As the 2008 Beijing Olympics draw closer, the spotlight falls on the athletes who will be competing on the sports world's biggest stage in another edition of the Summer Olympic Games. While we all watch in awe as these athletes ply their trades and do things that most of us can only dream of, it's important to remember the dedication and determination involved in becoming an Olympic level athlete. You will only be even more impressed by these great individuals when you come to understand what it takes for them to reach the Olympic Games. One important thing to keep in mind is that no one just becomes an Olympic athlete. You can't simply make it to the highest level of competition on natural talent alone. Every last athlete competing in each edition of the Olympics is successful based upon not only natural talent and ability, but years of hard work, preparation and planning. Since the Olympics only come every four years, athletes will have to train for several years just to get one opportunity to be the best in the world at their sport of choice. If you think about it, that's an incredible amount of sacrifice with no guaranteed reward at the end. An injury, a poor performance that keeps an athlete from qualifying for the Olympics, or any other number of things can happen that will render an athlete's years of hard work and dedication effectively useless. Imagine dedicating your entire life to one goal, only to know that a single slip-up, mishap, or poor performance could erase all that you have worked for! This is the kind of pressure that Olympic level athletes must live with. Although some Olympic athletes, such as basketball players, are professionals, most are not. This means that many Olympic athletes are students or must maintain jobs while training full-time to be the best in the world. It would not be possible, especially with the requirements of today's top athletes, if it weren't for sponsors. Most athletes rely on sponsors to help pay for strength and conditioning coaches and other needs, as well as to help pay for living expenses so that they can focus solely on their training. Depending on the sport that the athlete participates in, they may have a very different background in their sport. As mentioned earlier, many Olympic basketball players are professional athletes, while top gymnasts are amateurs who are sometimes barely teenagers! Olympic athletes come in all ages, shapes and sizes, and from all different kinds of backgrounds. Some athletes are college competitors, and others are athletes who sharpened their skills on the college stage and have continued to train for a chance at Olympic greatness, deferring the start of their careers and families in the process. While the demands and risks that are imposed upon athletes who dream to be in the Olympic Games are great, for these men and women, the potential rewards are well worth it. It takes a special person to dedicate themselves so completely to a singular goal, and even though many of us would love nothing more than to be given an Olympic gold medal, only a select few are willing to truly dedicate themselves to accomplishing the task. Why is it that some athletes are able to devote themselves to the pursuit of Olympic excellence, while others can not? Perhaps Olympic athletes are simply more competitive, and their drive helps separate them from other top athletes. After all, at the highest levels of sport, the difference between a gold medal winner and a non-Olympic qualifier can be as simple as who wants to win more. One thing is for sure, though: Olympic athletes are a very special breed of individual. Although Olympic athletes are known and revered mostly for what their bodies can do, the best of them know that the work all begins in their minds and hearts. It seems that everyone dreams of participating in the Olympic Games. As kids, athletes all over the world imagine themselves on the sports world's biggest stage, competing for glory while representing their countries and their families in friendly competition. For those of us who aren't able to compete at an Olympic level, the next best thing is to be able to attend the Olympic Games. For as long as they have existed, the Olympic Games have had an appeal and a tradition that set it apart from similar sporting events, and which somehow manage to capture the collective imaginations of people all over the world, whether or not they are normally sports fans. If you are among those that are lucky enough to be attending the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, you are most likely excited, but maybe a bit stressed out as well. After all, there are a lot of things to arrange and prepare before the Olympic Games arrive. You may not have quite as much to think about as say, an Olympic gymnast or sprinter, but it's understandable if the prospect of getting around during the 2008 Beijing Olympics is a bit daunting! With a city the size of Beijing, China, combined with the tremendous influx of visitors that only an Olympic competition can bring, getting around town to various events as well as other tourist attractions can be pretty intimidating. It's vital for an Olympic city to not only provide great public transportation, but also to be easy to get around for those who choose to transport themselves to where they need to go. For those folks, there has to be ample parking, and the roads must be able to occupy a larger than usual amount of drivers without causing chaos, and worse yet, traffic jams! Luckily, the public transportation system in Beijing appears to be ready for the rather formidable challenge that such a large number of new visitors and athletes will bring. Not only can you get around for a fairly small fee (1 yuan for a bus ride in the city, and 2 yuan if you're in the suburbs), but Public Transportation Cards are available, even to visitors, so that you can save money. It's probably a good idea to take advantage of that offer if you're going to be making lots of trips, which you likely will if you're attending the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If buses aren't your style, you can also get a quick ride from one of the over 60,000 taxi cabs within the city of Beijing. Taxis can be a great way to travel because, although they are more expensive than buses, they can get you where you need to go quickly. Also, with a taxi, you can give the driver a specific destination, without having to tailor your arrival to a pre-set location along a bus route. If you're still not pleased, you'll probably want to go with the subway or city rails that Beijing have to offer. For little more than what you would pay for a bus ride, you can take the subway and possibly get to your destination even faster. Of course, officials in the city of Beijing, China have been preparing for the influx of visitors for years now, and they have made adjustments within the public transportation system to guarantee convenient and quick travel for all Olympic enthusiasts. The venues that have been built for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China have been placed in locations that are easily reachable using the public transportation system. Congratulations to any of you who are attending this summer's Beijing Olympic Games. You can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you will be able to get around quickly and efficiently, even if you don't know your way around Beijing (which you probably don't). Be sure to explore all the options available to you before choosing your preferred method of getting from place to place, and enjoy your Olympic experience! The Co-Host Cities of the 2008 Beijing Olympics With an event that is as large in magnitude, tradition, and importance as the Summer Olympic Games, it's understandable that not even a huge city can hold it on its own. Each Olympic Games has co-host cities that assist in holding events, and Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games are no exception. If you would like to know more about the co-host cities of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, look no further! The co-host cities of the 2008 Beijing Olympics include Qingdao, Hong Kong, Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Qinhuangdao. These cities were selected to assist with the hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games not only for their proximity to Beijing, but also for their distinctive features and beauty. The beautiful city of Qingdao will be home to sailing events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and rightfully so. A state of the art sailing center (the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center) will appease sailing competitors and fans alike, and the city of Qingdao itself is known for being a great summer resort. The city is also very pleasurable during the months of July through September, which are considered the most comfortable weather months for Qingdao. The famous city of Hong Kong will play host to the always popular equestrian events. Equestrian enthusiasts and competitors alike will get to know Hong Kong much better, as well as the two equestrian venues where competition will take place. Hong Kong is a large city with much to do and ee, and is one of the cultural centers of China, so those who take in equestrian events will be pleased with other available activities as well. Some of the football (soccer if you're from the U.S.) matches will take place in Tianjin, at the Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium. Tianjin is a comfortable distance from Beijing, which will please fans of "the beautiful game", as it can be reached with about a one-hour train ride. Other football, or soccer, matches will take place in the world famous city of Shanghai. Shanghai, also a comfortable distance from Beijing, is one of the largest cities in China and is a modern and fashionable city. It is one of the larger seaport cities in this part of the world, and provides plenty of opportunities for great food and entertainment. Another of the football venues is found in Shenyang, home of the Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Stadium, which is a newly constructed venue that holds up to 60,000 people! Shenyang itself is notable for having four distinct seasons, and for being cooler than other parts of China during the summer months. Finally, the last host of football matches is the city of Qinhuangdao, which is only about 220 kilometers away from the host city of Beijing. Qinhuangdao boasts a new stadium called the Qinhuangdao Olympic Sports Center Stadium, where matches will be held for excited fans and players. Co-host cities provide additional venues for Olympic events, but they also provide more cultural and tourism options for those that are able to attend the Olympic Games. Although Beijing has a lot to offer, the six co-host cities of the 2008 Beijing Olympics also have much to offer in the way of culture, dining, sight seeing, and experiences to be had. If you're one of the lucky persons who will be attending the Beijing Olympics, make sure to explore the co-host cities as well! The Olympic Games have always been a captivating event for spectators to behold. Each edition of the Summer Olympic Games presents its own storylines, memorable moments, heroes, and inspirational events. This year, there will be many great stories that come seemingly out of nowhere, but there are also great stories that have already been set up, that will keep the attention