Beijing Bets Olympics Will Add to City's 3000-year History

Date: 05-31-2006

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HONOLULU (May 31) — The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace … the Bird’s Nest, the H-2-0-3. The what?

The latter two are new venues constructed for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, commonly referred to as the 29th Summer Olympic Games, to take place in Beijing in 2008. And, while the two may not be as famous as other landmarks in and around the city that has served as China’s capital for over 850 years, Beijing officials are betting they will become part of a new history being written for the 3000-year-old city and propel it into the future.

Wang Wei, executive vice-president and general secretary of Beijing’s Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) and recent participant in a sports marketing conference at the East-West Center (EWC), says his city is “a great metropolis full of vigorous growth, while at the same time presenting an image that is at once ancient in its traditions and yet youthful in its vitality.”

Attending the Asia Pacific Sports Workshop cosponsored by the EWC and Sports Marketing Japan, the Beijing Olympic executive stresses Beijing’s “…15 million people are more than happy and ready to play hospitable hosts to the great Olympics, the first ever staged in the largest nation in the world.”

Offering assurances Beijing will be ready to host the Games, Wang explains how China’s capital city and the nation itself are taking the opportunity to build on the upcoming Olympics.

“Beijing looks more poised than ever to speed up its modernization and integration into the international community, to make new friends, and to expand the scope of its cooperation with the rest of the world.”

Wang details the number and length of new roads being built — there will be six new expressways in Beijing alone by the time the Games begin — subways and light-rail transport, and new star-rated hotels. After assuring potential visitors they will have a place to stay, and ways of getting around, Wang says they will be able to enjoy their visit, too.

“Environmental protection has long been one of the top priorities for the Beijing Municipality,” Wang says. “With huge investment and years of hard work, half of the city is now covered in green, fulfilling the target set for 2008 two years in advance.” He adds that the city’s notorious public toilets were also being cleaned up, although admitting it will be a “long-term project” simply because “there are more of them” than in many Western cities.

Wang quotes the 2008 Summer Games’ slogan, “One World, One Dream,” and adds he is optimistic “the Beijing Olympic Games will be a magnificent gala to embody the aspirations of the Chinese people and the people of the world for peace, development and progress.”

Other participants echo Wang’s optimistic view of what the Olympics will bring to Beijing and China … besides thousands of world-class athletes.

Chris Renner, managing partner of Beijing-based Prescient Marketing and a workshop participant, says the apparent successful planning and preparations for 2008 Beijing Games “will build confidence in the international community in dealing with China.” He adds the “future looks bright” and that the know-how gained in prepping for the Beijing Games has spread elsewhere in China. He notes that major international sports events are scheduled to take place in Shanghai in 2010.

But for Renner and others like him at the EWC sports workshop, the future of sports marketing in China is of major interest. Again, the lessons learned and put into practice ahead of the Beijing Games are encouraging.

“Will the Beijing Games of 2008 catalyze a new boom for sports marketing in greater China?” Renner asks. “Or, as with other Games, will China suffer a massive Olympic hangover and see a retrenchment of corporate spending and sports development?”

The transplanted American answers his own questions.

“The proof of professionalism on the part of the BOCOG has reassured the market.” Renner says the renewed interest in professional and national team “football (soccer) is a ray of hope.” He adds that second-tier sports such as badminton, table tennis, and volleyball are not only gaining spectator support in China but also sponsorship. A good sign, according to the sports marketing executive.

Winnie Chan, director of On Your Mark Ventures, a Hong Kong-based sports marketing firm, says she is “very positive about the future of sports in China.” The secret, according to Chan, is to “have local heroes to grow a sport.” And she says there are some up and comers in China. Chan points to Liu Xiang, Guo Jing Jing, Yang Yang, and others who are quickly gaining name recognition at home even if they are not internationally-known stars.

In addition, Chan notes that “more and more foreign partners” are beginning to come into the Chinese sports market. Something that Renner agrees with. And with those two factors, local heroes and foreign partners comes money. Renner says through sponsorship and marketing revenue alone, the Beijing Games will generate over $3 billion.

But the biggest change in the China market could well be less tangible than money and stars.

“I moved from Los Angles to Beijing about 10 months ago,” Renner says, “and that should tell you something about my belief in the changes in Beijing and the opportunities for doing business in China.”

Renner points to another sign: “The Beijing Organizing Committee has kept close watch on the Games’ logo. There has been no piracy. Now, hopefully that’s a good sign of things to come.”


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