Olympics an Outstanding Success

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Aug. 18 – We’re now into the second week of the Beijing Olympics, and despite all the pre-Games hype about the weather, pollution, and issues such as Tibet and security, the overwhelming feedback from people we have spoken to who have attended events has been very positive. The main areas where Beijing has come up trumps include:

Excellent facilities—the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube have almost become instant international icons. People don’t just want to see the events; they want to see the architecture. Meanwhile, refurbished stadiums such as the Worker’s Stadium and the various gymnasiums have been completely revamped, are well air-conditioned and made easily accessible. Signage in both Chinese and English has been almost perfect.

Venue facilities
The facilities in venues have been largely excellent, with soft drink and beer vendors easily accessible at all major stadium entrances and within each complex. The standard price for a cold beer, RMB5. Toilets and other facilities have been kept clean and well maintained, although there have been small grumbles about the variety of food available.

With the Bird’s Nest alone holding 91,000, getting people in and out quickly, yet under security, could have been a huge problem. However, queues have been very well marshaled, security polite, and the screening of spectators—baggage x-rays, metal detectors, retina screening and individual searches as per airport check-in—have been both smooth and very quick. On average it takes five minutes to go through security.

Brand new, electric-hybrid buses have been ferrying literally tens of thousands of spectators a time to and from venues and various areas of Beijing for free. Average time to wait for a bus, two minutes. Additionally, for passengers with a ticket, the Beijing metro have been running complimentary services to venues from most major lines.

Beijing sits in a natural depression, so tends to collect dust and air particles. The Gobi Desert, lest people forget, is only 100 kilometers north of Beijing’s northern mountains, so haze and high temperatures in August can feel uncomfortable. But even the Gods have smiled; despite an initially hazy first few days, thunderstorms and rain have cleared the air considerably and Beijing is now basking in blue skies and balmy evenings. The World records accordingly have been tumbling—with no major complaints from athletes now they are under competition about any of the conditions.

The general perception has been that NBC has been doing a great job, while CNN not so, concentrating on negative aspects without redressing them with the positives. Many of the international daily newspapers too, tend to be a bit schizophrenic over their coverage; it would appear many have journalists who seem constantly depressed, only concentrating (some of them to a ludicrous degree) on the downsides, while others are enjoying themselves. Among the major China business blogs, China Briefing News and Managing the Dragon are based in Beijing, as is always the case, to report properly on China business and the Olympics; you really have to be here.

While business news elsewhere talks of China slowdowns, high inflation and a higher cost of doing business in China, our publisher, and the senior partner of Dezan Shira & Associates, Chris Devonshire-Ellis, takes a more bullish view. “As you are aware, Dezan Shira & Associates deals exclusively with foreign direct investment into China” he recently told the BBC, “so we are in a good position to judge capital flows into China from overseas. Sure we are conducting more overseas telephone conferences with investors, particularly from the United States, than is normal, but the interest in China, and commitment to investment here remains strong and as far as we can see is likely to remain so.” That perspective has also been endorsed by JPMorgan, and the National Bureau of Statistics, as we reported here earlier today.

The fun factor
Once the hype had subsidized, the killjoys and naysayers have been nowhere to be seen. Events, especially (and hardly surprisingly) featuring Chinese athletes have been nearly sold out, and the level of support meted out to local teams has generated a great buzz and level of excitement during events—chants, Mexican waves, dancing girls, acrobats—just add cold beer and sunshine and it’s a near perfect mix.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis (left), senior partner of Dezan Shira & Associates, and Arnie Jensen (right), president and COO of Asimco, enjoying track and field events at Dezan Shira’s corporate box at the Bird’s Nest.