of viewers worldwide as the 2008 Beijing Olympics join sports history as one of the biggest events ever. With all the events taking place and athletes competing, it can be hard to even know what to follow. Here's a beginner's guide to a few of the stories to watch as the Beijing Olympics draw progressively nearer. In 2004's Summer Olympic Games in Athens, one of the biggest surprises was the collapse of the U.S. men's basketball team. The team started out with a loss to Puerto Rico, and would go on to lost two more games en route to a bronze medal. The three losses in the 2004 Olympic Games surpassed the number of losses that the U.S. team had endured in Olympic history before that point. After another disappointing third place finish at the 2006 World Championships, the 2008 U.S. men's basketball team will look to reclaim their former glory. The team is taking a different direction, as coaches and USA Basketball have attempted to form a cohesive team that will play as a unit rather than yet another thrown together roster of NBA All-Stars. Only time will tell if the team will win the gold against an emerging world of basketball superstars that continue to grow in talent. It will also be fun to watch China's athletes compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Athletes always compete a little harder in their home country, and the Chinese athletes are certain to be ready when the Olympics commence in Beijing this summer. In 2004's Olympic Games in Athens, China finished second overall with 32 gold medals, so they have set the stage for Olympic dominance. With strong athletes in nearly every Olympic sport, it will be interesting to see what kind of effort China's athletes can put together as they host athletes from all over the world in the 2008 Olympic Games. Track and field events are always among the most anticipated, but this year there may be an unprecedented newcomer to one or more events. Oscar Pistorius, born without fibulas in either of his legs, is a double-amputee athlete who runs with the use of carbon fiber "blades" nicknamed "Cheetahs" that help him run like an able-bodied athlete. After initially being told he couldn't compete in this year's Olympics because a German scientist believed that the blades gave Pistorius an unfair advantage, Pistorius successfully appealed the ruling and will be free to qualify for this year's Olympic Games in Beijing. If Pistorius can better his time in the 400 meters (which is one second off of Olympic qualifying pace), he will make history when he lines up on the track this summer. Even if he does not meet the required time, he may still be selected to race as part of his native South African relay team. If Pistorius does compete, you won't want to miss it. Finally, 41-year old Dara Torres is spicing up the swimming world with her possible participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Torres would set a number of records, including most Olympic appearances by a swimmer (5) and oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympics, if she is able to successfully qualify. Her road to doing so appears to be pretty certain, as she is actually swimming faster than she did years ago when she was an Olympian! You'll want to follow this amazing and inspirational athlete in Beijing, whether you're a fan of swimming or not. These are just a few of the intriguing stories that have presented themselves already as the Olympics get closer. Make sure to catch the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China so that you won't miss out on any of the historic events that are sure to happen. The Olympic Games are not only a platform for competition and entertainment, but they can also serve to inspire people, even those of us who will never be Olympic athletes. During each installment of the Olympic Games, there are many inspirational stories and athletes that emerge, and though the Games haven't begun, the 2008 Beijing Olympics is already no exception to this trend. Let's discuss some of the inspirational athletes that will aspire to compete in this year's Olympic Games. Recently, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa has become a huge story due to his battle to be included in the running for participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. You may have already heard of him, or even seen clips of him in action on television or elsewhere. If so, you'd know him immediately. Why? Because he was born without fibulas in either of his legs, and is a double-amputee as a result. Pistorius had both of his legs amputated below the knee, and is only able to run because of custom made carbon fiber "blades" that are shaped much like a normal leg and foot are. The blades (nicknamed "Cheetah" blades by some) allow Pistorius to maintain balance and propel himself as an able-bodied runner does. Now, if Pistorius was merely able to compete after all he's been through, that would be inspirational enough. However, Pistorius doesn't just compete, he wins. Pistorius, who is a former athlete in other sports, such as rugby, wrestling, and tennis, has dominated at Paralympic events, which is impressive in its own right, as he has set world records in the 100, 200, and 400 meter runs for Paralympic athletes. However, Pistorius didn't stop there. He has also experienced success while competing against able-bodied competitors, even winning events such as the 400 meters in his native South Africa. Sadly, Pistorius was originally barred from competing against able-bodied athletes, but after an appeal and studies by scientists who insist that Pistorius' blades give him no unfair advantage, Pistorius has earned the right to try to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games. He has a bit of work to do, as his best time is one second off of the Olympic qualifying standard for the 400 meters, but Pistorius is used to overcoming odds. Meanwhile, middle-aged people everywhere will be rooting for American swimmer Dara Torres. Torres competed in her first Olympics in 1984, believe it or not, and will be competing in her record fifth Olympic Games if she qualifies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. At 41 years old (and after having a baby a few years ago), Torres is somehow swimming better than ever. Torres' success is the result of hard work, diligent training, and intelligence. Since she can't train as hard as her younger counterparts, she must train smarter than they do. She spends only about half as much time in the pool as she did earlier in her career, but has managed to swim faster times than she did then. She has lost weight since her last Olympic appearance, but has simultaneously increased her strength, through a dedicated and smart weight training program. Unlike younger athletes, Dara Torres must take even more care of herself than the average Olympic athlete. Since her body doesn't recover as well as a twenty year old's after a difficult workout, Torres simply must make the most of her workouts, while spending more time recovering properly. Regular massages and other types of therapy help her to train at a high level, despite her age. Clearly, if Torres is able to qualify, and better yet, win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it will be a victory for not just her, but 40-year olds everywhere! However, everyone can take something away from witnessing athletes like Torres and Pistorius, who refuse to let the limitations others put on them form their own realities. After all, if Torres can swim competitively at age 41, and Pistorius can run with the best of them as a double-amputee, think of the things you can accomplish! During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, much of the spotlight will be on the National Aquatics Center, and with good reason. At the National Aquatics Center, gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in 42 events in categories like swimming and diving. Obviously, if you're a fan of water sports, the National Aquatics Center is where the action will be this summer at the Beijing Olympics. The National Aquatics Center was inaugurated on January 28, 2008, after four years of construction. The groundbreaking happened in December of 2003, and construction began immediately after on the state of the art facility. By the end of 2005, the concrete structure was finished and the steel structure was nearly finished being installed. In August of the following year, the first of the air cushions was installed, and by the end of the year, membrane structures were also introduced on the outside of the National Aquatics Center. In 2007, decorating, municipal engineering works, and electro-mechanical equipment was completed and installed, finishing the construction of the facility. The "Water Cube", as the National Aquatics Center is also known, is hailed as an environmentally friendly facility. Among the "green" design choices include surface water exploitation and enhanced air-conditioning and ventilation systems. However, the most impressive aspect of the environmentally sound design is the outer surface of the National Aquatics Center. The outer surface can collect up to 10,000 tons of water from rain, 70,000 tons of water that is clean, and 60,000 tons of water for the swimming pool each year, along with saving approximately 140,000 tons of recycled water every year. The National Aquatics Center is also sure to turn heads with its futuristic and high-tech look. Supposedly, the facility will last 100 years due to the strength of the membrane structure's stability. Adding to the aesthetic wonders of the facility is a moat that surrounds the National Aquatics Center. This moat of sorts also has a practical effect, keeping spectators from touching the bubbly surface of the facility. Designers are sure that birds will steer clear of the "Water Cube" as well, as they do not rest themselves on transparent or semitransparent objects. If you're attending the Beijing Olympics this summer, you'll be glad to know that the National Aquatics Center is also easily accessible, whether you choose public transportation or a personal vehicle to reach the facility. The "Water Cube" is located close to the Olympic Green Central Zone, and is also on the Beijing Subway Olympic branch line, that will service travelers to the National Aquatics Center, among other destinations. If you would rather drive yourself, there is a large amount of parking space available in an underground parking lot beneath the venue, as well as in a separate parking lot to the north of the National Aquatics Center. Besides its useful features, the National Aquatics Center is, let's face it, just plain cool. It produces an instantly distinctive, modern look that also provides environmentally friendly perks. It seats 17,000 people, while using all of the latest technology to amaze each and every one of them. Have we mentioned that it looks cool? During the daytime, it will give a translucent blue shine, while at night it will provide glowing bubbles to impressed visitors. