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Beijing Olympics

Beijing: Big coming-out party for China?

Yusof Sulaiman, eTN Asia/Pacific  Aug 24, 2008

As the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics winds down and interest begins to focus on London, host of the next Summer Olympics in 2012, how much of China did the 10,000 over athletes and "thousands" of Olympics tourists see while there?

Despite reports of half empty hotel rooms still coming out of Beijing hotels, television viewers following the Games will not have failed to notice the main "Bird's Nest" stadium packed to the rafters every night during the athletic events. "How difficult is it to fill 90,000 people in a stadium in a city of 17 million people?" asked an Olympics veteran.

In his news conference, Timo Lumme, International Olympic Committee director of TV and marketing, said half of China's 1.3 billion people turned on to watch at least part of the opening ceremony. The total viewers in the world could be around 1.2 billion people. "The interest globally for the Olympics Games is growing,” Lumme said. “The impressive viewing figures have been boosted by increased online coverage, vindicating the controversial decision to award the event to Beijing."

In the US alone, it was reported that more than 40 million viewers watched swimmer Michael Phelps win his historic 8 gold medals, the biggest Saturday night audience since 1990.

"The IOC's decision to come to Beijing is about opening the door and engaging," added spokeswoman Giselle Davies. "It can be a catalyst for development. In terms of image, the wider impact, we do not have any concerns."

"The Olympics has been a grand, glorious internationally telecast coming-out party for China to show off its achievements as it begins to emerge as a superpower, " columnist Jay Ambrose said. "The rest of the world will have to live with China very much in its face for many years to come. A far more powerful China will be an increasingly important player."

A study, "China's Inbound Tourist Revenue and Beijing Olympic Games 2008," by Professor Zeng Kaisheng from Sun Yat-Sen University on the "massive media exposure" of the Olympics on its tourism industry which is heavily reliant on visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan concluded that the Olympic Games have always had a significant long-run impact on the host country's inbound tourism.

"The Beijing Olympics will offer China a chance for its tourism industry to use its cultural and historical legacy to attract people who would not normally come to China. China's inbound tourism revenue will maintain its steady growth on the condition that China's gross domestic product (GDP) keeps growing, its consumer price index (CPI) remains relatively stable, and the exchange rate changes of the RMB are made gradually."

However, China's achievements and economic successes can only support the tourism industry in the short run. "The industry requires aggressive marketing strategies to sustain the pressures of global competition in the long run," added Professor Zeng. "The Beijing Olympics presents China with a valuable opportunity to realign and boost its tourism industry to the burgeoning Asian markets and developed countries"

According to the China National Tourism Administration, its inbound revenue increased 15-fold from US$2 billion in 1990 to $34 billion in 2006.

Looking ahead to his own city London hosting the next Games, sports correspondent Simon Barnes in a dispatch from Beijing said, "London will put on a fabulous show, is good at putting on a show.

"The world will see that it is not just a place full of old buildings and crumbling imperial memories with a rather curious family in nominal charge.

"Apart from a Tube Line, a stadium and the sexing- up of East London, visitors will be aghast at the cost of hotels and taxis."

Beijing: Big coming-out party for China?
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