Olympics 2008 for Beijing

Published : Jul 21, 2001 00:00 IST

IT was poetic justice. Beijing, which had been the hot favourite to host the 2000 Olympics, was pipped at the post by Sydney. Issues unrelated to sports had cropped up at that time. Sensational revelations a few years ago showed that financial and other inducements have played a big part in deciding the venues of both Winter and Summer Olympics. China lost the bid for the 2000 Olympics by just two votes. Australian sports officials later admitted that delegates from Kenya and Uganda were offered $35,000 each the night before the voting.

This time too there was hectic lobbying, but apparently money did not change hands owing to the intense media scrutiny. Interested parties had launched a propaganda blitz in a belated attempt to deny Beijing the honour of holding the prestigious event in 2008. In the forefront of the campaign were Tibetan exile groups, and other Chinese dissident groups and religious cults such as the Falun Gong.

The bogey of human rights violations was highlighted in Western media reports and in advertisements in leading newspapers and magazines. There was considerable pressure on the Bush administration to come out openly against Beijing's Olympic bid, especially after the spy plane imbroglio involving the United States and China. After mulling over the issue for some time, the Bush administration opted for a conciliatory stance. American big business does not want to anger China. Anyway, the U.S. administration realised that Beijing was the overwhelming favourite and there was precious little it could do to change the odds. Officially the Bush administration was neutral. However, there were many U.S. Olympic officials who openly supported Beijing's bid. Mike Romney, chief organiser of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, said that China deserved to hold the Olympics at this "very unique time in history" when the superpowers were at peace. "The Olympics are about building bridges, not walls," he said.

Beijing's victory was announced by the outgoing President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch in Moscow on July 13. Beijing won the bid to hold the Games in the second round itself. Among the other cities vying for the Games were Toronto, Paris, Osaka and Istanbul. One hundred and nineteen delegates from all over the world had exercised their votes. Toronto and Paris had expended a lot of energy and resources to turn the tide. Chinese Olympic officials had dealt honestly with questions relating to human rights and related issues in their country. Beijing has been preparing for the Olympics for a decade and a half.

John Cherian
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