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, many stars will be born. With the National Aquatics Center, the people of Beijing already have a star in the making that will help this summer's Olympic Games have a flavor all their own. As we get closer and closer to the newest exciting installment of the Olympic Games, the athletes themselves are also preparing for the biggest event of their lives. While cities, fans, and organizers are preparing to host, attend, or enjoy the Olympic Games, the athletes are doing preparation of their own to attempt to be recognized as among the world's best athletes. Before we watch the athletes take center stage in the Beijing Olympics, let's take a look at what Olympic athletes go through to get themselves in position to be the best in the world. Olympic athletes have different lives depending on what kind of sport they participate in. Gymnasts, for example, begin their training at a very young age, many times as toddlers. After they show the aptitude and interest in gymnastics, their training is more and more serious as they spend much of their time perfecting their techniques and getting ready for competitions. Gymnasts must be very hard-working and dedicated, as they train full-time while attending classes or working with tutors to acquire their education. For an Olympic gymnast, the Olympic Games are the summit of a lifetime of training and competition. Most gymnasts reach the prime of their careers in their teens, so it is especially important for them to capitalize on their limited chances to succeed on the Olympic stage. Keep that in mind as you watch gymnasts compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics- they are under a lot of pressure! Gymnasts, like many Olympic athletes, are particularly impressive because their sport requires so much mental toughness and maturity, along with athletic talent. Some Olympic athletes, such as basketball players, are already professional athletes as well. This doesn't necessarily make life easier for them, however. Professional basketball players must participate in the Olympics after already competing in a grueling season for their professional teams. This shows the dedication of basketball players who choose to represent their respective countries. After all, they have already succeeded at a high level, so other than representing their country in international competition, they have no reason to give up their off-season to compete in the Olympic Games. Athletes that are a part of team sports, such as football (or "soccer" if you're from the United States) have a slightly different regimen than athletes in individual sports, such as wrestling. In an individual sport, you train with others, hoping to hone your skills to the point that you can qualify to participate in the Olympic Games. In a team sport, you are generally selected to participate on the team far in advance of the Olympic Games. From then on, your time is spent practicing with the team (in addition to working with any other team that you may already play for) so that your team will have the best possible chance to succeed in the Olympic Games. At the Beijing Olympics, you are likely to see many polished teams who play well together as a unit, and the practice and hard work that has been put in is the main reason. Amateur athletes have a very special lifestyle that can be very difficult. If athletes don't have sponsors or other financial assistance to help with training, they must go to school or work just like the rest of us, while trying to train at a world class level at the same time. Training is expensive, as coaches need to be paid, trainers must be compensated, and equipment or facility fees also have to be taken care of. Sometimes, the stress of the lifestyle that Olympic athletes must live is greater than the stress involved in training itself! Although Olympic athletes live much different lives than us, it's important to remember they are also people, just like the rest of us. They are only able to reach the level they compete at because of dedication and hard work. Keep that in mind when you're cheering on your favorite athletes this summer at the Beijing Olympics! Olympic Boxing for Beginners There are few Olympic sports which have the historic tradition that Olympic boxing has built over the years. Great boxers such as Oscar de la Hoya, George Foreman, and "The Greatest" himself, Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) have fought and succeeded on the international stage at the Summer Olympic Games. Nowadays, it lives on as one of the more popular, and sometimes controversial, Olympic sports. Whether you'll be watching along with 13,000 other fans at the Worker's Indoor Arena, or watching from the comfort of your own home, let's prepare yourself for boxing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with this basic history and explanation of Olympic boxing. Surprisingly, the first modern Olympics didn't include boxing as an Olympic sport. The reason? It was considered too violent. However, in 1904 boxing debuted at the St. Louis Olympic Games, albeit only as a demonstration sport. In 1908, boxing was included as a medal sport in London, but was once again, not a part of the Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden four years later. Finally, in the 1920 Olympic Games, boxing returned to stay (there were no 1916 Olympics). There has never been women's boxing in the Olympic Games, though in 2012 there will be for the first time ever. Somewhat appropriately, London will host those Summer Olympics, since London was also host when boxing first appeared as a medal sport in 1908. Olympic boxing is notable for several reasons. For one, there are actually two bronze medals in Olympic boxing. Each loser in the two semifinal bouts receives a bronze medal. Also, the boxing tournament is a single elimination one, so there is very little margin for error- actually, there is none. Some of the rules and guidelines of Olympic boxing are different from the professional boxing ones that many fans are more familiar with. Olympic boxing separates competitors into twelve weight classes, ranging from light flyweight (approximately 106 pounds) to super heavyweight (over 200 pounds). Also, all competitors are made to wear headgear, similar to amateur boxing in the United States. Some of the rules of Olympic boxing, particularly the scoring and judging system, have been controversial over the years. In Olympic boxing, points are scored by hitting the opponent in the head or torso, as long as it is a legal blow. Judges don't score the bouts by round, giving ten points to the winner. Instead, they use an electronic scoring system to register how many punches land. When a punch lands, the judge presses a button, and if three of the five judges do so, a point is registered. Judges must also hit the button within one second of the others. However, if a flurry is exchanged, judges are told to wait until it is over, than give a point to whomever they feel got the better of the exchange. As you can see, the judging is quirky, to say the least. At the end of the fight, if the time is up and neither fighter has been defeated, points are added up to decide the winner. If the fight is a draw, the judges vote based upon who they felt fought the better fight. However, there are no points awarded for a knockdown, so a punch that results in a downed opponent is no more valuable than a jab that lands, if a knockout doesn't result. Similarly to in most boxing bouts, three knockdowns in a single round result in a technical knockout, although in the Olympic Games, four knockdowns in a total fight also give the same result. The combination of these somewhat strange rules and judging guidelines have led to some controversial decisions and frustration from fans and competitors alike. However, Olympic boxing has remained as one of the purest outlets for boxers to ply their trades, and also remains one of the greatest tests possible for the world's top amateur pugilists. Total Words 651Male Athletes to Watch in the Beijing Olympics Each edition of the Olympic Games showcases some of the finest athletes in the world doing what they do best while representing their home countries. This year's Games in Beijing, China, will be no different. There are so many great athletes, both male and female, that it can be hard to know who to look out for. Here's a few of the athletes on the male side that you'll want to keep an eye on during the Beijing Olympic Games. Yao Ming is a Chinese basketball player who has blossomed to one of the best players in the entire world, and most likely the best player at his position anywhere. Yao has succeeded in the NBA, becoming the first Chinese player to do so, and has experienced international success in the past, being named to All-Tournament teams at the Olympics and World Championships. Yao's ultimate goal is to bring a gold medal to China, and the fact that this year's Olympics are in his own home country only intensifies this desire. At over seven feet fall, Yao possesses uncommon agility, shooting ability, and passing, and will be playing his best basketball when the Olympic Games begin in Beijing. Don't miss a moment of Yao and company on the court! While we're talking basketball, we have to discuss United States basketball superstar Kobe Bryant. Bryant is arguably the most exciting player in the world, and is in the prime of his career. This year, he won the NBA MVP Award for the first time in his career, while taking his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to new heights. Able to soar in the air for acrobatic baskets as well as playing great defense and getting teammates involved, Bryant is the ultimate basketball weapon and is devoted to getting the United States back to the top of the international basketball world. Bryant has proven his dedication by refusing to get surgery on his injured finger until after the Olympic Games. Bryant is not only one of the most exciting athletes in the Olympic basketball tournament, but in the entire Olympic Games. You would be hard pressed to find a more inspirational athlete than South Africa's Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius was born lacking fibulas in both of his legs, and as a result has been a double-amputee basically all of his life. However, Pistorius never let his setbacks define him, as he's competed in many sports throughout his life, most at a very high level. During rehabilitation from a rugby injury years ago, Pistorius fell in love with running, and with carbon fiber blades that allow him to run like an able-bodied athletes, he's shattered Paralympic sprinting records, and even competed favorably against able-bodied athletes. If Pistorius can either beat the qualifying time he needs for the 400 meters or be invited to be on the South African relay team, he'll be possibly the biggest story of the entire Beijing Olympics. This may seem like a cop-out, but it's impossible to really single out any of them, so make sure to watch the entire Brazilian soccer team. Team Brazil came in second place in the 2006 World Cup, then finished first in the 2007 Copa America, and seem primed for success in Beijing. An extremely fun team to watch, their team includes some of the most exciting players in the world, such as Ronaldinho and Robinho. Again, there are many more athletes that you'll want to watch this summer during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but this list is a good start. Every athlete that reaches the Olympic level is worth watching and will amaze you with their athletic ability, but some athletes always rise above the top with their skill, natural ability, hard work, dedication and perseverance. If you get a chance to watch these talented and inspirational performers, make sure you take advantage of it! Dara Torres is an American swimmer who unbelievably, has been swimming