China is looking to score big in hosting the next August, but the judging may be very tough.
Much has changed about China and Beijing since the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Beijing in 2001.
It’s unclear how much China is actually spending on the games (Aug. 8-24), but that is par for the course when it comes to Olympic spending. Greece -- which hosted the 2004 games in Athens -- is thought to have spent around $9 billion euros, which at the time was close to $12 billion.
What is known about Beijing 2008 is that 500,000-600,000 visitors are expected during the so-called Olympic month. Seven million tickets will be available to the public. Tourism officials have forecast some $5 billion in revenue. Still, in all likelihood, the games will not be a case study in profit-making.
Nevertheless, it may be a wise investment for what is now the world’s fourth-largest economy (one that grew by more than 10 percent in the second quarter of 2007) and a government awash in hard currency reserves, thanks to an ever-growing trade surplus.
“It’s an international coming-out party for China,” says Steve Yates, senior fellow in Asian Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council.
“Just as it was for Korea a couple of decades ago,” adds Dwight Perkins of Harvard University, where he specializes in the economics of China, referring to the 1988 Seoul Games.
Cost Benefit Analysis
The Olympic boom is really a continuation of a bigger national boom that began while Beijing’s makeover was already well underway, as China modernizes at a rapid rate, says Perkins. He estimates investment is equal to about 40 percent of the nation’s $2.4 trillion GDP.
Nonetheless, the Olympics have brought a wave of construction in a city of more than 10,000 square miles, and those projects have been consuming vast amounts of wood, cement and steel, not to mention crude oil and other commodities.
Major infrastructure changes include the construction of a dozen Olympic sports centers, such as the National Stadium, due for completion in March, and 160-acre Olympic Village.
The city just opened a new cross-city subway line and work continues on a light-rail link from the airport, where a massive new terminal is being built, partly to provide a pretty gateway for Olympic visitors. A major theater and office towers are also under construction. Olympic construction – along with the push to eliminate old, substandard housing and to widen streets – will displace an estimated 1.5 million people in a city of 17 million people.
In the private sector, Western hotel companies, for instance, are rushing to develop new properties, adding rooms for visitors. Marriott International, for instance, will have 11 properties open before the games start.
The games have "provided a venue for inevstment in the community," says Edwin Fuller, Managing Director of Marriott Lodging International, who adds "Beijing has never looked so good."