Beijing Olympic Legacy
Beijing Olympic Games have passed for almost four years. China’s capital has benefited significantly from the halo in aspects of improved infrastructure and blossoming culture diversity. But critics say that the heritage has not been matched by the environment – the grey skies still exist, and China’s post-Games economic growth has slowed.
In order to contemplate what legacy the Olympics have left behind, I asked four experts about how the Olympic legacy has changed Beijing – from its culture, economy to the environment.
Unexpected Economic Disappointment
In retrospect, the last 11 Olympics host countries have all suffered from slow economic growth after the Games. Beijing is not lucky enough to escape the ”Curse of the Rings“. The worldwide economic bust has hit post-Olympics China as well.
No example can be more illustrative than the tourism sector. Zhang Xiaoxue is a senior manager from Beijing Association of Travel Services. She told me that the financial crisis has hit Beijing’s overseas tourism hard.
“After the Games, travel agencies and hotels anticipated a surge in Olympic-related visitors. But we were disappointed when the influx of travellers never reached previous anticipation because of the gloomy economic situation.”
According to Zhang, for the recent three years, even some of the city’s glamorous hotels have stumped up half price offer to attract travellers. “In low season for travellers, such as summer, hotels on average have had just less than 10 percent occupancy.”
Environmental Achievement and Vision
Li Jiao is the Director of Beijing-based organisation Greenpeace China campaigning for environment protection. To her, the greatest heritage of the Olympics is two-fold.
“Firstly, the strict anti-pollution regulations brought blue sky and fresh air back; secondly, under the push for a ‘Green’ Olympics, the awareness of people and the government about the importance of environment has been heightened.”
Beijing’s effort has won recognition worldwide. According to the recent report released by the British organization Clickgreen, the air pollution control put in place in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games has halved the lifetime risk of lung cancer for locals from certain inhaled pollutants.
However, Li is now concerned that the improvement was just like a flurry of excitement, given that post-Olympics pollution has deteriorated, “Some indicators have come down; on some days the air still smells acrid and buildings just a few hundred metres away can appear smudged in smog.”
She emphasizes the real environmental legacy lies in years beyond 2008. “‘Green Olympics’ is not merely for today, but also for tomorrow. Only by taking long-term, persistent efforts can the Green Olympics actually have a concrete impact.”
Furthermore, Successful environmental measures in Beijing need to be extended to other developing cities across China.
“Every civilian needs to recognise his indispensible role in taking environmental action. Only by concerted cooperation and extensive participation can we truly ‘green’ our homeland. “
Cultural and psychological impact
The event has set the stage for a more diverse and tolerant cultural atmosphere in the capital. Beijing resident and artist Zhu Xiaoxue comments as follow,
”Now I have greater opportunities to attend various high-quality exhibitions, and art works of the domestic artists are more tolerated , which would help boost artistic growth in every field, the diversity which should have been rooted in a Socialistic society is now building on in China. “
Albertina Malik from America is a lecturer from Beijing Foreign Language University, who has lived in Beijing for eight years. She says that the Games, as an opening-up party to the world, have changed the mindset of the state.
“The whole nation got so hilarious when China topped the gold medal tally, considering this nation’s 200-year-long history of humiliation and inferiority. It is more like an implied reassurance that the Chinese can be as good as others, and can be more self-assured on international stage.”
The Olympic Games have left Beijing positive legacy in terms of a more diverse cultural aura, a more confident image on international stage, etc. On the other hand, post-Olympic pollution degradation and the economic downturn have also tarnished the heritage to some extent.