competitively at the Olympic level since 1984. Even without competing in the 1996 or 2004 Olympics, she is still going to be the first Olympic swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games. Also, it should be mentioned that she's 41 years old, and still competing at an elite level. If she swims in Beijing this summer, she will also be the oldest swimmer to ever compete at the Beijing Olympics. Torres has become notable as a television personality outside of the pool, and was also the first non-model to appear in the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue. In case you hadn't heard, she's also had a pretty good career as a swimmer. To this point in Torres' career, she has won nine Olympic medals (four gold medals among them), and in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she won five medals as the oldest member of the U.S. team, at 33 years old. She had originally planned to retire and had no intentions of competing in further Olympics, even devoting her time to having a family in the following years. By all accounts, the Olympic career of Dara Torres had come to a distinguished end. However, things took a surprising turn. In August of 2007, when Torres was 40 years old and had given birth just over a year before, Torres was able to win the gold medal at the U.S. Nationals for the 100 meter freestyle event. She would also go on to break her own American record in the 50 meter freestyle. Torres was as surprised as anyone. She had joined a local club team after giving birth, just to get back in shape and have a fun outlet for friendly competition. However, as Torres is one of the more competitive athletes of her entire sport, one thing led to another, and she began competing at a higher and higher level. She raced in master's events, but posted times that would be competitive at a professional level, surprising everyone, including herself. Since discovering that she still has the talent, she has decided to resume full-time training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Dara Torres' training is made a bit more complicated by the fact that she can't get as much pool work in as her younger counterparts, so she is forced to train smarter instead of harder. She works with a team of experts to ensure that there is no wasted time in her workout regimen, and she relies on weight training more than ever to increase her strength and explosiveness. Torres' philosophy of training smarter rather than harder has led to her posting faster times than she did years ago, even though she spends about half as much time in the pool as she used to. She is stronger than in her younger days, although she weighs less, and is more efficient and better balanced in the water. She has also improved her time out of the blocks to start the race, which is vital at shorter distances, where fractions of a second can separate a gold medal from a bronze medal. Dara Torres is likely to be one of the biggest stories of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Just by qualifying and competing, Torres would be making history. However, as you may guess, Torres is not merely content to just "show up". If you follow the NBA (National Basketball Association), you're already familiar with the outstanding play of the 2007-08 NBA Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant. If you aren't immediately knowledgeable of his abilities, you're not going to want to miss him in action during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Kobe Bryant is one of the most skilled and most exciting athletes in the world, and perhaps the world's greatest basketball player. Bryant began his professional career at age 18, deciding to skip college to go directly to professional basketball at its highest level- the NBA. Within a short amount of time, it became clear that his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, had something special on their hands. During his career, he quickly won three world championships, leading the Lakers along with fellow NBA All-Star Shaquille O'Neal. After years of playing together, a number of circumstances, including a supposed feud that both players downplayed, led to O'Neal's departure, but Bryant continued to have individual, if not team, success. Since then, Bryant has won the NBA scoring title, and been honored for his defensive play as well. The United States basketball team is in dire need of a leader like Kobe Bryant, and they are lucky to have him as they attempt to reclaim their place at the top of the international basketball community. Bryant plays with a fire that the United States team has lacked in recent years. In 2004's Sydney Olympic Games, the United States lost three games while settling for the bronze medal. To put the disappointment into perspective, the three losses in 2004 are more than the United States had previously experienced in their complete Olympic history. In 2006, the U.S. team's performance wasn't much better at the World Championships, which resulted in another third place finish. Kobe Bryant appears to be motivated to change his country's fortunes in Beijing this summer. Even though he's been playing with a torn ligament in his right pinky finger (on his shooting hand, nonetheless), he has publicly stated that he would not undergo surgery until after the Olympic Games in Beijing were completed. This kind of statement speaks volumes about the dedication Bryant is showing towards his nation's team, and the determination he has to return the U.S. to the top of the podium in Beijing. Not only is Bryant one of the most talented performers in the world, but he's also one of the most exciting. Bryant is capable of mid-air acrobatics, last second heroics, and incredible shots that defy physics, even when he is being guarded closely by multiple defenders. At times, it seems that there is no force that can stop Bryant from doing what he wants to do on the basketball court. Bryant is also becoming increasingly fun to watch because he has learned to involve his teammates more than he previously did earlier in his career. This will lead to more opportunities for them as well as himself, since opponents can't simply double team him like they would early in his playing days. His evolution into more of a team player will also help the United States change their identity as a team. After the "dream team" experiment continued to disappoint, the team has changed to a more balanced team filled with role players as well as stars. Bryant's new philosophy will fit perfectly with the style of basketball that the United States needs to play to win. Whether you're a fan of United States basketball or not, you'll want to watch whenever they play, if only because of the superlative talent and ability of Kobe Bryant. Not since the great Michael Jordan have we been blessed with the opportunity to watch such an excellent player in his prime, and with Bryant more motivated than ever to bring the United States another gold medal, he's sure to be at his best this summer in Beijing. Although the 2008 Beijing Olympics will take place at many distinctive and groundbreaking venues, it's hard to think of a more impressive structure than the home of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies- National Stadium. Located on the Olympic Green, National Stadium provides seating for nearly 100,000 spectators, and is going to be home to some of the 2008 Beijing Olympics' most important events. The National Stadium is memorable for its "Bird's Nest" design, which gives it a distinctive and modern look. Also, the National Stadium has a number of amenities and features for visitors, including a shopping center as well as a remarkable "green area" on the outside of the stadium. Among the important athletic events that will be presented at National Stadium are the always-popular and historic track and field events. The tradition of track and field at the Summer Olympics is a perfect match for the modern, yet majestic appeal of National Stadium. It's only appropriate that Beijing's National Stadium, the site of great competition, was itself born of the same competitive mentality. In 2002, a design competition was won by Herzog & de Meuron, award winning architects who had an early vision that closely matches what we see in Beijing today. In March of 2004, construction began, although for a brief time that year, construction stopped due to worries of high costs. In the end, the stadium was completed successfully and on time, and now, National Stadium is poised to house some of the most important and closely watched moments of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Along with many other venues of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, National Stadium is environmentally friendly. The stadium is equipped with over 1100 solar panels that will help defer energy costs and coal usage, eventually projected to save over 900 tons of coal over their 25-year lifespan. A glass curtain of sorts also helps National Stadium conserve energy, by limiting heat transfer and providing conditions for more energy efficient lighting. Completed at a cost of over 500 million dollars, the amazing National Stadium required over 22 miles of steel, but according to many in the architectural world, it was all well worth it. Many have singled out the National Stadium for praise due to its swooping, looping design and its immediate distinctive appeal. One of the most amazing aspects of National Stadium is that it combines remarkable function with impeccable design in a way that is virtually unrivaled by venues of its type. As mentioned earlier, National Stadium will host some of the most incredible moments of the entire 2008 Beijing Olympics. The always popular Olympic soccer tournament will be decided on the grounds of the stadium, as will track and field and other athletic events. Most importantly, the tradition and pageantry of the Opening Ceremonies (as well as the Closing Ceremonies) will take place at National Stadium. It's only fitting that the 2008 Beijing Olympics should begin and end at such a marvelous venue. An amazing amount of hard work, brilliant and creative design, and planning has gone into the construction of National Stadium. The effort that has been put into the construction of this architectural wonder may even match that of the athletes who are striving to compete inside its walls this summer. If you're among the many that will be traveling to Beijing, China to be part of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, you'll have to consider where you will stay as you make your plans. Luckily, there are many options available in the Beijing area as well as in nearby surrounding cities. Between high class hotels, guest houses, hostels and other accommodations, there is bound to be something that will suit your needs during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Beijing Hotel is among the five star hotels available for those visiting Beijing during the Olympic Games. It's located conveniently in downtown Beijing, near shopping centers and other places you'll likely want to visit. In addition, it's a short walk from the famous Tian'anment Square as well. Rooms are known for being very large and spacious, and a variety of amenities, including laundry service and meeting facilities, are available. Other five star accommodations include the romantic Grand Hotel Beijing, which is a posh hotel that features fine dining and artistic design and