As I’m sure you can imagine, hosting the Olympics is no small, or inexpensive, undertaking. Consider the fact that the Chinese government has spent an estimated $70 billion preparing for its debut this summer (many believe they spent nearly $300 million for the August 8th opening ceremonies alone). The money has gone into improving everything from city infrastructure to transportation to air quality. That’s because the Chinese undoubtedly recognize this as a prime opportunity to convey an image of modernity, power, and openness to foreign viewers around the world.
Yet as the end of the 2008 Olympics draws closer, there is one question that looms in the minds of many around the world:
What will hosting the Games mean for Beijing, or China for that matter, in the long run?
The hope is that the commitment will spur tourism, investment, and ultimately economic growth. But the Olympics have not proven a sure-fire benefit to a city or country’s economy. It’s a gamble.
Take, for instance, the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Much
like the 2008 Games, billions of dollars were spent improving the city in
preparation for the massive hoards of tourists and visitors. Yet, when the last
event was over and the Olympic flame was finally extinguished, Montreal and the Canadian government were
left with little in the way of increased tourism, and much in the way of debt.
In contrast, the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games spurred a rebirth in the Spanish
metropolis. Money flowed in, and the debt accrued in preparing for the games
rapidly diminished. Before long, “the Barcelona
effect” (check out this article
for more insight into why Montreal and Barcelona experienced
such different outcomes) had become a model for every nation vying for the
chance to host an Olympics.
Ultimately, there is no way to know for sure exactly how the
Games will affect the Chinese economy. Whether or not the world’s largest
socialist nation will be able to sustain the investment necessary to keep
momentum strong is debatable. One thing is for sure, however; China is unlike Barcelona or Montreal
Jeremy for My Wonderful World
P.S. Also be sure to check out the book Beijing’s Games: What the Olympics Mean for China. It’s a great resource on the issues discussed in this post.