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Beijing one year after Olympic Games

August 7, 2009 8:43:43 PM PDT
It has been one year since Beijing welcomed the world for the Olympic games. Seven Chicago aldermen are in China, among those marking the anniversary and learning about what kind of Olympic legacy Chicago can expect.

It is already tomorrow in China, August 8th, a day the Chinese now celebrate as a marker for when the world took another look at their country. We take another look at what the games left in their wake.

As the flame was lit, China basked in the world's spotlight.

The opening of the 2008 Olympic Games brought much pride, and new respect for the Communist nation. But one year later, some of the marquee venues of the Olympics remain largely unused.

The Bird's Nest, a massive stadium built specifically for opening ceremonies and track and field events, is now a tourist attraction but hosts very few sporting events.

"When it was occurring it certainly was spectacular, but once it was over, I'm telling you, there was almost universal depression through out the country," said Marc Ganis, sports industry consultant.

Marc Ganis is a sports industry consultant who was in Beijing for the Games and has met with government officials since then. He says China benefited from positive PR the world over, but since then has struggled to find uses for mega-venues.

The Olympic Village was to be turned into private housing, but now sits largely vacant. Along with the Bird's Nest and other venues, they are monuments to the Olympics but may become burdens to taxpayers.

"We are against host cities leaving behind big and huge elephants, or what you call it, white elephants," said Nawal El Moutawakel, IOC Evaluation Commision chair.

"The IOC speaks out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to this particular issue. They like to have a legacy and often legacies are physical facilities left behind," said Ganis.

Chicago has the smallest construction budget of the cities competing in 2016. The biggest venues are temporary and will be disassembled after the Games.

"We found it more compelling to do something that was right for Chicago than something that was might fulfill the egos of architects," said Doug Arnot, Chicago 2016.

Alderman Danny Solis is among seven city council members in Beijing this week evaluating the legacy of the Olympics.

"The Bird's Nest, the Olympic Village...that was nothing but farmland before and now it's a teeming community," said Alderman Solis.

Maoming Chu is China's Deputy Consul General in Chicago and says aside from the physical legacies, there are emotional ones as well.

"The dream has been realized by the Chinese people. So that makes Chinese people more self confident and more proud," said Maoming Chu, China Deputy Consul General.

China reportedly spent $40 billion to host the games. They built a new international airport, subway lines and stadiums. Chinese officials also say they turned a profit.

The host city vote in October will be a referendum of sorts. Does the IOC mean what they say that want scaled-down budgets, responsible plans or do they just say that and really want breathtaking budgets and legacies?


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