The 29th Olympiad has drawn to a close in Beijing. The games lasted more than two weeks in the Chinese capital and other cities. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on the closing ceremonies at China's National Stadium.
The theme of the Beijing Olympics was 'One World, One Dream.' And the world did come together in competition, and for the closing ceremonies Sunday, filled with performers, music and fireworks. International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge says victories were measured by wins, and simply by showing up.
"The games is not only about winning, not only about being triumphant and winning gold," he said. "It is about the struggle of every athlete every day to achieve his or her own limits. And to having this resilience in saying, 'I will not give up. And I will come back.'"
Countries like Bahrain, Togo, Sudan, Mauritius and Afghanistan won their first-ever Olympic medals.
And the Beijing Olympics had no shortage of star performances by teams and individuals. Usain Bolt of Jamaica displayed unparalleled speed on the track on the way to winning three gold medals.
"I just blew my mind and blew the world's mind," he said.
American swimmer Michael Phelps made a strong case for claiming the title of greatest Olympian of all time. He is the first athlete to win eight gold medals at a single Olympics.
"To have ups, to have downs, to go through everything and be able to accomplish everything you have ever really dreamed of. It is fun," he said.
On August 8 inside the iconic Birds Nest stadium, the opening ceremonies featured an elaborate depiction of 5,000 years of Chinese history. The closing ceremonies Sunday were a simple reflection of the Olympic spirit and the joy of competition.
U.S. silver medal fencer Erin Smart reflected the sentiment heard from many of the athletes who competed in China.
"It is really not a political event," she said. "It is about being an athlete, and bringing the most you can to the table. Whether you are the strongest or fastest, that is what we believe going into it."
And for some of the more seasoned Olympians, like American 25-year-old and 100-meter backstroke bronze medalist Margaret Hoelzer, the games have redefined their outlook on sports.
"I feel like I have gone full circle," she said. "You go from having a love of the sport, to competing and feeling pressure. And, getting older, I feel like I have almost gone back around the other half of it in getting back to that primal joy."
The Olympic flag was lowered, and handed from the mayor of Beijing to Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, which will host the 2012 Summer Games. The Olympic flame, which has burned continuously over the Bird's Nest for the past 16 days, was slowly extinguished, and fireworks lit the night sky, as the Beijing Olympics officially closed.