Of lightning Bolt and Phelp's gold rush

Forty-three World records and 132 Olympic records were set, and as many as 86 countries won at least one medal in Beijing in 2008. The outstanding performers at the Games were American swimmer Michael Phelps, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and the Chinese badminton star Lin Dan.

In an exhilarating showdown with compatriot Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt won the 100 metres gold at the National Stadium in Beijing in a then World record time of 9.69s.   -  Reuters

In the period between 1992 and 2012, the Beijing Olympics in 2008 was perhaps the best in terms of performances. That 43 World records and 132 Olympic records were set at the Games, and as many as 86 countries won at least one medal stands testimony to this fact.

The outstanding performers in Beijing were American swimmer Michael Phelps, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and the Chinese badminton star, Lin Dan, who scaled new heights at the Games.

1992: Held in Barcelona (Spain) from July 25 to August 9, the Games attracted 9356 athletes, including 2704 women, from 169 countries. There were 257 events spread across 34 disciplines. The United States regained its place atop the table with 112 medals (45 gold, 38 silver and 29 bronze).

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One of the lasting images of the Games was the Paralympic archer, Antonio Rebollo, lighting the Cauldron by firing a flaming arrow that was lit by the Olympic Torch. In fact, he did not. Rebollo was asked to overshoot the Cauldron for safety reasons. The Cauldron was already releasing fuel and as the arrow passed over it, it ignited itself.

After 1964, Germany returned to the Games as a single nation following its unification in 1990. South Africa was allowed to take part after a 32-year suspension due to its apartheid policy. The dissolution of the Soviet Union meant 12 countries, including Russia, took part as the ‘United Team’. Baltic nations like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania sent separate teams, as they did in 1936. The division in Yugoslavia led to Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina making their Olympic debut.

At 13, Chinese diver Fu Mingxia became the youngest gold medal winner of all-time.

American sprinter Evelyn Ashford won her fourth gold and became only the fourth female athlete to do so. Compatriot Gail Devers won the 100m gold after five women finished within 0.6 seconds in what remains the closest final in the Olympics. However, in 100m hurdles, firm favourite Devers hit the final hurdle when leading and tumbled across the finish line to end up fifth.

America’s ‘Dream Team’, including legendary names like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, easily won the men’s basketball gold after professionals were allowed to take part for the first time.

1996: Held in Atlanta (United States) from July 19 to August 4, the Games saw 10318 athletes, including 3512 women, from 197 countries taking part in 271 events across 37 disciplines. The United States continued to top the table with 101 medals (44 gold, 32 silver and 25 bronze).

Carl Lewis won his fourth gold medal in long jump while fellow American Amy Van Dyken became the first from her country to win four gold medals in swimming.

Sporting ‘golden shoes,’ Michael Johnson claimed the 200m and 400m ‘double’ by setting World records. Incidentally, Johnson missed the 1988 edition following a stress fracture before the Olympic trials. Two weeks before the 1992 Games, a bout of food poisoning restricted his participation. He returned home only with the 4x400m relay gold.

Andre Agassi won the gold medal that would make him the first male and second tennis player (the first being his wife Steffi Graf) to complete a ‘Golden Slam’ — winning the four majors and the Olympic title.

2000: Held in Sydney (Australia) from September 15 to October 1, the Games of the new millennium witnessed participation from 199 countries. In all, 10651 athletes, including 4049 women, took part in events spread over 40 disciplines. The United States stayed on top of the table with 93 medals (37 gold, 24 silver and 32 bronze).

British Rower Steve Redgrave won his fifth gold in as many Olympics. This time, he was a member of the men’s coxless fours. Cuba’s Felix Savon became only the third boxer to win three successive Olympic gold medals.

Czech Republic’s Jan Zelezny won his third consecutive Olympic gold in men’s javelin event.

Poland’s Robert Korzeniowski became the first ever winner of the men’s 20 km and 50 km walk events.

At 17, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe won three gold and two silver medals to emerge the most successful athlete of the Games.

Australia’s Cathy Freeman became the first athlete ever to light the Olympic Flame and win the gold (in women’s 400m) in the same Games.

2004: Held in Athens (Greece) from August 13 to 29, the Games saw 201 countries taking part. Participation of athletes dropped to 10,625 that included 4329 women. Competitions were held in 301 events over 40 disciplines. The United States maintained its supremacy with 101 medals (36 gold, 39 silver and 26 bronze).

The Games, with the motto, ‘Welcome Home’, saw American swimmer Michael Phelps win eight medals — six gold and two bronze — and set a record for most podium-finishes in a non-boycotted edition.

Australia claimed 17 gold medals to exceed its tally of 16, won as host in Sydney four years ago. This was the first time a country won more medals in an edition immediately after hosting the Games.

Hicham El Guerrouj emulated the great Paavo Nurmi’s feat of 1924 by winning the 1500m and 5000m titles.

Germany’s kayaker Birgit Fischer won a gold and a silver to become the first woman to win gold medals in six different Olympic Games. She remains the only woman to win two or more medals in five Olympics and also the first lady to win two gold medals in the space of 24 years!

2008: Held in Beijing (China) from August 8 to 24, the Games attracted 204 countries. In all, a record 10,942 athletes, including 4637 women, took part in 302 events from 41 disciplines. China topped the table for the first time with 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze medals for a total of 100. The United States, though, won 110 medals but slipped on gold count, as it finished with 36 gold, 38 silver and 36 bronze.

American swimmer Michael Phelps won eight gold medals to eclipse the record of Mark Spitz, winner of seven gold and a bronze in Munich in 1972.

In athletics, Usain Bolt won the sprints in World record times – 100m in 9.69s and 200m in 19.30s. The Jamaican would later improve these marks at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, clocking 9.58s in the 100m and 19.19s in the 200m.

Chinese Lin Dan won the men’s singles gold in badminton to become the only one in the world to win all nine premier titles (available to an Asian) at least once. These comprise titles from the Olympics, World championship, World Cup, Thomas Cup (team), Sudirman Cup (team), Super Series Finals, All England, Asian Games and Asian championship.

In all, 43 World records and 132 Olympic records were set and as many as 86 countries won at least one medal. Out of the 205 recognised National Olympic Committees (NOCs), only Brunei did not turn up.

2012: Held in London (the United Kingdom) from July 27 to August 12, 204 countries sent 10,768 athletes, including a record 4776 women. Competitions were held in 302 events across 39 disciplines. The United States regained its place at the top with 103 medals (46 gold, 28 silver and 29 bronze). China came second with 88 medals (38 gold, 29 silver and 21 bronze).

The high-flying arrival of a highly unlikely duo of James Bond (Daniel Craig) and the Queen – parachuting into the Stadium (using body doubles) – during the Opening Ceremony stunned the world.

American swimmer Michael Phelps added four gold and two silver to take his medals tally to 22 – including 18 gold medals from three Olympics! What more, Phelps, 31, has come out of retirement in search of more medals at Rio.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt completed a second triple gold effort, winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100 relay for the second successive time. With this, he became the first man to win the two sprints in consecutive Olympic Games.