Confidence high with Beijing Olympics 1,000 days away

BEIJING: With 1,000 days to go before Beijing holds the 2008 Olympics, confidence is high the Games will be a sporting extravaganza that will showcase the country’s arrival among the world’s leading nations. 

Aside from the smooth running of the two-week event and the expected strong performance of its athletes, China is working hard to ensure the Games fully reflect the nation’s political and economic rise on the global stage. 

GAMES WATCH: A woman passes a poster of the Beijing Olympics logo in one of the capital’s shopping districts yesterday. With1,000 days to go before Beijing holds the 2008 Olympics, confidence is high the Games will be a sporting extravaganza. --AFPpic

A reported US$35bil in infrastructure spending is expected to be ploughed into new roads, subways, airport terminals and commercial and residential districts ahead of the Games. 

“We have full confidence that China is very capable of staging big sports events,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said during his latest trip to Beijing last month. 

“We are very confident that the 2008 Olympic Games will be a great success.” 

Chinese and IOC officials plan to celebrate the symbolic 1000-day mark on Saturday with the unveiling of the Games’ mascot and the kick-off of a nationwide Olympic education campaign. 

Beijing’s top leader and executive chairman of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games (BOCOG), Liu Qi, said one goal of the 1,000-day campaign was to bring “Olympic education” into school curricula similar to how Marxist and Maoist values of China’s communist revolution are taught to Chinese children. 

“BOCOG will be delivering Olympic-related teaching materials to all the elementary and middle schools of the nation in a bid to arrange Olympic education and expand the Olympic spirit,” Liu Qi said. 

Ratcheting up the propaganda, China’s Minister of Sports Liu Peng recently called for “war preparedness” as the nation’s athletes strive to top the Olympic medal table for the first time. 

A bombastic patriotic campaign ahead of the Games has already led detractors to draw comparisons to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, when Adolf Hitler used the event to glorify the Aryan race and unite Germany under his Nazi party. 

Another area critics have pointed to is Beijing’s air quality – ranked among the worst in the world. 

However officials continue to pledge that it will not be a problem come 2008, with the city planning to ban the private use of vehicles while the Games are being held and already moving factories out of the capital. 

On the economic front, the massive influx of capital for the Games is expected to create some 1.8 million jobs. Employment will be created not only through building infrastructure projects, but also competition venues. 

Construction of venues is going so smoothly that the IOC have asked BOCOG to slow the pace of building, a rare request by the international sporting body, especially following Athens, where several venues were completed only weeks before the Games. 

With preparations so far ahead of the Beijing Games contrasting with the Athens’ Olympics, one Chinese IOC member said a danger for organisers was that they were setting themselves up for a fall. 

“The high expectations have placed Beijing in a position that it cannot afford any minor mistake ... a minor fault might be overstated,” IOC member He Zhenliang told Xinhua news agency. 

“Athens benefited from the contrast in people’s perceptions, but there has not been such a roller-coaster run for Beijing.” – AFP 

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