Jesse Owens is considered to be one of the greatest Olympians
Beijing 2008 will prove a test for the cream of the world's sporting talent but will any of the athletes be able to go beyond mere victory and attain greatness?
Here are some Olympic legends that set the benchmark by which future Olympic hopefuls must be measured.
Britain's Sir Steve Redgrave is the only athlete to win a gold medal at five consecutive Olympic Games from Los Angeles in 1984 to Sydney in 2000. As a rower he pushed himself to his physical limits and even defied his doctors by continuing to compete at the highest level after being diagnosed with diabetes.
In a TV interview immediately after finishing the race in which he won his last gold medal, an exhausted Redgrave memorably invited the public to "shoot him" if they ever saw him in a rowing boat again.
American Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics in 1936, setting a 20-year world record in the process. He also made a mockery of the distorted racial theories of the German Nazi party which was in power at the time by proving a black athlete could be as good as, or better than, a white one.
But what of China? Who are their great Olympians?
Probably the most recent contender for the position of China's greatest Olympic athlete is Liu Xiang, the 110m hurdler.
Liu Xiang took gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, tying for a world record time of 12.91 seconds. It was China's first Olympic gold medal in track and field for a male athlete.
Will Liu Xiang win a second gold medal? Will other Chinese athletes taste glory? The answers will be revealed in August in Beijing.