SENSATIONAL SILVER: China's veteran gymnast Chen Yibing wins silver in his compelling performance in the men's rings final on August 6 (CHENG MIN)
As the Olympic flag was taken over by Rio de Janeiro at the closing ceremony on the night of August 12, the London 2012 Olympic Games wrapped up with a lively carnival party. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in his address at the closing ceremony that the 30th Olympic Games were "happy and glorious."
Over 16 days of events, people across the globe watched the world's most elite athletes put on stellar performances. On London's Olympic stage, athletes, fans and volunteers created fond memories and made their countrymen proud. But throughout it all, focus stayed on the close medal count.
The United States came away with the biggest number of gold medals and the highest total medal count, with China in second place. Competition between China and the United States was full of ups and downs. For the majority of the London Games, China prevailed over the United States, but fell from the number one position in the last several days. Great Britain took third place from rival sports giant Russia, exceeding expectations and sustaining the conventional outcome of the host country putting on outstanding performances at home.
Despite falling from the 2008 high of topping the gold medal ranking, when China took home a collection of 51 gold medals and 100 medals in total, "China still put on its best-ever performance abroad since it returned to the Olympic Games in 1984," said Liu Peng, head of the Chinese Olympic delegation and Director of National General Administration of Sports, at a press conference in London on August 12.
Chinese athletes competed in 23 main sports and won 38 gold medals, totaling 88 medals in 17 sports while breaking six world records and six Olympic records. "Among all Olympic sports, Team China made remarkable progress, improved weaknesses while consolidated our traditionally dominant areas," Liu said.
In its best performing sports, such as table tennis, badminton, diving, gymnastics, weightlifting and shooting, China grabbed 27 gold medals, accounting for 71 percent of all China's gold medals. In the other sports, Chinese athletes also saw big improvements. Two major sports where Team China typically struggled—swimming and athletics—were marked by a sudden rise. China got six gold, two silver and eight bronze medals, putting on the best performances of China's Olympic history.
"Among all the medals China took this year, eight were first-time gold medals and 17 were the first silver or bronze medals," said Liu. "The excellent results show an improving balanced development of Chinese sports."
China's Olympic newcomers had strong debuts on the world sports stage in London, Liu said. After the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, most of national sports teams made big adjustments. A lot of young athletes were recruited to the national team as many old players, including some Olympic champions, retired in the past four years. The fresh crop accounted for 62 percent of all Chinese Olympic athletes in London. Most fulfilled the goals they set for themselves. While veterans of the Athens and Beijing Olympics took 15 gold medals, the remaining 23 were grabbed by these rising stars, who will become the next leaders of China's Olympic team.
Nevertheless, China left the London arena with some regrets. Among the most disappointing were the consecutive defeats of the men's basketball team and the loss in the semifinals of women's volleyball, which showed a lack of elite players.
The most impressive performances in London came from Chinese athletes' exceptional breakthroughs in swimming. China won five gold medals and a total of 10 medals in all 34 swimming events.
Since a ban on hi-tech swimwear by the International Swimming Federation in 2010, it has been more and more difficult to break records. However, China's newest swimming sensation, 20-year-old Sun Yang, stole the limelight on the first day of pool competition by breaking an Olympic record with 3:40.14 seconds in men's 400-meter freestyle and setting another new world record in 1,500-meter freestyle. His gold medals were a first for the Chinese men's Olympic swimming team.
The 16-year-old Ye Shiwen further surprised everyone with her astonishing speed. Ye made history with an incredible record in women's 400-meter individual medley, when she swam 0.17 seconds faster than even Ryan Lochte, the U.S. men's swimming gold medalist, in the last 50 meters of the freestyle sprint.