Friday, August 08, 2008

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics – how China and the IOC arrived at today

The Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Games have taken place. Over the next 16 days the costliest Olympic Games in history will unfold in a country that first participated in their first Olympic Games at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

The Chinese have spent more than $43 billion both on direct and infrastructure costs related to hosting the Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee’s 12 global corporate sponsors have invested $866 million in the Beijing Games. Worldwide television rights fees have topped $1.44 billion. The costs of Friday’s Opening Ceremonies alone will top $100 million – on every conceivable level the 2008 Beijing Olympics defy any rational economic thinking process.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be defined not by the enormity of nearly $45 billion that has been invested in what amounts to an 18-day party, but by the lasting image the Chinese government will leave on the world in the next two and a half weeks. And the early barometer – come hell or high water, the Chinese are ready to clamp down on anyone who might ‘rain on their Olympic parade.’

It’s well worth looking at China’s Olympic history as the Games get underway today.

In 1908 the Olympic Games were first mentioned in a Chinese magazine. Already in 1922 Wang Zhengting became the first Chinese member of the IOC, in 1928 China delegated the first observer to the Games in Amsterdam. When rumors spread in 1932 that the government of the Japanese Mandschuko had plans to participate in the Games in Los Angeles, a delegation of five- one of them a participating athlete- was quickly put together. The Chinese sprinter Liu Changchun entered the 100m as well as the 200m run but could not qualify for the final runs.

The 11th Olympic Games in Berlin were attended by a Chinese team of 69 members but could not win a medal. The next Olympic Games took place in London in 1948 as the Games in 1940 and 1944 had been cancelled due to World War II. There was a Chinese team taking part in the Olympic Games in London in 1948 but the team did not get any financial support from the government and therefore could hardly afford the journey home.
After the foundation of the People's Republic and the flight of the government of the Republic of China under Jiang Kaishek to Taiwan both Chinese states wanted to take part in the Olympic Games as the official representative of China. In 1952 the PRC sent a delegation of 40 to the Games in Helsinki while no Taiwanese athlete participated in the Games to protest against the invitation of the PRC.

In 1956 the first severe boycott happened in the history of the Games. While some Western states like Spain, the Netherlands or Switzerland rejected a participation because of the invasion of the USSR in Hungary and Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt did not take part due to the Suez crisis, the PRC boycotted the Games reportedly because of the presence of Taiwanese athletes and the recognition of the National Olympic Committee of Taiwan by the IOC.

In 1958 the PRC ended their relationship with the IOC because Taiwan was seen as a part of China and from the PRC's point of view the recognition of two Olympic Committees for one country was a violation of the Olympic Charter. The Summer and Winter Games of 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976 didn’t include the world’s most populated nation sending teams’.

China didn’t return to the Games until the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid of 1980. In the previous year during the IOC meeting in Nagoja the IOC under the presidency of the English Lord Killian acknowledged the Olympic Committee representing the PRC (60 in favor, 17 nays and 2 abstentions).

Since then Taiwan competes in the Olympics using the name "Chinese Taipei". .

The Games of Los Angeles in 1984 were the first to have athletes from Taiwan as well as athletes from the PRC participating in the Olympics at the same time. During these Games China won its first gold medal. Chinese athlete XU Haifeng won the gold medal in the men's sporting pistol shooting match. During these Games China won 15 gold medals, 8 silver medals and 9 bronze medals altogether with 225 competing Chinese athletes.

China and Beijing first bid for the 2000 Summer Games. This editorial published by China’s “People’s Daily” looked at Beijing’s failed bid for the 2000 Summer Games (and offers how the Chinese looked at their failed bid for the 2000 Games:

“Eight years had passed from 2:27 a.m. on September 24, 1993 to 22:08 p.m. on July 13, 2001! Beijing's Olympic bid had finally got out of the shadow of failure at Monte Carlo and welcomed in the laughter of victory in Moscow. Those were eight years in which the Chinese people raised their heads in expectation, eight years in which we endured all kinds of hardships in order to accomplish our cherished ambition, and eight years in which we were enthusiastic and pressed on all the time.

“As we recall the previous Olympic bid, we contemplate the present and recall the past with emotion when all sorts of feelings well up in our minds. In 1993, in line with the two kinds of the Monte Carlo voting result-either win or failure, Chinese news media prepared two "versions": Gain-not to get conceited because of victory; lose-not to be disheartened in case of defeat. Of the media, People's Daily prepared two commentaries: When win, it would publish the commentary entitled "Beijing Thanks the World"; when fail, it would publish another commentary titled "Unswervingly Advancing to the World". At that time, I was lucky enough to draft these two commentaries.

