(One) Legacy of the Beijing Olympics

No, this isn’t about the gymnasts.

The (Fake) Walls Come Tumbling Down

Tiger Temple reported recently about one of the unintended aftereffects of Beijing’s rush to make itself pretty in the run-up to the Olympics in 2008: the fake walls constructed to make buildings look better in areas of the city expected to receive lots of Olympic traffic have begun to fall apart.

First, a video of the area recorded before the Olympics, when the fake walls were still being constructed. You can see that the backside of the building looks normal, but the front is covered with green scaffolding as workers hastily construct better looking walls for the side of the building facing the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium:


But, according to Tiger Temple, the walls are already starting to fall apart:

one year later

Obviously, as far as evil goes, making fake walls ranks pretty low on the scale. Tiger Temple’s concern, I think, is that the Olympic committee took something that originally looked decent, and made it look good, but in such a haphazard way that less than two years later, neighborhoods look worse than they did before the Olympic projects started. As he writes,

All the disguising done before the Olympics has already become an international joke […] I think I have the responsibility to lay all of this bare, and make it return to its original, true state.

Winter Olympics in China

Elsewhere in Olympic news, Shanghaiist reports that China wants the Winter Olympics, but doesn’t mention a city. You heard it here first: Harbin will get it. The city has made an effort once before, but not a serious one, and last year it played host to the Winter Universiade, an international college athletic competition many felt was a sure sign the city was trying to prove that it can pull off a major international event. Just as Beijing did in the summer, Harbin pulled out all the stops, restricting traffic and creating special lanes on major roads in preparation for the event, and shutting down bars and clubs to keep the city from looking bad (read: drunk). Since everything went according to plan, the stage is very much set for a Harbin Winter Olympic bid.

Harbin is the obvious choice for the Winter games in China anyway, as the city is deeply associated with winter. It is nicknamed “Ice City” in Chinese, and is most famous for its spectacular Snow and Ice Festival, during which massive lighted ice sculptures dominate all the city’s major parks. Holding the Winter Olympics there could be a tourist bonanza for China, as the international crowds would undoubtedly also be drawn to the ice sculpture parks and the area’s many ski resorts.

(Full disclosure: I lived and studied in Harbin for over a year, and consider it to be one of the best cities in China, so I may not be entirely objective in my assessment of its merits).

0 thoughts on “(One) Legacy of the Beijing Olympics”

  1. If China succeeds in getting the Olympics again any time soon, then I agree that Harbin would be the logical choice for the winter Olympics. But considering all the PR scandals (read: gymnasts, controversies over individual events, torch relay blockages, internet blockages, publication of hans dressing as minorities, publication of mistreatment of migrant workers), I don’t think we’ll be seeing another Olympics in China at least within the next 10 years.


  2. I don’t know how seriously China would bid to host the Winter Olympics, although their recent success in Vancouver may inspire some new interest in the idea. However, if they did, Harbin would be a logical location, and you can be sure China would put on a good show!

    They’ve had the Olympics, they’ve got the World Expo – aside from the FIFA World Cup, what else is there? Winter Olympics could be the next logical big event.


  3. I’m not so sure that China will be awarded the Winter Olympics any time soon. Until the PRC full frees its citizens to the free access of information, China doesn’t deserve it.

    So who “deserves” the Olympics, people who invade Iraq and kill 600,000-1,200,000 people?

    IMO we should just host all Olympics in Iceland in the Winter, and then Thailand in the Summer because they’re the only nations that “deserve” it.


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