ESPN’s “Reflections On The Beijing Olympics:”