Submitted By: Ashley Drum
This is a very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about the impact the 2008 Olympics is having on Beijing and the promises that the Chinese Government made to win the Olympic bid.
During last Fridays meeting, Dr. Morris told us about the strong sense of pride that Chinese people exhibit for their country, and the upcoming Beijing Olympics is no exception. From the symbolic starting date of 8/8/08, which is associated with prosperity in Chinese culture, to the $38 billion they are spending on the Olympic facilities and infrastructure, these games will showcase the rising power of China. The government has gone as far as developing an Office of Weather Manipulation as a way of preventing rain during the events to ensure that viewers all over the world see the best that Beijing has to offer.
But behind all the glamour, it is important for us to look back at the promises the Chinese government made to win the Olympic bid. Liu Jingmin, the deputy-mayor in 2001 when the bid was won, said that â€œby applying for the Olympics, we want to promote not just the city’s development, but the development of society, including democracy and human rights.â€ They also pledged to improve Beijing’s environmental conditions but little has been done to fulfill these promises.
Reporting on the Olympics has become a concern within a country known for its restrictions on free speech. Beijing has said that foreign reporters will not have limitations but local journalists will still be restricted by the government. I don’t think that the Olympics should serve as a means of political reform, but the Chinese government should not have made claims about developing their society if they had no intention of doing so.
Environmentally, China has done little to improve on Beijing’s increasing pollution problem. Currently, the city exceeds the World Health Organization’s clean-air guidelines by 78%. Because of this, athletes that are participating in the games will be given activated charcoal masks, ibuprofen and asthma medication as a way of dealing with these conditions.
This article has made me question if the Chinese government made blind promises as a way of winning the Olympic bid. I agree with Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Organizing Committee when he says that â€œwe have to remember that the Olympics are a sports event, not a political corrective,â€ but I think he is forgetting that it was the Chinese Government who made these proposals. So as we all watch the glitz and glamour of the Olympics next year, stop to think if the Chinese government held up its end of the bargain or if their $67 billion dollar investment is a smokescreen to the real China.
[Prof. Carr Addendum: See also this related WSJ article, CCTV Tower Mirrors Beijing's Rising Ambitions. Be sure to click on the photo show button embedded in this article. I had my taxi driver take me by this thing a few weeks ago when I was in Beijing. It is MASSIVE!!]