decorating. The Beijing International Hotel provides five star comfort in a more modern setting, and is located in the center of Beijing. There is a shopping area and spa on site to add to the enjoyment of your stay. If you are a football (that's "soccer" to you U.S. fans) fan, you may be willing to stay outside of Beijing in a neighboring city, like Tianjin, Shenyang, Shanghai, or Qinhuangdao. These cities are a quick trip from Beijing and offer you convenient access to football matches throughout the Olympic Games. These cities, particularly Shanghai and Tianjin, also provide excellent tourism opportunities and will give your trip to China for the Beijing Olympics a different flavor. Similarly, sailing enthusiasts may want to stay in a hotel within the beautiful city of Qingdao. Qingdao and its Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center is home to sailing events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Qingdao features very favorable weather conditions during the summer months, and also boasts a variety of lodging options for those who are interested. If equestrian sports are more your style, consider staying outside Beijing in one of the many hotels in Hong Kong. Hong Kong's two equestrian centers will be hosting all equestrian events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, so you might as well stay there if those are your biggest interests! Hong Kong is an internationally known city that is a center of culture and commerce in China. You are sure to find a great place to stay there, and you will have much to do aside from attending the actual Olympic Games themselves. Of course, you'll have to be willing to do some research if you want to find the most appropriate lodging choice for you or your family during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Luckily, the internet makes this easier than ever, as you can usually view hotels inside and out and compare prices without leaving your computer desk. You'll want to hurry up and make reservations quickly if you haven't already, so make sure to complete your research soon!
China has a lot to offer culturally, and with the 2008 Summer Olympic Games belonging to the city of Beijing, now is the perfect time to explore China and its great cities. With a little effort, you can find the perfect lodging choice for you, and get ready to enjoy your Olympic experience! You may be an Olympic enthusiast already, or perhaps you're more of a casual sports fan. In fact, you may not be a fan of sports whatsoever, but there's still likely to be something for you during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Here are some things to keep in mind to enhance your enjoyment of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. First of all, it's important to keep an open mind as you follow the Olympics. Try watching sports that you may not have any immediate interest in, or that you have never seen at all. Often times, Olympic sports that don't garner much attention, such as synchronized swimming or water polo, may be among the most fascinating to watch. You will never know whether you like a particular sport unless you give it a try! While you're giving other sports a chance, give other countries an opportunity to impress you, as well. One of the most unique aspects of the Olympic Games, and the thing that sets them apart from many other competitions, is the international flair that the Games have. It's fun to root on your own country and the athletes that represent it, but many times you will also find yourself admiring that determination and skill of athletes from other countries as well. There's nothing wrong with that, after all, that's what the Olympics are all about! During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, be sure to catch the dramatic and historic Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well. The Ceremonies are among the most popular events in the Olympic Games, even though no actual competition takes place in them. What the Opening Ceremony (and Closing Ceremony) is all about is providing a showcase for the cultural beauty and individuality of all the countries involved, while also emphasizing the essential unity of the world community. In addition, the Opening Ceremony provides a joyful celebration of the exciting events to come, and is sure to get you pumped up for the rest of the Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the Closing Ceremony celebrates all that we have seen, while showing respect between athletes and countries alike. No viewing of the Olympic Games is complete without witnessing the dynamic and amazing Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The Olympic Games aren't just about scores, finishing times, and medals, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be no different. The most enthralling and captivating moments don't necessarily involve who wins and who loses, but the human stories that emerge throughout the friendly competition between countries. If the 2008 Beijing Olympics are similar to previous editions of the Olympic Games, there will be no shortage of inspirational, touching, and amusing storylines and athletes. Be sure to keep an eye on them, if you want to maximize your enjoyment of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Another way to really enjoy the Olympic Games is to watch it with your family and friends. Sports and friendly competition provide a wonderful bonding environment that can help bridge gaps and show you that you have more in common with others than you may have previously thought. Sports transcend age, cultural, and political differences, and thusly are a great platform to use to bond with people that you may normally have very little in common with, or who you may not always agree with. Finally, if you get a chance, try some of the sports out yourself! Kick a soccer ball around, shoot some baskets outside, or go for a run to experience what the competition is like for yourself. You'll likely have a newfound respect for the athletes who compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when you see for yourself just how much difficulty the different sports and events present to competitors. No matter how you spend your time watching the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, make sure to enjoy them- after all, they only come every four years! The Olympics are a time like no other, a celebration of sports, competition, and unity: make sure that you are a part of the fun! Oscar Pistorius won't be hard to pick out if he's able to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and line up for the 400 meters. After all, Pistorius has spent his whole life standing out from the crowd. If you're watching, he'll be the runner who, instead of fibulas and feet, will have two curved metal blades to support himself. Pistorius is a double-amputee who was born without fibulas. Despite the disadvantages that he faced as a boy who was amputated from the knee down on both legs, Pistorius has always been focused on tackling new challenges. Pistorius competed in wrestling, rugby, water polo and tennis as a youth, and played water polo and tennis at a high enough level to be one of the best in his area. In January of 2004, Pistorius was hurt in a rugby match, and was introduced to running during his rehabilitation process. Instantly, he was hooked. Since then, Pistorius has trained day and night to be able to compete not only against other Paralympic athletes, but able-bodied athletes as well. His Paralympics career got off to a very quick start. In the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece, Pistorius qualified for the final heat of the 200 meter race, even though he briefly fell during the preliminary race. When the final race arrived, Pistorius didn't fall again- instead, he set a world record tie of 21.97 seconds, beating not only double amputees like himself, but also single amputee Americans Brian Frasure and Marlon Shirley. Pistorius didn't stop there. In 2005, he won the gold medal at the Paralympic World Cup for both the 100 and 200 meter races, even besting his previous 200 meter world record. He continued to dominate Paralympic events, winning three gold medals at the 2006 Paralympic Athletics World Championships for winning the 100, 200 and 400 meter events. Finally, in March of 2007, Pistorius set a disability sports record with a time of 46.56 in the 400 meter dash during the South African Senior Athletics Championships. He would set more records for the 100 and 200 meter races at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled later that same year. What really turned heads, however, was Pistorius' performances against his able-bodied counterparts. In 2005, Pistorius was able to win the 400 meter race in the South African Championships with a time of 47.34 seconds. He was also a participant at Rome's Golden Gala, where he bested his previous 400 meter time with a run of 46.90 seconds, good enough for second place. At this point, Pistorius began to seriously entertain competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) had other ideas. They ruled that according to their sponsored scientific study by a German man, that the conclusion had been reached that Pistorius' carbon fiber blades (known as "Cheetah" blades) gave Pistorius an unfair advantage. This was certainly a first for Pistorius, being pointed at as the competitor who had the advantage! However, Pistorius fought with all his might to have the decision overturned, just as he had fought all his life while competing in able-bodied sports competitions. Finally, his appeal to the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) was successful, as the CAS announced on May 16, 2008 that Pistorius would be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes after all. The CAS had held their own studies that showed that Pistorius' carbon fiber blades did not provide a significant advantage over the other runners. With that battle finally finished, Pistorius still faces an uphill battle to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. His best time is about a second away from the Olympic qualifying time for the 400 meter run, which is 45.55 seconds (45.95 seconds if no other South African meets the lower time). If Pistorius is unable to do so, he is still a possible choice for the South African relay team. No matter what happens, if we see Oscar Pistorius line up at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, we'll be witnessing history in the making. