In this 14th installment of the “Road to the Summer Olympics,” we move to the Games in Beijing, China. After China lost its bid for the 2000 Olympic Games, it strongly won the round in both round one and round two in the 2001 voting to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games over Toronto the second-place city in the votes. Beijing won due to the unfair vote for the 2000 Games along with international support led by countries that had gained assistance from China. With this, China went on to spend over $6.8 billion in infrastructure and development for the Games. These costs didn’t include massive improvements in transportation including airports, roads, and railways – all which were built and improved to accommodate the Olympics and are still heavily used today.
China hosting the Games was unpopular by anti-Chinese activists around the world. Fear of terrorist attacks against participants in the Olympics went unfounded with the only successful attacks on the Games happening abroad on the torch relay. The 2008 Olympic Torch relay was a massive undertaking lasting 130 days and traveling over 85,000 miles. During the 2008 relay the Olympic Flame, the symbol of the Games heading to Beijing, was attacked in London and extinguished in Paris. The United States altered the leg in San Francisco to avoid anti-Chinese demonstrations. The 2008 Torch relay became the first to reach the top of Mount Everest. Despite all of the international fears, China’s security for the Olympics allowed no disturbances in the nation during the Games.
All but one of the 205 recognized countries for the National Olympic Committees took part in the 2008 Olympics, with Brunei not participating. For the first time the Marshall Islands, Montenegro, and Tuvalu all participated. Macau, while not a member of the NOC, participated in the Games. The opening ceremony was an unprecedented success in which the world watched in amazement to see the new world superpower of China represent itself as in full glory. China would go on to win the most gold medals, followed by the United States who won the most overall medals by count.
For numismatics, China winning the dream to host the Olympic Games was celebrated on circulation and non-circulating coinage alike. A series of eight 1 Yuan coins featuring Olympic mascot characters were released into circulation featuring gymnastics, archery, football (soccer), swimming, weightlifting, table tennis (ping-pong), fencing, and equestrian themes.
People’s Republic of China 2008-Z 10 Yuan Olympics – Kite Flying PCGS PR69DCAM. Click image to enlarge.
For non-circulation issues, the first commemorative for the 2008 Olympics was issued in 2001 commemorating Beijing’s winning bid on a silver 10 Yuan coin.
Starting in 2006 and issued with the date of 2008, coins commemorating the Olympics began to be issued. The first series featured one-ounce silver coins denominated 10 Yuan featuring children with themes of kite flying, goat jumping, hoop rolling, and shuttlecock kicking. Two gold coins with the denomination of 150 Yuan weighing one-third an ounce (10.36 grams) each were issued with equestrian and archery themes. In 2007, the second series was released featuring Beijing scenery for the silver 10 Yuan coins, with themes of the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Beihai Park, and a Beijing courtyard. A silver kilo with the denomination of 300 Yuan featuring rowing and equestrian was release.
Gold third-ounce coins also 150 Yuan feature swimming and weightlifting. A gold five-ounce coin with a denomination of 2000 Yuan was released featuring four athletes. In 2008, the third and final series was released for the Olympic coins. These 10 Yuan coins featured big bowl tea, lion dances, Yangge dance, and Beijing Opera. A silver kilo with the value of 300 Yuan was released featuring tug of war. For gold, third-ounce wrestling and football (soccer) coins were issued along with a five-ounce piece featuring four different athletics. A gold kilo was released with the value of 100,000 Yuan. All of these coins were produced by multiple mints and have mintmarks from the mint that produced them, including S for Shanghai, Y for Shenyang, and Z for Shenzhen Guobao Mint. Besides coins, the mints in China produced numerous medals for the commemoration of the Games. These range from non-precious metals to silver and gold issues in various sizes including kilos.
People’s Republic of China 2008-Z 300 Yuan (Kilo) Olympics (Series 3) PCGS PR69DCAM. Click image to enlarge.
In addition to China, numerous countries from around the world struck commemorative coins to celebrate the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. These countries include Australia, Belarus, Belgium, the British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Canada, Republic of Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, France, Georgia, Isle of Man, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Laos, Lithuania, Malawi, Mongolia, North Korea, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Togo, Transnistria, and the United Kingdom.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics was an awakening for the world for China has now joined as a superpower able to organize and put on a fantastic event. For the Chinese, it was the affirmation of the patriotic dream that they as a nation and as a people can rise to the top of the world as a leader for international affairs and bring national pride and accomplishment.
- 2008 Summer Olympics Wikipedia.org