2008 Beijing Olympic Observations

The Financial Times is starting to do a great job of covering the Beijing Olympics. After reading the special Bejing Olympics 2008 section in Monday’s paper, I have the follow observations. (thanks to Richard McGregor and Mure Dickie for their reporting)

Massive Development – Each year 100 Million square meters of new building construction is added in Beijing in the last few years. On the flipside, [Olympic] Games related development has accelerated the destruction of Beijing’s most historic neighborhoods according to a local preservationist. There has to be a balance between new development and preservation of historically significant areas.

Transportation – 5,399 km of new municipal roads have been added between 2001 to 2006. 84km of new metro and light rail lines are being added. With all this new transportation options, congestion will surely increase. Beijing is already trying to combat that with in-dash traffic monitors as well as a plan to cut the number of cars allowed into the city.

Pollution– This has been a growing problem for China, Beijing especially. To combat the ubiquitous smog, some factories will shut down during the Games. There is talk of reducing the electricity supply to the area. Even with air quality that supposedly is improving (according to Olympic officials) several countries’ Olympic teams are concerned, Australia, Japan the UK and the US to name a few. Britain swim coach has said he will delay his team’s arrival to Beijing until the last moment to limit the risk from the polluted air.

Capitalism– Termed a ‘coming-out party’ for China, the Olympic Games will allow Chinese companies a never before seen opportunity to market to an international audience. Companies like Lenovo, a well known brand in China, will gain greater visibility through its participation with the Olympic Games (Lenovo designed the Olympic Torch). The Games are also an avenue for international companies to make a dent in the Chinese Market. McDonald’s, a lead sponsor of the Games, has created the “China Mac” in its mainland restaurants. These are just a few examples of the unilateral access the Olympic Games provides.

Controversy– What would the Olympics be without controversy? The current debate being China’s support of the Sudanese regime. The Save Darfur coalition has nicknamed the Beijing Olympics the “Genocide Games”. In its defense, China has established a special African envoy to help end the violence in Darfur. In the coming months I’m sure we will see more from both sides on this subject.

China has done a fantastic job in preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There is always more to do. And the Opening Ceremonies are quickly approaching. I look forward to seeing first hand what China has done to greet the world next August.

I’m not (yet) an expert on China but these are some of my observations. What have you observed that I haven’t? Do you think Genocide Games is a deserved title? As always, feel free to comment here or drop me an email at crouchingchina (at) gmail (dot) com.

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One response to “2008 Beijing Olympic Observations

  1. “genocide games”…not an appropriate title at all. Chinese government might be supporting genocide in Darfur, directly or indirectly, but pointing at the olympic games itself? Activist are desparate for attention, and with China hosting the games it automatically becomes an easy target for just about anyone who wants to voice their dissatisfactions.

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