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will take place, depending on the event, in a variety of breathtaking and state of the art venues. These locations are not just representing the pinnacle of modern architecture and design, but will also become the places where athletic and Olympic history is made in the Summer Olympic Games. If you want to become more familiar with just where some of the most important moments of the Beijing Olympics will take place, read on. First and foremost is National Stadium, which is located in Beijing on the Olympic Green. The stadium seats nearly 100,000, and will be home to the Opening as well as Closing Ceremonies. The National Stadium contains a shopping center and a beautiful "green area" outside the stadium, and is notable for its modern and distinctive design, which has earned the National Stadium the nickname of the "Bird's Nest". National Stadium will host some of the most-watched events of the entire Beijing Olympics, including track and field events. The National Aquatics Center is an amazing structure that is notable for its futuristic design and aesthetic appeal, along with its environmentally friendly features. From afar, the National Aquatics Center resembles a giant cube of water, and in fact, is nicknamed the "Water Cube" as a result. It can either glow a translucent blue or a greenish color, depending on the time of day and other factors. The outer surface can collect water, which will lead to up to 140,000 tons of recycled water per year. The National Aquatics Center will be home to swimming and diving events, of course. The National Indoor Stadium, with its appealing curved roof design and modern look, is a marvel of modern architecture that will host gymnastic events, trampoline and handball competitions in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The stadium is located in the Olympic Green and is north of the National Aquatics Center, south of the National Convention Center. The National Indoor Stadium is comprised of a main area as well as a gym for warm-ups, and covers a total of nearly 81,000 square meters! Many gymnastics fans will be able to be part of the history-making action, as the National Indoor Stadium seats 18,000 people. Like so many of the 2008 Beijing Olympic venues, the National Indoor Stadium was made to be environmentally friendly. A "glass curtain wall" covers the stadium, allowing improved energy efficiency while providing insulation to reduce heat transfer. Solar panels also help power the National Indoor Stadium. Some of the most watched competition in the entire 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will take place at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium. The Olympic basketball tournament is always the focus of much attention around the world, with the sport having become a global phenomenon, and in the Beijing Olympics, the tournament will have a facility worthy of the sport's popularity. The stadium, which seats up to 18,000 people, has a LED display system that is the first in China that meets NBA (National Basketball Association) regulations. The Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium will also be a hit with spectators, thanks to the upholstered seats and availability of luxury boxes. Also, the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium continues the trend of "green" venues at the Games, as the stadium has a rainwater recycling system in place. As you can see, the people and city of Beijing, China have done a great job in getting ready for the world's biggest athletic stage this summer. With breathtaking architecture and environmentally friendly features, the venues of the 2008 Olympic Games will be nearly as amazing as the competition itself. Each of the Olympic Games always comes complete with (sometimes) adorable mascots. Although the mascots from one Olympics to another vary in quality and how they are received by the fans of the Games, the tradition of having mascots to represent the spirit of the Olympics lives on. For this year's Summer Olympics in Beijing, there are five mascots, each colored to represent one of the Olympic rings. Collectively, they are known as Fuwa. Fuwa not only are supposed to represent the Olympic rings, but also the five elements recognized by many Chinese people- the earth, sky, sea, fire and forest. Individually, the mascots are named Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini. The syllables of their names are repeated to have a rhyming effect, which symbolizes a traditional way of referring affectionately to a child in China. When you put their names together, they become a sentence that translates to "Welcome to Beijing", which adds another level of meaning to the mascot name game. If you've wondered just what the mascots are supposed to be, wonder no further. They are each one of the more popular animals for Chinese children, along with Huanhuan, who is the Olympic flame itself. The four animals represented are a swallow (Nini), a panda (Jingjing), a fish (Beibei), and a Tibetan antelope (Yingying). As you can see, symbolism carries a great deal of weight in Chinese tradition, and as such, the symbolism of each of the mascots is very important. Let's discuss the symbolism of each of the five mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, shall we? Beibei the fish represents the blue Olympic ring, and also serves as a symbol of harvest and prosperity. Fish also signify prosperity in Chinese culture, or what many would refer to as "the good life". The mascots have associated personalities, and Beibei's is gentle and innocent. Jingjing the panda symbolizes the black Olympic ring as well as the panda itself, which is a protected species in China and is revered by Chinese people. His ties with the forest are shown by the headdress he wears, which recall the forest and harmony between humans and nature. As an athlete, he is strong and his personality is an optimistic one. Huanhuan the Olympic flame is known as the oldest of the Fuwa. His fire symbolizes the passion of athletes around the world, and he is known as courteous and welcoming despite his passion to excel. He represents ball-oriented sports, and the red Olympic ring. Yingying the Tibetan antelope is the quickest member of the Fuwa. He, like Jingjing, represents a protected species and as such, is a symbol of Beijing's desire to put on an environmentally friendly Olympic Games. Yingying is a clever personality who symbolizes the yellow Olympic ring, and also the vast lands of China. Finally, Nini the swallow is modeled somewhat after the most popular kite design among Chinese children. In China, kite flying is very popular among children. She symbolizes the green Olympic ring, as well as the freedom of the sky. Among the sports, she represents gymnastics, and her personality is a happy one. As you can see, there's more to these mascots than a collection of cute characters designed to make a buck from Olympic-crazy children. Full of symbolism, the Chinese ambassadors of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games hope that the Fuwa welcome all those who love the spirit of the Olympic Games. Athletes to Watch at the Beijing Olympics: Yao Ming Yao Ming is a Chinese basketball player that has taken the basketball world by storm. At well over seven feet tall, Yao possesses outside shooting and passing skills that many much smaller players envy, while also giving a strong presence on the inside to any team he plays on. With this year's Olympic Games taking place in Beijing, China, all eyes will be on Yao Ming as he attempts to lead the Chinese basketball team to the gold medal in front of his home country. Yao Ming has said time and time again that he would love to bring the gold medal to his country, and this year's Olympics may be his best chance yet to do so. Yao Ming was selected to the All-Olympian team in 2004 after putting up some impressive numbers in the Sydney Olympic Games. He averaged 20.7 points per game and 9.3 rebounds and made 55.9% of his shots as well. Yao would repeat his great performance with similar production in the 2006 Word Championships. Yao Ming played the first years of his professional career with the Shanghai Sharks, in China. He was outstandingly successful there, before becoming a coveted commodity to the NBA's teams. The Houston Rockets were able to obtain him a few years ago, and he has blossomed to become possibly the NBA's best true center. With other centers, such as Shaquille O'Neal, aging, Yao patrols the paint almost unchecked by other big men. In China, Yao is nothing short of a superstar, as one of China's most popular and recognizable athletes. In China, the NBA is very popular, and since Yao has succeeded quite well in the NBA (despite injury issues), his move stateside to play for the Houston Rockets has only boosted his popularity in his home country. Yao is also one of the more patriotic basketball players you will find. He cites carrying his country's flag in the 2004 Olympic Games as one of the greatest times in his life, and has also said that if an injury that he suffered in the 2007-08 NBA season kept him from competing in the Beijing Olympics, it would be the biggest disappointment he's endured. The reason Yao said that is that he suffered a stress fracture to his foot in February that ended his season with the NBA's Houston Rockets. He later underwent surgery and started an aggressive rehabilitation aimed at getting him ready to play at the Beijing Olympics. Yao currently maintains that he will play in the Beijing Olympics, and he will obviously do whatever it takes to make his goal to do so a reality. The stage has been set for one of China's biggest heroes to help lead his team to the gold medal in his very own country. If Yao is able to do so, it will bring an almost unimaginable joy to China's avid basketball fans, who have dreamed of such a day since Yao starred for the Shanghai Sharks years ago. With the United States basketball team coming off of several disappointing years, and the Argentinian and Spanish teams showing flaws of their own, it's possible that the Chinese team could escape with the gold. For Yao Ming, that would be a dream come true. Inside the Beijing National Indoor Stadium During each edition of the Olympic Summer Games, much of the attention goes to competitors in sports like gymnastics, and rightfully so. The sport of gymnastics in many ways represents the pinnacle of athleticism, grace, and hard work, the combination of which represents the ideal of the Olympic athlete as a whole. Therefore, it's only appropriate that at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, gymnastic events (along with select other events) will take place at a venue worthy of their rich history and tradition- Beijing's National Indoor Stadium. The National Indoor Stadium immediately catches your eye with its strikingly-curved roof and modernly sleek look. Beijing's National Indoor Stadium, while still relatively newly constructed, has already been called a marvel and an architectural triumph by many. Along with gymnastics, events such as handball will be hosted at the National Indoor Stadium. The stadium itself can be found in the Olympic Green, to the couth of the National Convention Center, and not far from National Stadium. The National Indoor Stadium contains a full warm-up gym in addition to the main competition area, and in total, takes up a space of over 81,000 square meters. This space allows the stadium to contain over 18,000 gymnastics fans. Perhaps the best thing of all about the impressive structure is that it has been designed to be environmentally friendly. National Indoor Stadium will take advantage of solar energy as much as possible, leading to conservation of coal and reduced pollution as a result. Glass curtain walls will help to insulate the stadium, reducing loss of heat from the venue. Over 100 kilowatts of electricity can be produced by the stadium each day, amazingly enough. The marvelously efficient form of National Indoor Stadium will be matched only by the grace and ability of the athletes that will compete inside of it during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. With each installment of the Summer Olympic Games captivating the entire world's attention, it's important to consider that there will be a remarkable amount of visitors to Beijing, all who will need convenient