Confidence high with Olympics 1 000 days away
With 1 000 days to go before Beijing holds the 2008 Olympics, confidence is high the games will be a sporting extravaganza that will showcase the country’s arrival among the world’s leading nations.
Aside from the smooth running of the two-week event and the expected strong performance of its athletes, China is working hard to ensure the Games fully reflect the nation’s political and economic rise on the global stage.
A reported $35-billion in infrastructure spending is expected to be ploughed into new roads, subways, airport terminals and commercial and residential districts ahead of the games.
“We have full confidence that China is very capable of staging big sports events,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said during his latest trip to Beijing last month.
“We are very confident that the 2008 Olympic Games will be a great success.”
Chinese and IOC officials plan to celebrate the symbolic 1 000-day mark on Saturday with the unveiling of the Games’ mascot and the kick-off of a nationwide Olympic education campaign.
Beijing’s top leader and executive chairperson of the Beijing Organising Committee for the games (Bocug), Liu Qi, said one goal of the 1 000 day campaign was to bring “Olympic education” into school curricula similar to how Marxist and Maoist values of China’s communist revolution are taught to Chinese children.
“Bocug will be delivering Olympic-related teaching materials to all of the elementary and middle schools of the nation in a bid to arrange Olympic education and expand the Olympic spirit,” Liu said.
Ratcheting up the propaganda, China’s Minister of Sports Liu Peng recently called for “war preparedness” as the nation’s athletes strive to top the Olympic medal table for the first time.
“The 2008 Olympics will be held inside the gates of our nation, so for everyone who works in the sports industry this is a hard-to-come-by opportunity,” Liu said in a recent speech.
“We must to the greatest extent arouse the enthusiasm of the nation, to the greatest extent bring in special talent, funding, policies, safeguards and management experience and spare no effort in consolidating the entire nation’s resources in war preparedness.”
A bombastic patriotic campaign ahead of the Games has already led detractors to draw comparisons to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when Adolf Hitler used the event to glorify the Aryan race and unite Germany under his Nazi party.
But both Beijing organisers and the IOC reject such comparisons, countering that as a poor agrarian nation, the Olympic Games will not only endow a new generation of Chinese with the “Olympic spirit,” but also give them a much needed cosmopolitan world view.
Another area critics have pointed to is Beijing’s air quality—ranked among the worst in the world.
However officials continue to pledge that it will not be a problem come 2008, with the city planning to ban the private use of vehicles while the games are being held and already moving factories out of the capital.
On the economic front, the massive influx of capital for the games is expected to create about 1,8-million jobs.
Employment will be created not only through building infrastructure projects, but also competition venues such as the 3,13-billion-yuan ($386-million) National Stadium and the 1,02-billion-yuan National Aquatic Centre.
Construction of venues is going so smoothly that the IOC has asked Bocug to slow the pace of building, a rare request by the international sporting body, especially following Athens, where several venues were completed only weeks before the games.
Chinese officials have also stressed that there will be no cost blow-out that other Olympic cities have suffered.
“Beijing will adhere to the principle of ‘frugal Olympics’ in organising the 2008 Games,” Bocug executive Vice-President Jiang Xiaoyu said recently.
While the 2004 Athens Olympics cost Greek authorities $2,4-billion, Beijing’s operating budget will be $1,61-billion. Projected revenues amount to about $1,625-billion, Jiang said.
With preparations so far ahead of the Beijing Games contrasting with the Athens’ Olympics, one Chinese IOC member said a danger for organisers was that they were setting themselves up for a fall.
“The high expectations have placed Beijing in a position that it cannot afford any minor mistake… a minor fault might be overstated,” IOC member He Zhenliang told Xinhua news agency.
“Athens benefited from the contrast in people’s perceptions, but there has not been such a roller-coaster run for Beijing.” - AFP.