With the 2008 Summer Olympic Games ending today, maybe it is premature to say so, but I think people will realize that this Summer Olympics was a harbinger of the world to come. China spent years preparing to host this event and not just in the time, money and effort it took to build the needed facilities, to plan and choreograph the opening and closing ceremonies, provide the necessary security and make all of the other arrangements. China also put the power of its central government behind finding and training the athletes, some of them as young as six, needed to perform well at these games.
All of the effort paid off in gold. China won 51 gold medals versus its nearest competitor, the U.S., which won a total of 36. The next closest competitors were Russia with 23 gold medals and Great Britain with 19. In total China won 100 medals, the U.S. won more with 110. But it is naturally the gold medals that everyone focuses on.
I also find the listing of these top four winning nations to be significant. I do not think it is coincidental that these particular nations are among the most powerful countries in the world. The CIA World Factbook lists the U.S. has having the 2nd largest GDP (behind the E.U.), China has the third, Great Britain the seventh and Russia the eight largest GDP. All four nations have a strong national identity and large military assets.
The 2008 Summer Olympic Games attracted a huge worldwide audience and provided China with a great opportunity to showcase itself has a emerging world power. The U.S. may be the worlds sole superpower, but I think in this century China will challenge that role and seek co-equal status.