What has Beijing 2008 done for China?

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Four industry representatives were asked to answer the question: 'What has Beijing 2008 done for China?'

Adrian Hitchen, managing director, SponsorMetrix Limited"The Beijing Olympics undoubtedly confirmed China's ability to stage any global sporting event and–for the Olympics at least – to do it with great deal of style and finesse. The organisation appeared almost faultless, the Opening Ceremony spectacular, the innovative new venues were a triumph (both aesthetically and in sporting terms) and overall, China was able to present its best face to the world. In addition – making 2008 a truly memorable Games – the world's elite athletes produced numerous thrills and surprises during the 16 days of competition, and several new sporting legends were born. To cap it all for the host nation, China achieved a record haul of 51 gold medals – considerably more than the USA's second–place tally of 36–and the sense of national pride was almost palpable. But whilst hosting 'the best ever' Olympic Games was a major achievement for the Chinese leadership, what was the legacy two years on? First, Beijing is now benefiting from a huge investment (over $40bn) in the city's infrastructure–some of the more visible legacies being the expanded airport, renewed public transport system and new train lines, the spectacular sporting venues, the new Olympic forest park and Beijing's first wind farm for the renewable generation of energy. Since the Games, the venues in particular have enabled Beijing to attract a range of other international sporting events to the city and there is little question that it has joined the 'top 10' of sports cities worldwide. The environment has also benefited – initially in the period prior to and during the Games, when the authorities implemented draconian anti–pollution measures including the alternate–day car–usage scheme. More importantly for the long–term, however, the success of these measures – relatively clear skies and the best air quality in 10 years–sparked a lively post–Games debate among Beijing residents, the majority of whom [56. 6% in an online survey by www. news. cn; n=10, 000] said they would welcome a continuation of the strict motoring restrictions. Some lessons here, perhaps, for the rest of the world? On the broader political level, however, the legacy of the Games seems less certain. International hopes that the Games would open up Chinese society and led to improved human rights initiatives went largely unfulfilled during the Games, and remain so today. However, some argue that it is likely to take years before the full effect of the Chinese Olympics is understood and history may yet determine that the staging of the Games did indeed represent an important milestone in the development and global integration of China. "Richard Dikstra, director, Belle Media"Beijing 2008 enabled China to announce to the world that it has regained its place as one of the major economic and technical superpowers. It has made the transition from a command economy to a market economy under its own terms – retaining its distinctive Chinese characteristics– with the State still very much central to its success and it has done this in only 30 years. Beijing now is just a totally different city, and society, to the one I first experienced back in 1986. State broadcaster CCTV was put centre stage. Its saturation coverage, over its 18 channels, helped it drive up annual revenues to over $2. 5bn – a figure that undoubtedly will only grow. This success has not gone unnoticed by sports rights holders and programme makers more generally. The Chinese have also shown that, when they really put their mind (and resources) to it, they could also become a major sporting nation– topping the gold medal table in Beijing with 51 golds, compared to second place USA's 36 – not bad considering they didn't compete in any Olympics until 1984!Finally, of course, you can't forget Zhang Yimou's stunning Opening Ceremony, which marked this as a Games like no other and demonstrated to a global audience of billions a cultural heritage of immense richness and depth. Probably no single other event could have announced China's arrival back on the world stage so successfully– and perhaps also nothing could better demonstrate that learning Mandarin might be a good business investment for us all in future!"Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN)"Since Beijing 2008, the economy has slowed down and the Olympic venues are as deserted as the farm where The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 drew more than 450, 000 people to a pasture in Sullivan County, New York. Speaking of concerts, that is precisely what is taking place occasionally at the Bird's Nest, once regarded as the best Olympic effort ever as the facility where the athlete, now professional as well as amateur, would come to compete for the gold, silver and bronze. The swimming pool where records were broken like glasses and dishes falling from the hands of an overburdened waiter is deserted. The bottom line is that $44bn later, China is as it was...the same old, same old. Nothing has really changed and there is no welcome mat enticing anyone at all to come visit or possibly set up a business venture there. The expanded airport, a visible result of the Olympic effort, is, candidly, only the gateway to Beijing, the door that opens, the one through which one must pass to gain entry. Window dressing. The renewed public transport system takes the local populace from one point to the other. Not exactly a highlighted enticement for global businesses to rush off to China and take a rapid fire course in Chinese at Berlitz. As noted, the seemingly spectacular sports venues created are, in effect, the Grand Canyon of Beijing and little more than huge echo chambers. I must take umbrage with any statement that alludes to Beijing being one of the top sports cities in the world at present. The government in place prevents that from being a reality at any time. Improved human rights initiatives have not taken place nor will they in our lifetime. China did not really put on its best face during the Olympics; it created a mask similar to those used in their operas...a falsification of reality for a brief moment in time. China simply used the Olympics to tell the world what most of us already knew...that it was a financial powerhouse impacting mightily on the world's economic structure...building or crumbling...and that it has as much technology as anyone. The Olympics are a historical note and yesterday's news, they have come and gone and now it is China back to being China. The People's Republic of China has to be the biggest misnomer in the language...any language. China declined to bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, a six week event at multiple venues, not two at just one major one...a potential security nightmare for them. That is not what an alleged top sports city in the world would do. This is a country with 20m unemployed migrant workers earning about $150–$200 monthly. The potential of Beijing, of China, was a blip on the radar screen, a peek during the Olympics. It was not reality. That is the sad legacy of the Olympic effort, the endowment of this country's government to its citizenry. "Gilbert Van Kerckhove, managing director, Beijing Global Strategy Consulting "First, Beijing has been (finally) transformed into a modern megapolis. Although the city still has some serious shortcomings, it has been a leap forward. For me, the construction of the many subway lines is the most dramatic change. For China, Beijing 2008 was a 'nationalistic event', to show the country under a new and improved image and change the perception in the world that is was a backward country. China demanded respect after decades of 'humiliation'. So it was near paranoid to avoid anything that could spoil a 'perfect image'. The many subways built and still further planned have been great, as has been the general clean–up of the city. On the pollution front, progress was made indeed, but levels are still outright bad, despite the obfuscation of the government. The post–Olympic issues are a mixed bag. Many of our [Beijing Global Strategy Consulting's] recommendations were thrown out as Beijing focused on finalising all for the Games, shifting post–Games issues 'till later'. The most sad case for me is the Bird's Nest, a wonderful stadium that is standing there as a tourist attraction. Empty. Professional stadium operators left disappointed. The Workers' Stadium happily takes the lion's share of the events (like every week). It is all due to a lack of overall planning as well as a lack of understanding what it takes to run a stadium, like they do successfully in Barcelona, Munich and Paris, among others. The other sad case is the Olympic Green and in particular the Forrest Park. Instead of taking an integrated approach and speeding up the last touches to the Forrest Park, the authorities seem rudderless and lethargic to act. The Park is still closed, the Olympic Green suffers from a lack of creative and integrated management. Some venues are already doing well however, I think that the Convention Centre, Wukesong and the Olympic Village are positive examples. Overall, Beijing experience is still far better than what happened in the early stages in Sydney and Athens. "

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