ONE WORLD  – ONE DREAM

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are remembered not just for its technical and organisational brilliance but also when for a fleeting heartbeat of human history, people of the world peacefully celebrated the gift of human achievement.

The Bird’s Nest was designed by Pritzker Prize winning architects, Herzog & de Meuron
in partnership with ArupSport and China Architecture Design & Research Group.
Ai Weiwei, a Chinese designer was recruited to consult on the project.

Mr Rick Wong (The Asian Executive) with Madam Wang, Director of Media and Communications for BOCOG.

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are remembered not just for its technical and organisational brilliance but also when for a fleeting heartbeat of human history, people of the world peacefully celebrated the gift of human achievement.

We can all think wistfully about 2020 and the lost opportunity that sadly occurred for Tokyo not to be able to host the Olympic games in an extraordinary year overshadowed by a global pandemic. Mindful that each Olympic era has brought with its own challenges and triumphs, it seems but a distant memory that it was China’s capital, Beijing’s turn to receive the world’s attention in 2008.

 

In that period, a generation of overseas Chinese rejoiced the coming of the auspicious occasion not only for the grand spectacle that it would bring but the tacit symbolism of China’s coming-of-age as a matured world power.

The Asian Executive toured the Beijing Games facilities in 2008 with an official Australian delegation and was astounded by the technical brilliance and scale of all the infrastructure ready for the biggest show on Earth.

The Asian Executive was also invited to interview the then director of the BOCOG Media and Communications for the Beijing Olympic Games Madam Wang Hui in Beijing about the Beijing Games and the prevailing concerns of the times. In the spirit of what would have been a magnificent Olympic year this year, we reproduce an edited version of a fascinating interview.

Nationalistic pride as China comes of age as a world economic power

Mr Jaques Rogge, 8th President of the International Olympic Committee (left) with Mr Liu Qi, President of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG)

Interview with Rick Wong and Madam Wang in Beijing

TAE: What message was sent to hundreds of millions of Overseas Chinese who watched with pride as their motherland hosted the most prestigious sporting event in the world?

WANG: I believe we honoured our commitment by hosting a successful Olympic games in Beijing. It was an excellent opportunity for us to display Chinese style, cultural splendour and contemporary spirits to the world. I think for us, Chinese people, both domestic and overseas, we came together as one people.

TAE: Much of the Western world knows Jackie Chan, who was a very visible face of the Beijing Games. What role did he play?

WANG: Jackie Chan was our Goodwill Ambassador during our bid to host the Games. He also visited Beijing to perform for the 100-day Olympic countdown celebration I support of the Games. After the tragedy of the Sichuan earthquake, movie stars like Jackie Chan and Andy Lau helped so many people. We felt humbled by their patriotic enthusiasm to do so willingly what they did to comfort and supported the affected people.

TAE: Yao Ming was a very high-profile figure for the Beijing Games and is a greatly admired sportsman in China. There was quite a bit of drama around the time leading up to the Games, I recall.

WANG: Liu Xiang and Yao Ming are the pride of our country. During the period leading up the Beijing Games, Yao Ming suffered a leg injury and we received many kind letters suggesting folk remedies which showed people’s care for him. Yao Ming is seen as our hero by showing to the world that a Chinese person can compete successfully with Americans at their own game. There will be many more Chinese like Yao Ming who will display their brilliance at the Beijing Games.

TAE: What are the main objectives for China in hosting the Beijing Games? Is it just to win gold medals?

WANG: Many people may think that China only wants to be number one for the medal tally for the 29th Olympic Games. This is simply not true. There are two points I wish to explain to your readers. Firstly, we know we are not the best in the world – this honour belongs to the US and Russia. Chinese teams

The pageantry of Imperial China on display

The Water Cube, designed by Australian architect firm PTW Architects, CSCEC International Design and Arup with structural Engineers Arup conceiving the structure.

cannot compete with these two countries. Secondly, our primary mission is to be a responsible organiser to help all athletes to perform at their best. It’s like a party where you host good food and a good venue to allow all guests to feel happy and contented. If all our athlete guests are happy, we are happy.

TAE: What measures has the organisers taken to cope with the massive influx of foreigners and local Chinesein and out of Beijing before and after the Beijing Games?

