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And the winner is ... Beijing

By Spiros Tzelepis, Greece (text) & Michel Filliau, France (photos) - guest contributor

"...It is a victory for Beijing. It is a victory for China, and it is a victory for the Olympic spirit..." These words come from the Beijing 2008 official website, in particular from the document announcing the Chinese victory in the struggle to be the host city of the XXIX Olympiad in 2008.

On 13 July 2001 at the 112th IOC Session in Moscow, the 122 members of the International Olympic Committee elected the host city for the 2008 Olympics. The candidate cities were Toronto, Beijing, Osaka, Istanbul and Paris. Of course the competition was fierce as always in the particular election. The Olympics represents a major international sports event and a single glance at the economic dimension of the organization is enough to realize why so much is spent on trying to become a host city. The construction of infrastructure of all kinds, not only sports courts but also roads, airports and whatever one can imagine results in economic growth and boosts the local and international economy. Governments find a solution to absorb at least some of the unemployed while companies are kept viable. Tourism is boosted since millions of people come to watch the Games while the successful organization of the event is a great advertisement for the host city around the world which will attract tourists from all over the world. The gains for a country are also conspicuous in the long run: even when the Olympics are over, the host city will be left with expensive infrastructure that will help in its future course since it will improve the residents' quality of life.

Sponsors spend a lot of money on the event, and advertising firms make great profit out of this. Moreover, the transmission on television of the events is a multi-million dollar business since billions of viewers around the world watch the Olympics. Last but not least, being chosen to organize such an important event both from an athletic and from an economic point of view, is a great honour for a country, recognition by the wider international community. This quote is from Beijing 2008 website: "...The competition to host the Games is one featuring comprehensive national strength, economic potential, technological power and cultural charm. It is a competition for national image and status. Winning the host right means winning the respect, trust and favor of the international community..." demonstrates clearly the importance of the Olympics.

In this election procedure, the unquestionable favourite was Beijing. The widespread public support which reached 96% according to the IOC poll among city dwellers, the financial support by the Chinese government and the personal assurances of support given by the president of China and the mayor of Beijing portray the decision of China to host the 2008 Olympics. Furthermore, corporations, investors and businesses from the West understood that the XXIX Olympiad represented a major financial boon if it took place in Beijing. Companies would cheer in the prospect of expanding to the Chinese market of 1,3 billion people and the Olympics gives them this possibility. A lot of foreign investments will be addressed to China in the prospect of generating profit from this large and almost intact market.

Thus the decision of the IOC opened a great scope for the development of financial activity while it also assures the successful organization of the Olympiad since the Chinese are committed to organizing "the best Olympic Games in history".

But in my opinion, there is also another possibility: the Olympics will help in the cultural bridging of the Eastern and Western civilizations. We will get to know the Chinese more while they will get to know us. And I believe that regardless of financial and other profits, the contribution of the 2008 Olympics to the bridging of the two worlds will be important.

The only thing remaining now is to hope that in 2008 we will be able to watch a successful Olympiad in Beijing, beneficial both for China and the international community justifying this way the choice of the IOC. Until then, let's turn our eyes to Athens, Greece where the games hopefully will be hosted successfully in 2004.

**The IOC meeting in Moscow also elected the new IOC president who is Jacques Rogge. Here is one of the first photos of the newly elected president with his wife:

All photos by Michel Filliau

Info on the election procedure from the IOC website and the Beijing 2008 website

I would like to thank especially Mr. Michel Filliau from the International Olympic Committee, father of my good friend Martin, who is always supportive providing material we wouldn't be able to have otherwise. - S. Tzelepis

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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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