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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Analysis: What it means for China
Students celebrating
The celebrations begin in Beijing
By Duncan Hewitt in Beijing

From officially staged firework displays to spontaneous cheering and hooting of car horns from the massive crowds who have brought the streets of Beijing to a near standstill, there is no doubting the genuine delight in China at the International Olympic Committee's decision.

Memories of 1993, when most people in the city were convinced Beijing had won the right to stage the 2000 games, only for it to lose out at the last minute to Sydney, were fresh in many minds.

But this time the city's far more professional bid - supported by everyone from troops of rollerblading schoolchildren to celebrities like film director Zhang Yimou and Hong Kong Kung Fu star Jackie Chan, clearly helped wipe away lingering doubts in the minds of many committee members.

Jiang Zemin
China's leader Jiang Zemin is delighted with the bid's success
The bid committee appears to have convinced many with the simple argument that China's time had come, and that what they said were the century-old Olympic dreams of a quarter of the world's population could no longer be denied.

Bid officials told IOC delegates in Moscow that staging the Olympics would help to narrow the distance between China and the outside world, and the country's media have suggested that success would demonstrate that China has come of age as a member of the international community.

And delight is perhaps greatest among members of China's sport-obsessed and increasingly internationally minded young generation - as well as among many citizens of Beijing for whom staging the Olympics may bring long awaited improvements in the city's creaking infrastructure.

State media have said as much as $30bn could be invested in the city's reconstruction - not just in creating an all-new Olympic district, but in basic services like sewers, subway lines and new roads.

Shares in Beijing-based construction and real estate companies saw their values rise significantly on China's stock markets earlier this week, ahead of the vote.

And there is excitement too in the country's tourism industry.

Human rights

Yet behind the jubilation the victory raises questions too - not least for many Beijing citizens who are likely to be forced to move out of their homes to make way for Olympic construction.

A few voices have also raised concerns about whether China can afford such massive investment when it still has more than 20 million people below its own, very low, poverty line. Others are worried about the potential for corruption amid such massive infrastructure spending.

Critics of the government and foreign human rights groups have warned that the Olympic games is the perfect 80th birthday present for a communist Chinese Government which they say has continued implementing repressive policies even as it bid for the games.

They point to the trial, scheduled for Saturday 14 July, of a Chinese-American citizen on charges of spying for Taiwan.

The Chinese authorities insist that the games will lead to improvements in the human rights situation.

Scrutiny

But amidst the euphoria in Beijing, the success of the Olympic bid will lead to some close scrutiny of whether China can live up to its promises - both of creating a better urban environment and of loosening social controls - and allowing what the Olympic bid committee said would be unfettered foreign media access to China both before and during the 2008 Olympics.

China's behaviour in the next few years will also be watched closely by the authorities in Taiwan - the island's leaders offered support to Beijing's bid - on the grounds that they said it would encourage the Chinese leadership to persue the Olympic ideal of peace.

China has refused to rule out the use of force if Taiwan, which it claims as its territory, takes any steps towards formal independence from the Chinese mainland.

Whether the new found confidence from winning the Olympics will encourage China's leaders to persue less dogmatic policies in other areas will be a key issue in the years to come.


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