“Unfortunately, our previous Olympic bid failed, the commentary published was the latter one, which wrote: "We respect the choice of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and congratulate Sydney on its Olympic bid success. At the same time we are, as always, filled with gratitude to the IOC for its support of China's work of applying for hosting the Olympic Games and are, as always, filled with the sentiment of friendship for the whole world. In the future, China will all the more open its mind to welcome guests from all the four seas, and extensively make friends from the five continents and will unswervingly advance toward the world. the open China is expecting the Olympic Games, an open China is fully capable of hosting an Olympic Games successfully. Hosting the Olympic Games is the strong wishes of the Chinese people whether today or in the future." The commentary said in conclusion, "Not to get conceited because of victory, and not to be downhearted because of defeat, that is the demeanor and bearing the Chinese people should have. There are many years to come and we will certainly meet again someday. We believe in this oriental country with one-fifth of the world's population, a territory of 9.6 million km and a history of over 5,000-year civilization, the days when the Olympic five-ring flag flies high in the sky will not be far off. Compatriots, let's continue our efforts to greet the arrival of this day!"

“At 2:27' 40" a.m. on September 24, 1993, IOC President J.A. Samaranch announced that Sydney succeeded in its Olympic bid. Beijing lost the chance with only two votes less. After the news on Comrade Li Tieying's cable of solicitude to Beijing's Olympic Bid Delegation was broadcast by the CCTV Station, this commentary was broadcast time and again. This commentary was published with reluctance.

“The commentary we wanted very much to publish was "Beijing Thanks the World". This commentary wrote, "The public are expecting the Olympic Games, their dream has come true. Beijing thanks the world! The 27th Olympic Games is a grand gathering to be held at a time when we bid farewell to the 20th century and welcome in the 21st century, it is of a cross-century significance. It offers a very rare opportunity and is the focus of world attention. The IOC has made a historic choice and given China high honor and a valuable opportunity. The Chinese people will merit the great trust and go all out to hand in an answer sheet to the satisfaction of the world people." The commentary said in conclusion, "An open China is expecting the Olympic Games, an open China is fully capable of hosting an Olympic Games successfully. Compatriots, let's extend our two hands to welcome the 2000-a new Olympic horizon!"

“That commentary can only be kept as a historical material. When we often recall this, we feel deeply regret; when we often recall this, we are convinced that the Chinese people can certainly fulfill their Olympic Games dream.

“Beijing again filed an application for hosting the Olympic Games eight years later. In line with the two kinds of the Moscow voting result-win or failure, Chinese news media again prepared two kinds of "versions". "Flowers are similar every year, but people are different year after year". This time, the "version" presented by Chinese news media is about the people dancing for joy and the whole nation immersed in celebrations. On July 14, People's Daily, devoting an eye-catching position on the front page, to the ceremonious publication of an editorial entitled "Writing the Most Magnificent Chapter in the Olympic Games History", hailing Beijing's success in its bid for hosting the 29th Olympic Games in 2008. The editorial was drafted by staff members of the Commentary Department of People's Daily. I admire their opportunity and share their joy. That commentary prepared for failure in Beijing Olympic bid will never be published.

“Beijing's two Olympic bids went through eight years, the Chinese people had undergone "81 hurdles", they have finally crossed the "mountain of flame", ferried across the "Tongtian (direct access to heaven) River" and received their own honor. Eight years represent a process and a tempering. For the great cause of the motherland and a better future of the people, in the years ahead, the course of struggle will, like application for hosting the Olympic Games, be arduous yet magnificent. Compatriots, we still need to immerse ourselves in hard work, work hard and work hard again!”

There are those who believe the rejected China’s 1993 bid for the 2000 Games had more to do with their first bid coming only four years after the Tiananmen Square massacre than any other reason.

China and Beijing didn’t bid for the 2004 Olympic Games (hosted by Athens).Beijing successfully bid for the 2008 Games – a far different story from their failed 2000 bid.

Beijing was elected the host city on July 13, 2001, during the 112th IOC Session in Moscow, beating Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka. Prior to the session, five other cities (Bangkok, Cairo, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and Seville) submitted bids to the IOC but failed to make the short list in 2000. After the first round of voting, Beijing held a significant lead over the other four candidates. Osaka received only 6 votes and was eliminated. In the second round, Beijing was supported by an absolute majority of voters, eliminating the need for subsequent rounds.[6]

After winning the bid, Li Lanqing, the vice premier of China, declared "The winning of the 2008 Olympic bid is an example of the international recognition of China's social stability, economic progress and the healthy life of the Chinese people." Previously, Beijing had bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympics. It led the voting over the first three rounds, but ultimately lost to Sydney in the final round in 1993.