transportation, or even parking, to access National Indoor Stadium and the historic events that will take place there. Luckily, National Indoor Stadium, along with the other venues on the Olympic Green, is easily accessible through public transportation, and even has available parking for those who would rather transport themselves to the day's events. The people of Beijing, like the hosts of Olympic Games in the past, have a great deal of pride in their city and country. Venues like the National Indoor Stadium serve to make an impression on sports fans the world over, while presenting the beauty and the culture of the people who host the Olympic Games. For the city of Beijing, National Stadium is not just a venue for competition, but a symbol of their very culture, from its impressive visual appeal to its environmentally friendly features. It's worth noting, then, that with the National Indoor Stadium, the people of Beijing have a structure worthy of both their own culture and the incredible competitors who will be lucky enough to perform within its walls. With inspirational athletes like those that will comprise this year's Olympic Games, and the awe-inspiring venues that have been designed for them to compete in, this year's Summer Olympics in Beijing are bound to be memorable. One of the highest honors that any city can receive is being selected to host an edition of the either the Summer or Winter Olympic Games. The selection is the result of a long process that can be as grueling and dramatic as much of the competition that takes place in the Olympics! Only after years of consideration and effort can a city finally be chosen to host the Olympic Games, so the honor is no small one at all. However, once the honor has been bestowed, the real work begins. Each Olympic city must prepare itself for being the sports and cultural epicenter of the entire world for a period of time. They must be ready for a dramatic influx of new visitors, be prepared to host athletes and workers, and have the facilities necessary to stage all of the events that make the Olympic Games what they are: the biggest spectacle in all of sport. In the case of Beijing, China, many preparations had to be made to make the city "Olympics ready". Many new venues were constructed, all of which are state of the art and incredibly expensive. For years, construction crews and architects worked incredibly hard to construct such venues as Beijing's National Stadium, the National Indoor Stadium, the National Aquatics Center, and other structures that will play host to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. At a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars for each facility, and with thousands of workers striving to complete the construction involved, the venues finally became a reality. You can bet that officials within Beijing breathed a sigh of relief when the venues were finally revealed: after all, it's not as if the Olympic Games can be postponed if construction takes longer than planned! The venues themselves will not be very helpful to athletes and spectators if they are not easily and readily reachable through public transportation. The kind of mass migration of people that the Olympic Games inspires is hard for any city to prepare for, but it must be done. City officials must make sure that public transportation is optimized and altered to reflect the influx of people and the change in routes that will lead to more and more visitors going to Olympic venues. Hotels also have to be on their toes, as the minute that the Olympic Games are announced as being hosted in a particular city, calls will start to come in as fans will want to be a part of the historic action. Even in surrounding areas, hotels will be booked well ahead of time, and hotels will have to be prepared, well-staffed, and ready for anything as visitors from all over the world arrive to be witness to sports history in the making. The Olympic Games can be a very profitable, if very stressful, time for area businesses. Restaurants, shops, and other businesses must be prepared for an amount of people that they have never previously seen before. All of the people who come to be a part of the Olympic Games will need to eat, after all! In the months leading up to the games, parking, staffing, and other issues will become important as the time draws near and businesses try to prepare for the chaos that will surely ensue. Of course, no restaurant owner is going to complain when they double or triple their usual profits as Olympic fans flock to their establishment. Even if the preparation can be stressful, the increase in tourism that results during, and even after each installment of the Olympic Games is a truly wonderful thing for area businesses. As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done when a city is chosen to host the Olympic Games. The people of Beijing have worked very hard to make sure that their city is a suitable host for such a world stage, and it's likely that they are very excited to show off all of that hard work in the 2008 Summer Olympic games. Many questions abound regarding the men's basketball competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Can the United States rebound from disappointing performances at the 2004 Sydney Olympics and the 2006 World Championships? Will China have a healthy roster as they compete in front of their home fans? Can Argentina win another gold medal after their amazing performance in 2004? Soon, these questions will all be answered. Let's take a look at the 2008 Olympic basketball tournament that will take place in Beijing this summer. The Argentina squad is one of the main favorites to medal in this year's Olympic Games. Gold medal winners in 2004, they feature several great players, such as Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, and Andres Nocioni. They are known for their good team play, outside shooting and passing. While they may not be the favorites after a poor showing in the 2006 World Championships, they will take advantage if the other teams make mistakes. China's main questions surround the health of Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi. Both players were taken out of the NBA season before its conclusion due to injuries they sustained. However, both will likely do whatever it takes to make sure they can compete as their home country hosts the 2008 Olympic Games. If they are able to play, China will boast a very intimidating front line, although their guard play is suspect. If Yao and Wang are able to play, don't bet against China to finish well. The United States team is full of question marks. Their talent is never a problem, but in the 2004 Sydney Olympics, they failed to play as a cohesive unit and paid the price. After three losses and a disappointing bronze medal, it was clear that the rest of the world's talent had begun to catch up with the United States, and that throwing together a "dream team" every four years just wasn't going to get the job done. Since then, the philosophy behind the roster of the team has evolved, with coaches looking to have players that compliment each other, instead of a team of all stars. Only time will tell whether the United States will win with their new approach, but it's hard to think of a team that faces more pressure than they do. The United States fans literally expect their team to win the gold medal, and anything less is absolute failure. Even after a disappointing several years on the international scene, the United States team is the favorite to win the gold medal in Beijing. As you can see, there's a lot of pressure on the U.S. players. Other teams that could make a splash include Spain, who has a lot of great talent, including Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro. Spain is a talented team that has an exciting style of play and doesn't back down to any challenge. If the Spanish players shoot well and play good team defense, the sky is the limit at the Beijing Olympics for them. An exciting dark horse team is the Lithuanian team, which is famous for a free-wheeling, outside shooting style. They can win games with great outside shooting, or shoot themselves right out of the game, so it's hard to know what to expect from Lithuania. However, it's definitely assured that they will be entertaining to watch. They are led by Cleveland Cavaliers star Zydrunas Ilgauskas. If Canada is able to qualify during July's 12-team tournament that will determine three more competitors, they could be exciting to watch as well. Canada's Steve Nash is a multiple-time NBA MVP who usually plays a fast-paced style of basketball that fits well with the international game. The only way to find out what will really happen will be to watch the men's basketball tournament at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Make sure to follow the teams so you can stay up to date with one of the most exciting sports in the world! Athletes to Watch at the Beijing Olympics: Marta Marta is a Brazilian soccer player who is one of the most exciting athletes on the planet today. She is known in the world football community as a female version of Pele (widely regarded as the greatest football player of all time), and has led her Brazilian compatriots to success already. She will be gunning for the gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and you won't want to miss it. Marta, whose full name is Marta Vieira da Dilva, was born in February of 1986. At only 1.52 meters tall, she is often one of the smaller players on the field, but she is never intimidated by larger players, and uses her quickness and speed to her advantage. She's also known as one of the most creative football players in the world, male or female. She is especially dangerous to play against, because other teams never know exactly what she is going to do. This, of course, also makes her exhilarating to watch. She has led the Brazilian national team to an Olympic silver medal at the 2004 Sydney Olympics, as well as a second place finish in the 2007 Women's World Cup, where she was the tournament's top scorer and most outstanding player. She also helped her home country defeat the United States team in the Pan American Games in 2007. Afterwards, Pele himself called to congratulate her, and she was honored by having the imprint of her feet cast in cement outside of the stadium. No other woman has received the honor, which is usually reserved for male stars. Amazingly, Marta displayed maturity at a very young age, leading Brazil to a gold medal at the Pan-American Games in Santo Domingo in 2003, at only 17 years old. Almost immediately after, she began playing professional football in Sweden for one of Europe's top clubs (Ume). She was also the UEFA Women's Cup leading scorer a year later, as she scored 22 goals. Marta has led her Swedish club team, Ume, to new heights as well. In 2004, she took Ume to their first Swedish Premier League championship. Just two years later, she led Ume to yet another league championship, cementing her reputation as a winner who would help teammates elevate their game to meet any goals. Already, at age 22, Marta has achieved much individual success to go along with the success she has led Brazil to. In 2005, she was named runner up for the prestigious FIFA World Player of the Year award, and she would go on to win the award in 2006, then again in 2007. Marta's play has inspired awestruck responses among fellow players, male and female, as