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Point of View: China as Olympic host is a plus for everyone

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The eight-year wait was finally rewarded with good fruit. Chinese people all over the world were mad with joy over the selection on July 13 of Beijing as the site of the 2008 Olympic Games. In 1993, China lost its bid by one vote to host the 2000 Olympics.

The New York-based Chinese-language newspapers handed out extras that day in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, telling the Chinese communities about the history-making news. Two days later, New York’s Chinatown celebrated the occasion with a pageantry featuring lion and dragon performances.

Beijing celebrated its victory over Toronto, Osaka, Paris and Istanbul with fanfare. Right after the announcement of the International Olympic Committee decision, Beijing set off fireworks that lighted up the night sky over that capital city of China as thousands of jubilant, flag-waving people poured into the streets. No other nation would show so much ebullience toward such an event. China received 56 IOC votes out of 105 on the second round of a secret ballot in Moscow. Toronto got 22 votes, Paris 18 and Istanbul 9.

The triumph thrusts China into the long-cherished center stage of the world sports arena — China will now open up further to the outside world. It will benefit both the Asian giant and the world as a whole economically. China is a country of 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of the world population, and it has a land about 92,000 square miles larger than the United States plus Alaska and Hawaii. Even Dalai Lama, Tibet’s religious leader in exile, said Beijing should be chosen to host the 2008 Olympics. According to a survey, 95 percent of the Chinese support the bid.

Since 1984, when Chinese athletes first competed in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, China has captured more gold medals than expected. Its gymnasts impressed American viewers. I think the IOC members made the right decision to give China a chance to play the host. It definitely will speed up the social and economic reforms of the world’s most populous country.

It is interesting to note that after Beijing’s victory, a Taiwan poll showed 50 percent of the Chinese on that island favored reunification with China.

According to a USA Today-CNN poll, 56 percent Americans wanted Toronto to be the site of the 2008 Olympics; only 6 percent backed Beijing. Ironically, China’s win has boosted New York’s chances to host the Olympics in 2012 — had Toronto won its bid, the Big Apple would have had no chance in 2012 because IOC rules bar the Games from being held within 20 years in the same region of the world.

Human-rights activists and congressional critics deplored IOC’s choice of Beijing. However, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia and Pacific panel, saw some value in the choice of Beijing, saying it gives China an enormous opportunity to change world perception and make some significant reforms because more than ever, the world will be watching.

I had a very negative view about China before taking a five-week sightseeing trip last November to several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. The current situation in China is a far cry from the Mao era tainted by the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. That tumultuous period tarnished China’s image as a civilized society. However, China has made tremendous improvements in almost every aspect after its “ping-pong diplomacy” and the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with the United States in 1972.

During my trip, I noticed China was changing, and changing for the better. Construction projects were pulsing through the country. I was told thousands of foreign corporations — about 4,000 of them American — branched out in China.

Shanghai has emerged as a modern, capitalist city with little trace of communism. I am impressed with the cleanness of its subway and streets, as well as high-rise, European-style residential buildings with all modern facilities, like the built-in TV intercom for security and a broadband system for the computer. They are luxurious by American standards. Of course, not every citizen can afford to buy one. To many tourists, Shanghai is a paradise for those interested in trendy things, especially clothing, with good quality at low price.

By the end of the year, China likely will become a member of the World Trade Organization and certainly will attract more foreign corporations to get a slice of its market pie.

The 2008 Olympics is still seven years away, but Beijing and its citizens have already begun to beautify the city as a green metropolis.

For the first Olympics in China, I think, the Chinese government and people will make this event the best ever.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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