Final impressions of 'a great Olympics'

Final impressions of the Beijing Olympics

Here are some final impressions of the Beijing Olympics from those involved with the Games.

ALEXANDRE DESPATIE, Canadian silver medallist, three-metre diving:
Alexandre Despatie won a diving silver at the Beijing Games. ((Simon Dingley/CBC))

Olympic highlight: "The best part was winning that (silver) medal and being able to perform when I really had to.

"Overall, I think it's just whole experience of the Games. At the beginning I wanted to live (the Games) a different way than I did the other two. … I've been really trying to connect with the rest of the Canadian team in the other sports, and meeting more people and interacting with other people. And I have, and that just made the games a whole lot better. The whole Games have been just great to me."

MARK CONNOLLY, CBC Sports cycling commentator:

Olympic highlight: "The Chinese have run a great Olympics. There have been no problems anywhere. They've just done a first-rate job."

On Beijing: "I think when we went to the Hohai district, it's kind of the old part of Beijing. It's pretty cool down there, pretty interesting to see what Beijing was like before all these skyscrapers came along. It just looks so old-school. We walked into the back of the hutongs [alley ways] where people live. We chatted with people through our interpreter … I didn't know what to expect when you come to a communist country. You might have a preconceived notion. But everybody has been so friendly and open and upbeat."

EMILIE HEYMANS/Canadian silver medallist, 10-metre diving:

Olympic highlight: "I trained really hard and waited a long time for this competition to come up, and I don't think I've realized that it is now over. It's like I am in a dream right now. I'm really excited, I dove awesome. So I am just really glad my competition went as well as my training. I think Beijing is really a big accomplishment for me. I have been training my entire life since I was six years old. And I dreamt of an Olympic medal."

On Beijing: "Shopping. Really good shopping. We came here in February —I bought a lot of stuff, and I only got to go shopping once, but now that the games are over, I have plenty of time to go back and spend more money for some stuff that I don't need!"

JAMES LI, Beijing resident:

Olympic highlight: "China [won] many medals. I am proud and excited. Whenever I see the Chinese win gold medals, I get excited. The important thing is the friendship between China and every country in the world. Whenever Canada got a gold medal I felt excited too, because I have many good friends from Canada."

Alexandre Trudeau worked as a CBC producer during the Beijing Games. (Simon Dingley/CBC)
ALEXANDRE TRUDEAU, Feature producer for CBC Sports and CBC News, who had previously visited China several times:

On Beijing: "Beijing was a little bit different now than it normally was. They really put a lot of effort into cleaning it up and closing down anything they felt was unsightly, which is actually part of my favourite parts of Beijing. When you have all the little tables out in the middle of the street and everyone's sitting, eating and drinking late into the night, and it's really quite a gritty, passionate place. The Games have been a little bit more clean and sanitized. I hope the old Beijing will be back after the Games.

The Chinese are obsessed with appearances, what they call 'face'. They don't want to lose face; they want to show the absolute best. I often prefer seeing the wide gamut. I like the little dark alleys and streets where people still live without sewage. They have public washrooms, and they walk to them at night and during the day. There's a real community feeling there. Really sort of chaotic, the colourful back streets of Beijing. A lot of Beijing to see it properly you really have do on foot or by bicycle. To do it exhaustedly would take three or four years."


On Beijing: "The sheer numbers of people, and the humanity. Realizing there are so many people and [the Chinese] are a world power. I got to see a lot of people and hear their stories. 

"The [Chinese] economy is moving forward. Feeding all these people is incredible. Just to support 1.3 billion people, that's a huge amount. We'd drive for hours and there would be nothing but people and skyscrapers from horizon to horizon. You surrender your personal space, because there's so many people."

ALEXANDRA ORLANDO, Canadian rhythmic gymnast:

Olympic impression: "It was amazing — definitely better than I thought it was going to be. I got to experience it all. I got to be in the [athletes'] village; I am going to be at the closing ceremonies. It was unbelievable. Just being here in the village, getting to be around this level of athletes, being the only North American representative. I am so proud and honoured to be here. Hopefully, everyone back home is still proud."

On Beijing: "Everyone was so excited and so warm and friendly. I've never experienced that feeling before. It was in the air, just the excitement. It's something I will never forget — the people and the city."

OHENEWA AKUFFO, Canadian freestyle wrestler, did not advance to medal round:

Olympic highlight: "The best moment for me was when Carol Huyhn got [Canada's] first medal in our sport [wrestling]. I was there to witness it as they played the national anthem. It made me feel proud to be Canadian.

"I made amazing friends here for life, and I got to watch the best athletes in the world in other disciplines."

DOUG DIRKS/CBC Sports beach volleyball and volleyball commentator:

Olympic highlight: "The highlight for me was getting a chance to call beach volleyball, because the energy, the colour in the stands and just the enthusiasm, and the just the grand spectacle of the sport, which I'd never seen at this level before, blew me away. The whole entertainment package.

"It felt very 'un-Olympic' to me, because a lot of the other sports are a little more staid, a little more laid back, but this was like a rock concert every time we went in there."

KRISTY BENZ, Canadian tourist at the Games from Cochrane, Alta.:

Olympic highlight: "It's so wonderful to see so many people coming together and sharing one big cultural experience, and just celebrating athletics and just personal triumphs and team triumphs. It's really kind of heart-warming to see everyone all together. It's really special to see anyone win a medal and seeing a dream realized, that's what I think is really special. You don't understand the full scope of it when you are watching it at home. But to be here and see the stadiums and to see everything that is going on is a really big deal."

LISA BENZ, Kristy's sister and also a Canadian tourist from Cochrane, Alta.:

On Beijing: "If the Olympics had not been here, I don't know if China is a place I would have visited. But now that I'm here, I think it's amazing. It's totally different than what I expected. I think the Olympic atmosphere enhances that. It surpasses my expectation. The people are amazing. They are so helpful and friendly, they've been great. It's a very cool town."

EMILY SIT, Associate Director, CBC Sports:

Olympic highlight: "Working at the Water Cube (National Aquatics Centre), and watching [American] Michael Phelps win each of his eight gold medals. I thought that was absolutely fantastic to watch Alex Despatie win in the three-metre springboard and Emilie Heymans win a silver at the 10-metre. And of course Ryan Cochrane's 1,500-metre swim where he got the bronze. It was so uplifting to watch it all unfold in front of me. It was a great experience."

LI SUJIA, Olympic volunteer:

Olympic highlight: "I was very glad to be a volunteer. It is the most precious experience of my entire life. I will remember this experience for ever. I think I was very lucky. You can learn a lot from experiences like this. I met with different people every day. I learned from them, I helped them. I feel a little bit tired, but I feel very glad."

On Beijing: "Since China won the bid, the country has changed a lot, and Beijing has shown a totally new image to the world. And people all over the world, and they can see a totally new China, and they can change their old [attitudes] about the country."