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Parties of the century: closing as well as the opening ceremonies of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Drummers performs during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China

Two Number Ones – China in Gold, U.S. in Total

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The Beijing Olympics have come to a close after 16 days of thrilling competition - with the home nation sat on top of the gold medal table.

China has spent seven years planning for this event. It must be relieved that these Olympics are being hailed as both a sporting and an operational success. Worries about air pollution, protesters and media freedom were eventually overshadowed by what went on in the sporting arenas.

general view of the festivities in Beijing National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China

At the closing ceremony the International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, said they had been "truly exceptional games".

Best of the best

Worldwide, 200 countries provided a staggering 5,000 hours of coverage through rights-holding broadcast partners. In China, 842 million people - more than twice the population of the United States - tuned in to watch some part of opening ceremony.  read more »

Olympics open with full variety of athletes; flag bearers relishing moment, athletes celebrate, ready for the big Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

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opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

China launched the 29th summer Olympics on Friday with a glittering opening ceremony combining 5,000 years of its history with a modern firecracker of a show.

The 91,000-strong crowd in the National Stadium, and more than a billion television viewers, earlier saw the hoisting of the Chinese flag which was carried into the stadium by children from China's 56 ethnic groups after 2,008 drummers had started the show.

opening parade at 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Around 11,000 athletes from a record 204 nations will compete in 28 sports for 302 gold medals at the first Olympics in China and third in Asia, following Tokyo in 1964 and Seoul in 1988.  read more »

"One hell of a show": Beijing opens 2008 Olympic Games with best show on earth

fireworks over National Stadium (known as Bird’s Nest) at opening ceremony rehearsal of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

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The only people who didn't enjoy the awe-inspiring Opening Ceremony of the XXIX Olympic Summer Games had to be the folks with the London Olympic organizing committee. They host the 2012 Summer Games, meaning they have to follow the greatest show on Earth -- and, for my yuan, the greatest show in Opening Ceremony history.

Beijing

If I were the Brits, I'd punt and go with Monty Python reruns. Unless they can top a gold medalist elevating and running on air around the entire circumference of National Stadium to light the torch. "I was very excited," torchbearer Li Ning said. "I could feel the strength rising from the depth of my heart. This was the result of one month's training. That moment means China is standing side by side with the rest of the world."

Olympic opening ceremonies, Beijing, 2008

Seminal as it was, that moment was merely the last gasp-inducing scene in a show full of fireworks, flying and gravity-defying. For four sweaty hours, the Olympics literally levitated in the thick Beijing air. The 14,000 performers staged a tour de force of choreography, technology and can-do-ology for a country intent on using the Games as a springboard to new world prominence.  read more »

Countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games - athletes to watch, each with a story of their own

Dara Torres, United States - Swimming

Among those featured in Time special issue "100 Olympic Athletes To Watch":

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Dara Torres (United States) - 41, nine-time Olympic medallist in swimming and mother of a two-year old who has qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, something no other swimmer has ever done. The time in the 100m freestyle that got her a ticket to Beijing was 2.47 seconds faster than her Olympic effort in 1988, at age 21 - a lifetime in such a short race.

Liu Xiang, China - Hurdles

Liu Xiang (China) – 25. When Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, delivering China its first ever sprint gold, you could almost sense the alarm in the announcers' voices. Few had heard of this mystery athlete, much less knew how to pronounce his given name. What a difference four years make. In Beijing, Liu, 25, along with basketball star Yao Ming, will be the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. His name (pronounced Sheeahng) means "to soar" in Chinese.

Usain Bolt, Jamaica - Sprints  read more »

Personal Plane flies, folds, tows, swims, and beats SUVs on mileage - ICON A5 amphibious sportsplane completes first test flight

The plane that also swims is shown during a test run on Lake Isabella (Kern County) early this month

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We never did get the hovercrafts we were promised as kids, but we're getting closer. Imagine sailing above the Bourne Bridge on your way to the beach, while consuming less gas than the SUVs stuck beneath you in traffic.