The IOC evaluation commission classified the "political system" as "working for China" and declared: "The overall presence of strong governmental control and support is healthy...". Li Lan-Qing (2001-07-17, vice premier of the PRC): "The winning of the 2008 Olympic bid is an example of the international recognition of China's social stability, economic progress and the healthy life of the Chinese people."

While many nations praised the decision, opposing groups objected arguing that China's human rights issues made it unfit for the honor. The European Parliament issued a resolution[3] on Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. To quell concerns over this, Beijing chose the motto of "New Beijing, Great Olympics" in order to emphasize the country's movement towards new ideals for the new millennium.

In its bid for the Olympic games made in 2001, the PRC made several promises to the IOC regarding improvements with human rights, press freedoms, and environmental concerns. It has been widely reported by western media sources that China has failed to live up to the guarantees it made in order to bolster its chances of winning the bid for the games.

Beijing Olympic bid chief Wang Wei stated in 2001: “We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China... We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promote our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

Amnesty International released a statement marking the 10 day countdown to the Games on July 29 stating that: “The Chinese authorities have broken their promise to improve the country’s human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics. There has been no progress towards fulfilling these promises, only continued deterioration. Unless the authorities make a swift change of direction, the legacy of the Beijing Olympics will not be positive for human rights in China."

The PRC publicly claimed in their successful 2001 Olympic bid that it would improve human rights in China, Amnesty International stated earlier this year, "In the run-up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of “stability” and “harmony” they want to present to the world. They must release all imprisoned peaceful activists, allow foreign and national journalists to report freely and make further progress towards the elimination of the death penalty."

In late July, U.S. senator Sam Brownback announced that he had received evidence (in the form of an official memo from China's Public Security Bureau) that foreign-owned hotels in China had been ordered by the Chinese government to comply with electronic surveillance of guests by installing special equipment (called the Security Management System for Internet Access from Public Places), or face "severe retaliation."

On July 30 2008, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution by 419 votes to 1 that called for immediate action to stop the arrests of civil activists and Tibetans and to put pressure on China to stop supporting Burma and Sudan.

Despite initial guarantees of total press freedom by the PRC in 2001 (again as part of their successful 2008 Olympic bid), and assurances from the IOC in early 2008 that journalists would have unfettered access to the internet, the Beijing Organizing Committee announced in late July that China would allow only "convenient" access —still blocking web sites the PRC deemed inappropriate, particularly those critical of China's involvement in Tibet, Darfur, Burma, the 1989 protests at Tiananmen Square, and HIV/AIDS issues in China, as well as its crackdown on religious groups such as Falun Gong.

Chinese authorities have also blocked passports for foreign journalists. The government justified these action by claiming that these journalists were planning to report on political topics rather than the Olympics, and stated on July 31 that "The Chinese government won't allow the spread of any information that is forbidden by law or harms national interests on the Internet."

The NGO, Human Rights Watch has alleged that China has failed to keep its press freedom promise, and one IOC committee member commented anonymously that "Had the I.O.C....known seven years ago that there would be severe restrictions...then I seriously doubt whether Beijing would have been awarded the Olympics".

China pledged (as part of their 2001 Olympic bid) to "Deliver Clean Energy Towards a Harmonious World" and that by 2008, measurements of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide would meet World Health Organization standards and airborne particle density would be reduced to the level of major cities in developed countries.

The IOC stated that Beijing had so far met only WHO 2005 interim guidelines, which are significantly less restrictive, and that "Official data during the Aug. 8 to Aug. 24 Olympic period indicates air quality was actually worse in 2006 and 2007 than in 2000 and 2001."

An analysis of August 2007 data found that Beijing's air registered 123 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter, more than double the WHO guideline of 50 micrograms per cubic meter for short-term exposure.

China's failure to meet these standards has caused concern among some Olympics athletes, particularly long distance runners such as world marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie, considered the world's greatest long distance runner, who has said he will skip the long-distance running event in Beijing because of the city's poor air quality and fears his health could be damaged by running through the streets of the Chinese capital.

And that brings the world to today – the start of the 29th Olympiad – let the Games begin for better or for worse.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: Wikipedia and the People Daily (China’s daily paper)

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