Beijing, August 24:

The Beijing Olympics, played out against a background of political intrigue and featuring 16 days of compelling and controversial action, drew to a spectacular close today.

International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge described the Games as “truly exceptional” in a lavish closing ceremony at the Bird’s Nest stadium which culminated in the handing over of the Olympic flag to Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, which will host the 2012 edition. Former England football skipper, David Beckham booted a ball off the top of a London bus before the Olympic flame was extinguished.

The Games saw China depose the United States as the new sports superpower but the final day started with Kenyan Samuel Wansiru relishing the heat to record an historic first Olympic marathon for the African nation.

Zou Shiming won China’s first ever boxing gold and his country’s 50th gold of the Games when he claimed the light-flyweight title. At the end of the 16 days of competition and 302 events, China had 51 gold medals, 15 more than the United States on 36, with Russia winning 23 and Great Britain 19. It is the first time China have won the gold medal count, although in total medals the US have 110 to China’s 100.

Wansiru, striding to Kenya’s first marathon success, celebrated in the hot sun as he broke the 24-year-old Games record while those around him wilted. Kenya may have won according to the script but the principal actors were different as the outstanding Martin Lel, a triple London marathon winner, faded to fifth and it was half-marathon specialist Wansiru who pulled through. Wansiru won in 2:06:32, ahead of Jaouad Gharib of Morocco (2:07:16) and Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia (2:10:00).

There was success for Mongolia in the bantamweight final when Badar-Uugan Enkhbat won their first ever boxing gold beating Cuba’s highly fancied Yankiel Leon 15-5. It was a miserable Games for traditional ring titans Cuba and the United States. Cuba failed to get a gold despite eight of their boxers reaching the semi-finals, while for the first time no USA boxer made the finals and they ended with a solitary boxing bronze.

The United States beat defending champions Spain in men’s basketball as expected but the match was closer than the final 118-107 scoreline suggested. The United States picked up further gold beating Brazil 3-1 in the men’s volleyball final.

Earlier, Rogge said that overall “the IOC was extremely pleased” with the Games. “More than 40 world records were set, more than 100 Olympic records, and of course we had the two icons of the Games, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.”

For China, the investment of more than $40 billion on the Games reaped handsome rewards. They not only topped the gold medal count, but a near flawless organisation meant the controversies that marred the build-up largely slipped into the background.

Phelps, with his unprecedented eight gold medals and seven world records, and Bolt, the fastest man on earth winning three gold medals with three world records, were the headline stories.

Basnet finishes 45th:

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, August 24

Nepali athlete Arjun Kumar Basnet failed to better his own performance in the men’s marathon at the Beijing Olympics.

Basnet, who ran in his personal best timing of 2 hours 21 minutes while winning the silver medal at the 10th South Asian Games in Sri Lanka in 2006, finished in 2:23:09 on Sunday. Out of the 76 athletes who completed the race, Basnet finished 45th.

Except for lifter Kamal Bahadur Adhikari, who broke the national record, other seven Nepali players could not leave their mark in Beijing. Swimmers Karishma Karki and Prasiddha Jung Shah just bettered their personal mark, while judoka Devu Thapa survived 22 seconds. In athletics, Basnet and 100m runner Chandra Kala also faltered.

The biggest disappointment was medal hopeful taekwondo star Deepak Bista, who even failed to advance to the second round. Bista was the only Nepali player in the Beijing squad who qualified for the Olympics, while other players received wild cards.