well as longtime football experts and fans alike. It's not just the results, but the method in which Marta achieves her greatness that makes her special and revered by football enthusiasts everywhere. Marta frequently pulls off moves that would seem impossible to others. In fact, many of the maneuvers that Marta performs in games are the type that other competitors would not even think to try, let alone be able to do themselves. Marta has set the stage for a return to the Olympics this year in Beijing, as she was instrumental in helping Brazil defeat Ghana 5-1 to claim a position in the Olympic Games. Brazil is definitely one of the favorites to take home the gold medal in Beijing, and with Marta leading the way, it wouldn't be smart to bet against them. When the Summer Olympics begin this year in Beijing, make sure to keep an eye on Marta and the Brazilian women's national football team. A talent like Marta only comes along once in a great while, and with a stage like the 2008 Beijing Olympics for her to perform on, it's impossible to predict how great of a performance she will come up with. Besides being the country hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, China is notable for many things: it's cultural and architectural wonders, the friendliness of its people, and of course, delicious food! Those that count themselves among the fortunate enough to be attending the 2008 Beijing Olympics will want to be prepared to choose from the many tasty options available during their stay. Here's a brief overview of some of the options that will present themselves to this summer's Olympic enthusiasts who visit Beijing. Beijing is a great place to dine, because as the cultural center of China, there is a surprising blend of cuisine types there. You can find local cuisine, but also cuisine from all different cultures and locations, so there's bound to be something that you will love. The hardest part is probably having to pick where you'll go to eat out of all the great choices available! If you want to sample the local fare, make sure to stop by Ruibinlou. Ruibinlou offers, among other things, the popular local snack of Dalian Pie Stuffed with Meat. The snack is very popular for its thick stuffing and ability to fill you up quickly! The restaurant itself has been around for over 130 years, and continues to please visitors and locals alike to this day. If you would like to have Korean food, give the Yanji Restaurant a chance. The Yanji Restaurant specializes in Korean cuisine, including Yanji cold noodles, which give a distinct set of five flavors for those who try it. Dog meat in chili sauce is also a very popular dish, as are other favorites such as fried crisp sliced fish and fried beef covered with bread scraps. The Yanji Restaurant was established over sixty years ago. Another exotic and delicious dining option is Youyishun. Youyishun is a moslem restaurant that has been around since 1948 and is famous for integrating East and West style foods. Some examples include incorporating stir-fried roasts with delicate elements of West foods. Shark's fin and Moslem roast duck are among the specialties, so if you're feeling adventurous, you should give it a shot! If you want something a little more familiar, consider the Dadi Western Restaurant. Dadi Restaurant has been around for over sixty years and offers such dishes as fried pork chops and chicken rolls with butter. Much of the food has a Russian flavor to it. The Dadi Western Restaurant is also popular for providing a good value to those who eat there and being relatively affordable. Of course, these are just a few of many, many options that you'll have when you get hungry in Beijing. If none of these sound appealing enough, you can have a lot of fun just exploring what Beijing has to offer on your own! Finding a great restaurant can be as simple as speaking with those who have visited before, or taking a walk around until you find something interesting to try! As mentioned earlier, there is a wide variety of food, and you're more than likely to find something that you'll fall in love with. There are great restaurants in Beijing at every price level and with all kinds of signature tastes. Or, of course, you could just look for a McDonald's. But where's the fun in that? Whether you're just a fan of the Olympic Games in general, a woman who has competed in sports herself, or a young girl who looks up to the athletes who perform on the grand stage of the Olympics, it's easy to admire the skills and determination shown by women athletes in the Olympic Games. The Beijing Olympics will put many talented female athletes at center stage, and many of these athletes will, in turn, inspire another generation of women to aspire to one day compete in the Olympic Games. Here are just a few of the female athletes you'll want to keep an eye on during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Natalie Coughlin, a United States swimmer, is a favorite to win several medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. She already has experienced Olympic success, as she won 5 medals (2 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze) at the 2004 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She has only continued her success since then, and her skill in the 100 yard backstroke is not even approached by other competitors. Look for her to make a big splash- no pun intended- at the Beijing Olympics. As long as we're talking about swimming, we have to mention the inspirational and improbable story of Dara Torres, who has already competed in four Olympic Games (the first in 1984) and is 41 years old. Despite her age, she is swimming better than ever, and is actually swimming faster than she did when she was winning Olympic medals years ago. Torres is very likely to qualify for the Olympic Games, and will be one of the biggest stories of the Beijing Olympics due to her chance to set records for the most Olympic appearances by a swimmer and for being the oldest swimmer to appear in the Olympic Games. Yelena Isinbayeva is a Russian pole vaulter who has already been the winner of eight major championships in her event of choice. She has set the world records for both indoor jumps (4.95 meters) and outdoor jumps (5.01 meters). Originally a gymnast, Isinbayeva left the sport when she became too tall to be very successful in it. However, her athleticism has allowed her to win a gold medal already in the pole vault, at the 2004 Sydney Olympics. It would be a tremendous shock if she doesn't repeat that feat in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. Nastia Liukin is a Russian-born gymnast who will star for the United States gymnastic team during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. As a winner of four national all-around championships, she has proven herself to be a versatile competitor, although she excels most on the balance beam and uneven bars. Liukin nearly won the all-around competition at the World Championships in 2005, and has nine Word Championship medals to her credit so far. She's known for having outstanding technique, and you won't want to miss her performances in Beijing. Marta, a Brazilian soccer player who is known by many as a female version of the great Pele, will compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and you won't want to miss her when she does. Her team qualified by beating Ghana 5-1 to take the final spot in the Beijing Olympics, with Marta leading the way while playing a fantastic game. Widely considered the best women's player in the world, she was awarded as the outstanding player and leading scorer of the 2007 Women's World Cup, and her team finished second in the prestigious tournament. When she plays, don't blink! As mentioned before, these are just a few of many outstanding athletes that will be competing at the Beijing Olympics this summer. You'll want to make sure to follow their performances and root them on, and you won't be sorry if you do. These women are the epitome of what athletics are all about, and they are going to Beijing for one reason: to win. Oscar Pistorius Can Compete in Beijing Olympics One of the early stories of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been the plight of double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. Born with a condition called congenital absence of the fibula in both of his legs, Pistorius has learned to be a world class sprinter with the help of carbon fiber "blades" that allow him to run much in the manner of an able-bodied athlete. In January of 2008, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) had ruled that since his carbon fiber blades supposedly gave him an advantage over his able-bodied counterparts that he could not race against them in competitions, including the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Much of the IAAF's reasoning was based on a German professor's research, which led to a belief that the carbon fiber blades, dubbed "Cheetah" blades, were unfair because of their energy efficiency. However, Pistorius and his lawyers had their own independent tests conducted that claimed that the contrary was true, and that all the carbon fiber blades accomplish is to put Pistorius on "equal ground" with able-bodied competitors. Since then, Pistorius has spent much of his time appealing the ruling to the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) to try to get the IAAF's ruling overturned. Once the ruling finally was overturned, Pistorius could finally get back to the business of training, so that he could make a run at participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The challenges are far from behind him, however. Pistorius has a lot of work to do to shave about a second off of his best 400 meter time (46.56 seconds), which he will have to do to reach the qualifying time required for the Olympic Games. Of course, the South African team can still include Pistorius in a relay squad, if they choose. If they do so, it's sure to be one of the top stories in the entire Beijing Olympics. Pistorius is proud of the fact that the decision was overturned, as this decision could represent a precedent that can be used to help decide similar cases in the future. In that sense, Pistorius has won a battle for all athletes that are born with disadvantages. There is still some controversy, as there are those who maintain that only able-bodied competitors should be able to compete in the Olympic Games, but for the most part, the world celebrates with Pistorius following his successful appeal. The tenacity and determination that Pistorius showed by appealing the initial ruling, rather than just accepting it and moving on, is a symbol of the determination that has also made him great on the track- able to compete against those who would appear to have an advantage over him. To prepare, Pistorius will continue running in competitions against both able-bodied and Paralympic competitors to get himself sharp again. In the worst case scenario, if Pistorius fails to qualify for the Beijing Olympics and isn't selected to be part of a relay team, Pistorius claims he will be undeterred. He will merely focus his energy on preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games instead. This kind of determination and perseverance in the face of adversity is what makes Pistorius the embodiment of a true Olympic athlete, despite the fact that he is a double-amputee.
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