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  • On the Scene in Beijing -- Legacy of Olympic Venues Not Clear


    Bird's Nest -- or white elephant? Use of Olympic venues after the Games appears to be a work in progress. (ATR)
    Cost Questions

    That much was made clear at a Thursday press briefing when the city’s economic and legacy experts appeared at a loss to explain in detail how venues such as the 91,000-seat Bird’s Nest Stadium and Water Cube will be used in the coming years.

    They said sporting, cultural and entertainment events would make use of the Games venues, but there was no indication of a concrete business plan and details on the management and maintenance costs were not forthcoming.

    Du Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympic Economy Research Association, said post-Games utilization of venues had been taken into consideration at the design and planning stage, although he failed to go into details.

    "We cannot expect in the short term that all the investment will be recouped right away; that was what actually happened to many other [host] cities," he admitted.

    Du insisted BOCOG and city authorities had provided a comprehensive set of facilities to stage sport and other activities on the Olympic Green after the Games have left town. Temporary Olympic venues would be revamped for new uses, he said.

    Pointing to the dramatic growth in sports participation in Beijing since the city was awarded the Games -- now at 50 percent of the population -- Du said "these venues will probably be used quite well and the utilization rate will be quite high."

    But he was unable to answer questions about the cost to the government of running and maintaining the 31 Olympic competition venues in Beijing.

    "They are working out new models now for managing these venues in a cost-effective way," he told reporters.

    "After these Games, the management companies for these venues will immediately open them up for popular use," he said.

    Earlier Wang Hui, BOCOG’s director of communications, said the Games would leave many valuable legacies, including the opening up of China to the world and a "large amount of talented people" which would help to promote economic development.

    By the end of 2008, the per capita GDP of Beijing is expected to increase to $8,000, more than double the figure of 2001.

    London Mayor: Closing Ceremony to Provide Sneak Peek at 2012

    London mayor Boris Johnson says he is "blown away but not intimidated" by Beijing’s staging of the Olympics, insisting the British capital can do just as well.

    "With our native wit, our gift for pageantry, our fantastic ingenuity, I think it is possible that in London we will produce a truly fantastic opening ceremony and fantastic
    London mayor Boris Johnson. (Getty Images)
    Olympic Games," Johnson said Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters at London House in Beijing, Johnson said London’s eight-minute handover slot at the Beijing closing ceremony Sunday would provide "a foretaste" of what might be to come in London’s opening ceremony.

    And he confirmed that London organizers were seeking to bear down on costs without reducing the long-term value to London taxpayers who are helping to fund the Games.

    "We secured the right to host these Games in a time of economic plenty and we are being asked to deliver them against the background of an economic crunch," he stated.

    "It’s therefore vital to seek economies wherever we can find them. But this isn’t going to be a mean, penny-pinching, austerity Games. I still think we can produce a fantastic show without wasting taxpayers’ money."

    Johnson will receive the Olympic flag from the Mayor of Beijing at the closing ceremony Aug. 24.

    Olympic Sponsors Satisfied with Beijing Coverage

    The IOC director of television and marketing services dismisses suggestions that Olympic sponsors are taking a knock from some of the negative coverage of the Beijing Games.

    China‘s alleged failure to deliver on some of its promises concerning human rights issues and curbs on media freedoms have made headlines around the world in the build-up to and during the Games.

    But Timo Lumme indicates that the IOC and its 12 top sponsors have not been damaged by any negative reporting of issues swirling around the Olympics.

    "That view is corroborated by my client stakeholders, the sponsor corporations and the broadcasters," he told reporters.

    "They are very happy and firmly believe the Olympic Games is about great sport and the focus is quite rightly on that."

    The IOC’s Director of Communications Giselle Davies insisted that feedback from marketing surveys suggested there was no detrimental impact on the IOC’s image or that of its Olympic partners.

    "On the contrary, the figures are very positive in terms of confirming that these Beijing Olympics are hugely successful," she told reporters Wednesday.

    A Human Rights Watch report this week called for Olympic sponsors to urge the IOC to formally monitor human rights abuses in future host countries. The group claims the sponsors have failed to meet their pledges of corporate social responsibility.

    Blatter Happy with Football Competition

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter has hailed the success of the Olympic football tournament, praising BOCOG and the high standards of play and refereeing.

    The football competition has set a new attendance record
    Among the football spectators: German Football Association president Theo Zwanziger and FIFA president Sepp Blatter. (Getty Images)
    at an Olympics. By the end of the men’s final Saturday, more than two million spectators will have watched matches at Games venues.

    With a few exceptions, Blatter said "all the matches have been very attractive matches and they have produced good technical and tactical skill."

    "The organization of the Olympics will give an impact in development of football [in China]," he added.

    After the Games, he said FIFA would review the future of the Olympic football tournament. Blatter stated discussions would take place with the IOC about whether to limit the competition only to under-23 players, ruling out the system of allowing three overage players.

    Blatter will also propose to the FIFA executive board that the 2012 competition be included in the international football calendar for the London Games.

    Speaking at a press briefing Thursday, he also responded to questions about the lack of desire of the football associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to form a Great Britain team. While the English FA is keen, the other national governing bodies claim the move will jeopardize their independence on the world stage.

    Blatter told reporters that it was essential Great Britain fielded a team but it was not important which associations players were drawn from.

    Where’s Jacques?

    IOC President Jacques Rogge visited Beijing Science and Technology University Gymnasium to take in taekwondo and also attended the women’s football final at Workers’ Stadium.

    Beijing by the Numbers

    Broadcast coverage of the Beijing Games is setting new records for an Olympics, reaching some 4.5 billion people worldwide via TV and online. About 5,000 hours of coverage is provided by the IOC’s broadcast rights holders in 220 countries and territories. In China, more than 102 million have watched live broadcasts of the Games online with another 146 million watching video on demand. The IOC’s Web site received more visitors in the first week of the Games than the entire Athens Olympics. NBC’s Web site has so far received 30 times more video views than for Athens 2004.

    Quote of the Day

    "I think he should show more respect, shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones. Not making gestures like the one he made. He still has to mature."

    IOC President Jacques Rogge questioning 100m champion Usain Bolt's sportsmanship. Bolt started celebrating his victory in the sprint before finishing the race.

    Written by Mark Bisson in Beijing.

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