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Pace of life reflected in the Beijing Olympic Games

updated: 2008-08-26

Usain Bolt's lightning gold-medal runs, in less time than an average person takes to write the shortest text message, reflects the pace of life in today's world.

Till Sunday night, they were all part of what IOC President Jacques Rogge said was a "truly exceptional" Olympics.

But by last night, 11,263 members of different countries' teams, from the US and the UK to Russia and Malaysia, had left Beijing on 267 flights. Another 3,200 people will leave the city today.

And what was the Olympic Village till Sunday night had become Paralympic Village by yesterday morning, though it opens formally on Saturday.

Another sports spectacle will unfold in the shape of the Paralympics from Sept 6 to 17, but there is no denying the indescribable hollowness the end of the Olympics has left.

The sadness, however, did not stop Beijing Olympics organizers (BOCOG) from entertaining the departing athletes and officials, with volunteers dressed like Fuwa, the Games mascots, mingling with passengers in a part of Beijing airport's new terminal.

But not all athletes are in a hurry to leave, notwithstanding the glorious welcome awaiting some of them back home. Many of the athletes who sweated it out at the Games have decided to stay for some more days to explore Beijing - its food, nightclubs and shopping centers such as the iconic Silk Street.

The Paralympics will create another festive atmosphere in the city, especially because President Hu Jintao has vowed to "deliver a high-standard Paralympic Games with distinctive features". China's motto: "Two Games, Equal Splendor".

Accordingly, the Olympic theme song, You and Me, which had played on loudspeakers for 17 days, was replaced by Hong Kong singer-actor Andy Lau's inspirational song, Everyone is No 1, in honor of the Paralympic spirit.

The change in the signboard and theme song was not felt because most of the athletes have already left the village. And the few who are still there have packed their bags, and were busy checking out the Chinese handicraft and silk products in the village.

Two New Zealand athletes even gave a live band performance in the afternoon, drawing quite a sizable audience considering that the village is quite empty.

Back at the airport, a five-day training course in subjects such as etiquette and security for 200 Paralympics volunteers began on Saturday.

"We're seeing a phenomenal transformation," said a village staff. "Everything is on the fast-track from the Olympics to the Paralympics."

China won its last Olympic medal yesterday when Rogge presented BOCOG President Liu Qi the Olympic Order in Gold in recognition of the efforts to make the event a success.

"This is China's last gold medal of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games but perhaps the most important one because after seven years of intense preparations, BOCOG and China offered the world ... exciting sports competitions, supported by smooth operations - a success which has permitted the athletes to achieve their best in optimal conditions," the IOC said in a news release.

Elsewhere in the city, about a hundred reporters from China and the rest of the world flocked to the Beijing International Media Center (BIMC), the working station for roughly 5,000 journalists without Olympic media accreditation, for a banquet.

BIMC director Zhai Huisheng told reporters: "It's double delight for me tonight, as we've just hosted a truly exceptional Games and offered good service to our dearest friends from the media here ... I hope you would visit China more often, observe it through a magnifying glass and tell the world what the country is really like."

The opening ceremony attracted 842 million Chinese viewers and the closing ceremony, 658 million, according to a CSM Media Research poll. Volleyball, basketball and table tennis were the most popular events for Chinese viewers.

The volleyball match between Chinese and Cuban women attracted 11.92 percent of all TV viewers in China, while Yelena Isinbayeva's record-breaking feat was watched by 260 million Chinese on Aug 18, the poll showed.