Beijing Offers Olympics Template for Developing Countries

A spectacular opening ceremony, well-organized events and hospitable Chinese citizens all made for a successful Games and aroused enthusiasm for the Olympics among other developing countries that hope to host the Games one day.

"The Beijing Olympics is an achievement for the Chinese people," said Shivendra Singh of India's Star News, who came here to cover the Games. Chi Michael, a cameraman from Cameroon Radio Television, thought the Games were top-level, along with the hospitality of the Chinese people.

After attending the opening ceremony and watching some events, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva said China set a new model for the Olympics, which would influence Rio de Janeiro's bid for the Games in 2016.

Before the Beijing Games, all of the 25 modern Olympics -- except the 1968 Mexico City Games -- were held in developed countries in Europe and North America, along with Australia and Japan.

The host of the 24th Games in Seoul, the Republic of Korea (ROK), one of the "four little dragons" of Asia, already had a foot in the door of the club of developed countries at the time. So the Beijing Games was only the second time that an Olympics was held in a developing country.

"The Beijing Games means the Olympics will embrace more developing countries," said Chinese senior diplomat and former ambassador to France, Wu Jianmin.

Since the turn of the millennium, many developing countries, represented by Brazil, Russia, India and China (or BRIC) have made rapid economic progress. For such countries seeking a global identity, large international sports events, like the Olympics, are viewed as golden opportunities.

Seeking positive impact

Developing countries also seek the positive effects of the 1964Tokyo Games and 1988 Seoul Games in bringing Japan and the ROK onto the international stage and accelerating their development.

"The Olympics can make a country world-famous," said Michael. Before he came to Beijing, he was told many negative things about China.

"But I found Beijing is a wonderful place," said Michael. "Africa should be known by the world too. If you don't come to Africa, you can't know it's also a wonderful place."

More cities from developing countries have been bidding for the Olympics. In 1993, besides Beijing, at least four such cities -- Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Havana and Istanbul -- made their bids for the 2000 Games.

For the upcoming 2016 Games, Baku, Doha and Rio de Janeiro are some examples of bids from developing countries.

However, hosting an Olympics is not an easy task. It will test the organization, administration and emergency preparedness of the host city and country. Compared with developed countries, developing countries have a lot of work to do in these areas.

Singh hoped that India could host an Olympics some day. He thought it was a chance for India to learn how to host a large sports event. India's capital, New Delhi, is now preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Long preparation process

"It's a long process of preparation to host a successful Oympics," he said. "From infrastructure to administrative work, we have a lot to learn."

Beijing also took a long time to prepare. After losing its bid for the 2000 Games, Beijing further improved its urban facilities and dealt with environmental problems, especially air pollution.

China's rise on the world economic and political scene also promoted its bid for 2008 Games.

In the seven years after winning its bid, iconic buildings, like the Water Cube, the Bird's Nest and the T3 airport terminal sprung up in Beijing. Six new subway lines were built. Beijing also won support from overseas, with foreign administrative teams and volunteers participating, giving the Games both Chinese and international characteristics.

The Games drew competitors from 204 countries and territories, the most in history. The opening ceremony attracted more than 80 heads of state and government, also the most.

"The history of the Europe-centered Olympics is changing," said Colin Moynihan, chairman of British Olympic Association. Moynihan believed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should make the Games more internationalized.

Analysts said one of the most important reasons for Beijing's success was its cooperation with other countries. These efforts not only provided ability in terms of venue designs and organizational work, but more importantly to China, Beijing was able to avoid any potential boycott of the Games.

"Beijing's way of cooperating with other countries is an experience for all developing countries," said Michael.

"China set new criteria for the Olympics," said Joao Julio from the Angola News Agency. However, Julio said, most developing countries faced obstacles in hosting the Olympics.

Such countries don't have large sums to spend on infrastructure. In terms of political ability, such as winning domestic and international support, developing countries have much to learn.

Who is next in line?

Julio thought South Africa was the most likely developing country to host the Olympics.

South Africa is the most developed African country and will host the 2010 World Cup Football Match. However, he thought African countries wouldn't be able to host the Games for another 15 years.

Actually, the IOC's requirements for infrastructure are attainable.

"The IOC does not advocate building luxury sports venues," said He Zhenliang, chairman of the IOC's Culture and Olympic Education Commission and former IOC vice-president. "If it complies with technical standards, it's okay."

He said countries should host the Games in line with their national conditions instead of competing with each other. The Olympics should showcase the cultural features of the host nations, as well as promote the Olympic spirit and values.

"The Beijing Games give developing countries hopes of becoming host nations themselves," said He.

(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2008)

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