Comment: The China question

Sport Business News

Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US, looks at business opportunities in China.

" 'One from column A, one from column B and some extra duck sauce. 'Well, it is not really as simple as that. As we seemingly travel to some of the more interesting, on the surface, places on the planet–India, South Africa and now China–the simple discovery being made is that there is nothing like home. There are multiple reasons why many travellers kneel down and kiss the ground when settling on the good old terra firma of their homeland(s). The grass was not greener. Approximately one year ago, as I let my fingers do the walking across the keyboard of my computer system, China took the opportunity to put on an extravaganza intended to amaze, astound, electrify, dazzle and be one of the most prodigious Olympics ever held. Candidly, it was precisely that, marred only by the to be expected concerns and accusations over use of unapproved substances and the presence of gymnasts (Chinese) whose birth certificates were not exactly in tune with the rest of the world. But, what a difference a year makes. The economy has slowed down and the Olympic venue is 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. The concert, peace and love fest that lasted for four days , where minds were open, drugs were all but legal and love was 'free' is but a memory for those of us who are old enough to remember that counter culture happening. Beijing may have the same waiting for it. 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. Taking photos there does not make one Michael Phelps' heir nor does running up the steps of the Museum of Art in Philadelphia transform anyone into Rocky Balboa. 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. What is told to you at a breakfast meeting changes by lunch and is forgotten by dinner. The the blatant and sad reality of attempting to do much of anything in China other than manufacture inexpensively, produce an assortment of products from games to clothing and then get them to your own country to reap sizeable profits heaped upon the low cost of production and procurement. 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. So far, no critical listing to start packing your bags other than to make sure you have your cameras for photos of the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Beijing Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Xian, Lanzhou, Wuwei, Zhangye, or whatever your few weeks there allows. Contrary to what has been written elsewhere, however, I must take umbrage with any statement that alludes to Beijing being one of the top 10 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, clearly in evidence when they choose to emulate Matrix style movies but, in this instance...the games, the city, by taking same to the next level. Any 13–year old in Beijing can hack into your system as you read this. All that talent technologically, societal dedication and acting as one when called upon to do so, a display of creativity to equal, to best any that has preceded it, a façade as impressive as any with which a country can be associated but a façade nonetheless, and undertaking an effort fully intended to impress took place a year ago. It was a male peacock spreading its feathers in a dazzling display of inventiveness and beauty to impress and attract potential mates. By comparison and association, this is part of a complex dance that involves strutting and quaking, as China did. The cultural effect, if you will, is that Beijing was 'as proud as a peacock', as pretty and 'strutting' like one. The Wal–Marts, Starbucks, McDonald's and others of similar ilk can find homes, expansion, profits and a work force in Beijing and China in general. You cannot and the Olympics, come and gone, have nothing at all to do with it aside from the obvious improvements that have taken place from an industrial and business economics point of view. 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 10 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. Another great place to visit but keep the home hearth burning, even on a small flame. " For further information, contact: The Sports Network +1 215/441–8444 Fax: +1 215/441–5767; URL: www. sportsnetwork. com; e–mail: Maureen@sportsnetwork. com

Additional information