More than 211 million Americans tuned in to watch the Beijing Olympics, making it the most-watched event in U.S. television history, according to Nielsen Media Research. In case you missed the action, here?s a recap of what happened, and a glimpse at preparations for 2012.
Winning eight gold medals, more than any other Olympian in a single Olympic Games, Michael Phelps was definitely the shining star of the Water Cube. All told, 25 new world swimming records were set at the Games. Another athlete to watch was Dara Torres. At 41, she competed in her fifth Olympic Games and won silver medals in the 50-meter free-style event, the 4-x100-meter medley relay, and the 4x100-meter free-style relay.
Host nation China was a heavy favorite in diving and appeared on track to sweep gold in every event. In the end, Team China took seven of eight gold medals. Australian diver Matthew Mitcham took gold medal No. 8 from them in 10-meter platform. This Olympics saw the retirement of some diving legends, including Guo Jingjing of China, who now has a total of six gold medals, and American Laura Wilkinson, a gold medalist from the 2004 Games. Fans also were introduced to some promising young talent, notably 14-year-old Tom Daley of Britain, the youngest diving competitor.
Water polo is hugely successful in Europe, but recently the sport has struggled here in the United States. The performances of the 2008 USA men?s and women?s Olympic water polo teams may help change that. The women?s team earned its second silver medal and third overall medal in the past three Olympics. The men?s team also won silver in Beijing, returning to the medal podium for the first time in 20 years.
Russia defended its crown as reigning Olympic champions in synchronized swimming, sweeping gold in the team and pairs events. Team USA took fifth in the team event, tying with Japan. Americans Christina Jones and Andrea Nott also finished in fifth place in the pairs event.
Aside from the history-making competition, the other legacy of the 2008 Games is the Water Cube, Beijing?s state-of-the-art Olympic natatorium. It has won praise from athletes and FINA executives alike. The Water Cube is set to become a training and recreation center.
Looking ahead to London 2012, Britain?s Olympic Delivery Authority will try to top the Water Cube with a design by London-based architect Zaha Hadid.