Games of the XXIX Olympiad
8 August - 24 August 2008
On 13 July 2001, Beijing won the right to hold the 2008 Olympic Games when the IOC voted in favour of the Chinese capital at the expense of four other cities (Toronto, Istanbul, Paris and Osaka) bidding to host the Games. The thought that China should get the Olympic Games was barely imaginable at the time of the 2001 Moscow IOC Congress, due to a variety of factors, but hope that the Games would result in improvements dispelled possible reservations.
The construction of all 31 Olympic venues in Beijing was well underway by 2007, with six venues also built outside the capital and 59 training centres. Approximately 40 billion US dollars were spent on the Games.
As the number eight is considered lucky in China, the opening ceremony took place on 08.08.2008 at eight minutes past eight in the evening in the spectacular “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium. The breathtaking spectacle, which showcased unbelievable precision and stunning special effects, was watched by a global television audience of four billion people.
An integral part of the Chinese bid had been the proposal to hold the equestrian events in a centre to be constructed outside the capital city. But, three years later, the Organising Committee (BOCOG) declared that they could not guarantee a disease-free zone for the horses near Beijing and proposed that the equestrian events be held in Hong Kong.
There was considerable debate on this issue at the FEI General Assembly in April 2005, but the Chinese proposal to use Hong Kong, with its in-depth knowledge of importing equine superstars – albeit racehorses not sport horses – was recognised as a valid alternative and it was agreed that it would be the headquarters for equestrian sports at the 2008 Olympic Games. The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Sha Tin racecourse was earmarked as the main venue and the Beas River Country Club golf course, some 23km away, selected as the site for the cross country. There were downsides however, most notably the higher temperature and humidity compared to Beijing and also that the Games would take place in the Typhoon season.
Quarantine and bio-security measures included a 60-day pre-export residency in an approved country, compulsory veterinary supervision for 30 days prior to export, 7-day pre-export quarantine and 10-day post-arrival isolation with no contact permitted between Olympic and local horses.
Approximately 300 horses from more than 40 nations accompanied by 140 attendants and 96,000 kgs of equipment travelled to Hong Kong on an estimated 56 flights. The airports of Amsterdam, London Stanstead, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney were designated by BOCOG as hub airports. In Hong Kong the horses stayed in specially constructed state-of-the-art air-conditioned boxes, 3.6 x 3.6 metres, with the temperature set at 23°C.
There were, in the rules for the three equestrian disciplines, one major and several smaller changes:
- Jumping: The team competition was now held over two days, over two different courses. Only 35 riders were allowed to ride in the individual final-as compared to 45 in Athens.
- Dressage: Only three starters were permitted per country, all to count, allowing more countries to participate. This was certainly the major change, approved by the FEI General Assembly of 2005. For the individual rankings only the percentages of the Grand Prix Special and the Kür to Music were added together.
- Eventing: Eventing: The same format was used as that employed for the first time in 2004. The first fall (of rider or horse) incurred elimination – as compared to two falls of the rider previously.
Games Facts & Figures
- 204 nations
- 10,942 athletes (4637 women; 6305 men)
- 28 Sports - 302 events
- 100,000 volunteers (70,000 Olympic Games, 30,000 Paralympic Games)
- 24,562 media (representing 159 countries)