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banner Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Beijing: a personal view
BBC World Service Sports Correspondent Harry Peart visits the five bidding cities
BBC World Service Sports Correspondent Harry Peart's reflects on Beijing's bid after his visit to China.

It is 11 years since I was last in Beijing, and the speed of change has been stunning.

Rows of towering office blocks and underground shopping malls have been created, transforming a city which a decade ago had streets packed with cyclists.

Their numbers have diminished, and in all my time there I saw only one old man in a Mao jacket.

The Bid Committee has also changed since the huge disappointment 11 years ago when Sydney pipped them to the 2000 post.

In 1990 the population had enormous expectations of success - people in the street asked you about the city's chances of winning.

A Chinese girl during an official visit
Chinese children will be future sporting stars

This time there was a more measured and professional approach to the serious problem of staging a Games.

Although the Bid Committee would have liked visits by IOC members to see what changes have been made in China over the past few years, the problem would have been that there is little to see.

At their headquarters there are plans, photographs and models, but on the ground there are few tangible Olympic assets.

From the heights of the Trade Centre, the proposed Olympic Park was pointed out, linked by the new eight-lane Olympic Boulevard which is approaching completion.

Some of the venues are left-overs from the successful 1990 Asian Games.

The accepted wisdom is that the Games are theirs to lose

Then they looked state-of-the-art; now the once revolutionary designs look dated.

But there is nothing backward looking about China's desire for sporting success.

At the Sydney Games it finished third in the medal table, and on a trip to an elite school it was not difficult to see the reason why.

In the swimming pool, tiny eight-year-olds performed breathtaking, complex dives that would have won the national championships in many countries.

We saw the elf-like gymnastics stars of the future, and in one huge hall the noise was deafening from youngsters practising on 20 table tennis tables.

Quiet confidence

The Evaluation Commission has taken Beijing's ability to mount a huge capital expenditure programme on trust and it obviously feels confident about the city's ability to mobilise its huge resources.

Mindful of Beijing's reputation as a highly polluted city, a major investment programme has started to clean up the city's air, and plant trees on every piece of spare land.

Sitting in the restaurant where the famous Peking Duck was invented, there was a quiet confidence surrounding the Bid organisers.

The accepted wisdom was that the Games were theirs to lose, and that any mistakes could prove fatal but their fears were allayed when they got the thumbs up to hold the 2008 Games on 13 July.

They were frustrated that they had not been able to advertise enough the extent of reform and liberalisation in China but again, they neen't have worried.

The glamour of Beijing was clearly enough for the IOC.

Now, the marketing and television companies can start drooling at the use which can be made of the historic Forbidden City where the Three Tenors recently sang to promote the bid.

The Beijing bid | Clickable cities guide

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See also:

25 Jun 01 |  The Bids
China's long march to acceptance
22 Mar 01 |  The Bids
Painting over the cracks
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