WANG: We estimate that there is around 600,000 to 800,000 people enter China at this time. The reality is that China is used to having five million foreigners visiting our country each year. Adding to this is the movement of Chinese around the country for our ‘golden’ holidays in May and October. We have excellent hotels, our traffic management systems are well-developed and infrastructure world-class. Our big challenge is ensuring we have sufficient language service providers to help foreigners. We put together 500,000 city volunteers and allocated 100,000 extra general volunteers to assist with our competition events.

TAE: The world media is obsessed about air pollution in China’s capital. We personally visited the Great Wall of China recently, and the sky was blue and it was easy to breathe. Can you comment on how important it was for the government to deal with this issue?

WANG: This is indeed an important issue. Negative media reports that air pollution in

Beijing have been exaggerated. Our government planned more than ten years ago to undertake the task of controlling air pollution. In 1998 there were only 100 days of blue sky in Beijing. Ten years later, we have 246 blue sky days. Beijing has done all it can. We either moved away or shut down high-polluting factories. We adopted tighter emissions rules on our cars. We set many strict emission regulations on construction projects. We planted more trees and created new forests to the sandy regions of Beijing and Inner Mongolia. During the Beijing Games, there are one million less cars on our roads and construction projects are halted.

TAE: As Director of Media and Communications for the Beijing Games, you obviously have detailed knowledge of all security arrangements. What kinds of issues are of greatest concerns to the government and its Games organisers?

WANG: We promised the world we would hold a peaceful Olympic Games. We all have families and worry about what might happen. We have closely studied the security preparations from previous Games and have prepared as best we can to confront terrorists and other potential hostile forces. We have contingencies to deal with nuclear, biological an chemical weapons. Our security forces are plentiful in areas such as Games venues, subways and all public venues. We have explained to the public that there is some inconvenience but everybody’s safety is our number one concern.

Specular fireworks were featured throughout the Opening Ceremony program

Beijing 2008

For those who visited Beijing in 2008 or even had a rarer opportunity to attend the Beijing Games, would have realised that they had been part of a something very special.

Over a decade of planning and construction, Beijing’s infrastructure had undergone such a metamorphosis in the way the city looked and functioned. A gleaming train subway system, orderly traffic, clear skies, temperate weather, lots of public signs in English and above all, local Chinese who were pleasantly friendly and helpful.

There was clearly a pride and confidence in a city which was tangible and palpable.

The extraordinary “Bird’s Nest” or National Stadium and “Water Cube “(National Aquatics Centre) had visitors admiring them from nearby overpasses and other vantage points. The Bird’s Nest hosted the main track and field competitions as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies Pritzker Prize winning architects, Herzog & de Meuron in partnership with ArupSport and China Architecture Design & Research Group won a 2002 international competition with this brilliant design. Ai Weiwei, a Chinese designer was recruited to consult on the project. With a seating capacity of 91,000, the stadium is a stunning set piece to the Games.

The Water Cube, just west of the Bird Nest within the socalled Olympic Green, looked striking at night with its blue luminance having being designed by Australian architect firm PTW Architects, CSCEC International Design and Arup with structural Engineers Arup conceiving the structure.

What has marked the new wave of construction is the underlying principles of energy conservation.

This is quite true of lesser known new facilities such as the National Conference Centre whose 60,000 square metre roof traps enough water to satisfying its needs for the landscaping and public amenities.

One aspect that drives home the support of the Beijing Games by its people has been the recruitment drive for volunteers. More than 800,000 people applied to be part-time Games volunteers and a further 920,000 applied for other general volunteer roles in the previous year.

Artistic Director, Zhang Yimou

Famous Chinese film director and chief director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Zhang Yimou said that “We did our best to capture the essence of China’s major contributions to the world – the printing press, gun powder, Chinese opera and martial arts.” To the four billion television viewing audience, the ceremonies were astonishing in the richness of detail and breadth of scale.

China invented fireworks and so, jaw-dropping fireworks played a role like a main character in a Hollywood film. Given China’s history of daring acrobatics, the army of performers who underwent relentless training for many months in an area called Daxing District, a quiet suburb of south of Beijing executed an international show-stopper like no other.