A compact, two-seat plane with folding wings that can be pulled behind a car on a trailer will premiere at an air show in Wisconsin next week in a development that heralds a new genre of flying machines designed to bring the power-boating experience to the sky. Developed by two Stanford business school graduates, Kirk Hawkins and Steen Strand, the ICON A5 is the latest and arguably coolest plane to take to the skies under a new classification that the Federal Aviation Administration calls light-sport aircraft.

ICON A5, a plane developed by Stanford engineers

The A5's top speed is 120 miles per hour, and its maximum altitude is about 10,000 feet, in keeping with its Light-Sport Aircraft classification - a new class created to make personal aviation accessible to more people. It runs on auto gasoline and gets 18 to 20 miles to the gallon, according to Icon.  read more »

History in less than 2 minutes in Olympic sport - Natalie Coughlin snatches back the world record of 100-meter backstroke

Natalie Coughlin swims the 100-meter backstroke en route to setting a new world record of 59.03 during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska

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OMAHA - Call it the one-heat world record. For about two minutes, Hayley McGregory was on the top of the world. Swimming in the second-to-last heat of the preliminaries for the 100-meter backstroke at the United States Olympic Trials, the 22-year-old from Texas clocked a 59.15, breaking the world record by .06 seconds.

When McGregory made the turn at 50 meters on world-record pace, the Qwest Center crowd got firmly behind her, cheering loudly. Natalie Coughlin, whose record McGregory broke, was standing over McGregory’s lane as she finished, getting ready to race in the final heat. The plan was for Coughlin, who this year has recorded three of the five all-time fastest times in the event, to conserve her energy and deliver a nice, easy performance, maybe a second or so faster than her personal best.

Natalie Coughlin reclaims her world mark in the 100-metre backstroke one heat after Hayley McGregory took it down at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials

When Coughlin saw McGregory’s time, she switched gears. Swimming with a sense of urgency seldom seen from a top swimmer early in the day’s heats, the 25-year-old Coughlin one-upped McGregory with a time of 59.03. McGregory will go down as the world-record holder for less than two minutes. "Not even a whole minute, really," McGregory said with a chuckle. "It’s still awesome." Looking ahead to Monday night’s semifinal, she said, "I’m really excited to race next to her."

The top 16 finishers will race again Monday night, after which the field will be pared to eight finalists, who will compete Tuesday for the two berths to Beijing. "I was planning on going a lot easier this morning," said Coughlin, the gold medalist in the 100 backstroke at the 2004 Olympics with a time of 1:00.37. McGregory’s swim, she said, "gave me motivation to swim a little faster than I was originally planning." Coughlin, a Californian who came into the race with five of the 10 fastest swims in the event, looks at the 100 backstroke as her baby. She wasn’t going to let somebody take it from her without putting up a fight. "I didn’t really want her to have it long," Coughlin said. After all, Coughlin had held the mark uninterrupted since 2002 when she became the first woman to break the minute barrier in this event, going 59.58 six years ago.

Natalie Coughlin swims the 100 meter backstroke en route to setting a new world record of 59.03 during the U.S. at the Swimming Olympic Trials on June 30, 2008 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska

Either Coughlin or McGregory, or both, could conceivably take the record down even more in the semifinals later tonight. McGregory may have popped up on Coughlin's radar in a big way, but the 22-year-old from Longhorn Aquatics in Texas is no pretender, having shown sub-minute speed in the event, going 59.46 at a meet in Austin earlier this month. She started her career at the University of Texas, transferred to USC and found herself a bit adrift when the program changed hands from Mark Schubert to Dave Salo when Schubert joined USA Swimming.

The rest of morning preliminaries went to form. Jessica Hardy (1:06.85) of Trojan Swim was the fastest qualifier in the 100 breaststroke, edging her teammates Rebecca Soni, who went 1:06.90. In the men's 100 backstroke, Randall Bal had the fastest time in 53.28. World-record holder and Nike endorser Aaron Peirsol, who experimented with Speedo's LZR Racer, was sixth in the 100 backstroke, going 54.14. "The way everyone's swimming, it looks like it's not that big a deal anymore," Peirsol said, joking of the four world records set here in less than two days.

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Photos courtesy of Al Bello, Donald Miralle/Getty Images, and KCRA

Original Source: NY Times and LA Times

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