Sunday, July 29, 2012

Reminiscing about the Beijing Olympics, and how 2008 was the year of great victories

There was something special in the air in 2008
I've concluded that I'll never see an Olympics as exciting and important as the 2008 Beijing Games. At that time, I was in Korea doing a summer internship, which made watching the events super convenient because they were going on in neighbouring China.

No Olympics will mean as much to a country as the 2008 Games meant to China. Sure, London 2012 will undoubtedly be a great party, and so will Rio 2016. But Beijing 2008 was the first and perhaps only time that I'll ever get to see an Olympics so laden with historical and cultural symbolism, mainly that of China's long-awaited return to the forefront of the international world after centuries of complacency, exploitation, and self-sabotage.

Beijing 2008 had it all. It had Usain Bolt. It had Michael Phelps. It had the Korean baseball team winning an unlikely gold medal by getting a final double play on the Cubans with bases loaded. It had Park Tae Hwan winning Korea's first ever gold medal at swimming.

But 2008 as a whole was a year of astounding and memorable victories in sports. Let's count them all.

8 Feb 2008: Giants defeat Patriots in the greatest and most dramatic Superbowl upset perhaps in NFL history. It was David vs. Goliath in perfection. On one side, you had Mr. GQ himself, Tom Brady, and his ruthless band of football machines. On the other, you had the awkward-looking and much-derided little brother of Peyton Manning, and his team that had just barely made it into the playoffs. A seemingly ludicrous guarantee of victory by Plaxico Burress, an ill-advised laughter of derision by Tom Brady upon hearing that guarantee, and a winning drive that made every neutral observer a hardcore Giants fan.

21 May 2008: Manchester United defeats Chelsea for the Champions League title. Philanderer and racist John Terry blows a glorious opportunity to give Chelsea its first ever CL title with the 5th kick in penalties, but he misses and Man Utd eventually wins. Park Ji Sung, who was arguably the team's MVP against AC Milan and Barca in prior rounds, gets to add "Champions League Medal Winner" to his illustrious resume.

4 June 2008: Detroit Red Wings defeat Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup. A hockey fan couldn't have asked for a more marquee match-up than the storied Red Wings and the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins. The rating were through the roof for good reason, and the bitter disappointment of losing would enable the Penguins to fight back the following year to claim the Stanley Cup in an epic finals rematch.

16 June 2008: Tiger Woods wins the US Open in Torrey Pines while essentially playing on one leg. It was perhaps the most astonishing, and definitely the most courageous, victory of his phenomenal career.

17 June 2008: Boston Celtics defeat LA Lakers for the NBA championship in such a pitch-perfect clash of NBA history and contemporary greatness that the David Stern conspiracy theorists must've multiplied by several folds. Much-deserving winner and possible psychopath Kevin Garnett finally gets his ring.

29 June 2008: Spain defeats Germany in the final of Euro 2008, one of the most exciting international football tournaments in recent memory. Back then, Spain was fresh, exciting, and tragically romantic as the super-talented nation that always choked when it mattered. They finally won, though, and everybody was so happy for them.

6 July 2008: Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer for the Wimbledon title in what many regard as the great tennis match of all time. Five sets, two of the greatest in history, but only one winner...

16 Aug 2008: Usain Bolt wins gold in the 100m sprint, obliterating the world record and leaving behind an iconic and spellbinding image when he crosses the finish line while pounding his chest. He goes on to break the world records in the 200m and 4x100m relay, giving him an unimaginable triple crown of broken records in track's most prestigious events.

17 Aug 2008: Michael Phelps completes the Herculean task of winning his 8th gold medal in a single Games. It's pretty trendy to piss on the guy now for some reason, but the dedication and overcoming of immense pressure to pull of this feat cannot be hated on.

It's almost freakish how almost every sporting event featured all-time accomplishments or marquee matchups that lived up to the hype worthy of a finals.

But it wasn't all just great sporting events. In the political arena, the 2008 Democratic primaries between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton was more thrilling and epic than any mere athletic event.

And of course, on 4 Nov 2008, one of the greatest victories in the history of the modern world came when Sen. Obama became President-Elect of the United States.

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