Long road to the Beijing games

Beijing correspondent Melissa Chan reflects on the city's Olympic transformation.

    Chinese authorities have invested heavily to ensure the games go without a hitch [AFP]

    As Beijing marks the 100-day point to the opening of the 2008 Olympics, Al Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan reflects on the dramatic changes sweeping the Chinese capital in the run-up to the games.


    It's almost over! With just 100 days to go to the opening ceremony, you can't help but imagine at least some Chinese are thinking about the Olympics that way these days. 


    There's not a day that goes by when Olympic-related items don't dominate the newspapers, the evening news, advertisements, posters in the subway, the radio, on the sides of cars and buses.


    For the past few months… for the past year… as long as many people can remember – it's been Olympic overdose all the time.


    Olympic icons and mascots have become
    inescapable features of daily life [Reuters]

    Living in the Chinese capital you feel the Olympics not just by seeing the mascots or the emblem - but in just about every aspect of why anything in Beijing ever changes. 


    Every single crane, every tired migrant worker with a shovel over his shoulder, every single cement truck. For years the capital has felt like one giant construction site.


    Not only are 32 venues sprucing up or being built entirely from scratch for the actual games - but scores of new hotels, restaurants, and residential properties have all appeared in the north of the city, close to the Olympic sites.


    And there is another spirit of the games - the one that tells us there is money to be made.  Not just for Chinese, but for the 33 sponsors – an Olympic record - making their brand known to over a billion people.


    On a more intimate note, people here take a noticeable pride in hosting the games. 




    Part of that pride is connected to the knowledge that China is a developing country – that, despite spectacular economic growth, the country still has a long way to go.  There is so much modernisation to be done. 


    Along the way, many Chinese feel, the Olympics will become one of those landmark events along the timeline when the international community acknowledges the advances China has made over the past two decades.


    The run-up to the games has triggered
    a surge in national pride [Reuters]

    That is why global attention on the rioting in Tibet, the negative publicity surrounding the torch relay, and calls for boycotting the Olympics have touched on such a nerve here.


    You can call it collective naïveté to assume a smooth-sailing games when many people around the world consider China to be an authoritarian state.


    But people living here don't see their own country that way and few have access to how foreign news outlets cover China.


    So all this has come as a shock. When protestors outside the country criticise China's human rights record, Chinese who are old enough remember a time when they were told what job they had to do and where they had to live.


    Even who they chose to marry required approval from a local Communist Party official.


    Walking along the streets of Beijing or any other place, no-one would be able to imagine that now, — and that is certainly an incredible improvement in terms of individual rights.


    For the Chinese, the Olympics were meant to bring a lot of positives.


    The motto for the 2008 games is "One World, One Dream".


    The Olympics were seen as a stage to introduce China to the international community, bring it closer to the rest of the world — a culmination of it’s liberalisation since the early 1980s.


    Instead, the past few weeks have shown the Olympics has the potential for the opposite effect. 


    The global slap the Chinese have felt has stirred up fierce nationalism - and many here are wondering why the approval of the international community should even matter.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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