The Olympic Games are coming to a close in Beijing, with hundreds of
medals awarded and dozens of world records broken. While sports experts
tally the statistics, political analysts are studying the legacy of the
Games for China and its people. VOA's Scott Bobb spoke to some of them
and filed this report from Beijing.
The opening ceremonies dazzled, as did the innovative stadium designs and a new underground train.
Praise was high for the Chinese government, which spent an estimated $45 billion preparing for these Olympic Games.
head of the United Nations in China, Khalid Malik, says hosting the
Games was a major achievement for the leaders of a developing nation
"They managed to focus their attention on big
picture items," he said. "The whole of Beijing infrastructure has been
upgraded by [from] these bus routes, to underground [train] links, to
just how the city looks. I think all these are enduring legacies for
Shi Yin Hong, American studies director at People's
University in Beijing, says the heritage of the Beijing Olympics will
be the draconian anti-pollution measures that brought clearer skies and
the best air quality in 10 years.
He says the greatest
heritage of the Olympics will be the heightened awareness by people and
the government of the importance to society of a cleaner sky and easier
For others, hopes that the Games would open up Chinese society went unfulfilled.
journalists were allowed to report more freely, but still faced
restrictions on certain subjects. Some Internet sites remained blocked,
despite a pledge by authorities to allow full and free access.
government designated special protest areas during the Olympics, but
none of the 77 requests to demonstrate were approved, and some of the
people who applied reportedly were detained.
activists say the Games actually increased repression against political
dissidents, some ethnic groups and some religious organizations.
Authorities also destroyed some people's homes and expelled migrant
workers, beggars and the homeless from Beijing in preparation for the
Power, prestige showcase
The author of a book on the Olympics, David Wallechensky, says he never expected the Olympics to change China.
a one-party communist dictatorship. In addition, their economy doesn't
need any help," he said. "They don't need to show off to the world.
They don't have to open up to the world [economically]. They're already
there. And, so, the idea that the Olympics was going to be some coming
out party for China, I just never bought [accepted] that argument."
He says the Chinese government used the Olympics to promote its power and prestige.
program director for the U.S.-based Asia Society, Jaime Metzl, says
China's one-party government used the Games to bolster its legitimacy.
legitimacy of the government comes from its being able to deliver
certain things, whether it's delivering economic growth or it's
delivering the symbol of these Olympics that China can do something,
not only at the world level, but above the world level," he said.
head of Asia Studies at Washington's Georgetown University, Victor Cha,
says the Chinese leadership has no long-term interest in allowing rapid
and complete liberalization. But, he says, pressure to do so will
continue, even after the Olympic torch is extinguished.
the Olympics do is, it forces the leadership to make small steps that
are very uncharacteristic for the leadership," said Cha. "And these
incremental steps have an aggregate [cumulative] effect in the end."
U.N. official Khalid Malik says the Olympics will leave a mark.
biggest legacy is the legacy of reducing poverty, of improving the
lives of people, of all Chinese being able to choose the place they can
live in, the work space they can occupy," he said. "I think, the
Olympics were a means to furthering that end and to do it bigger and
Metzl of the Asia Society says it will be years before the full effect of the Chinese Olympics is understood.
will not be the same place after the Olympics," he said. "It is
impossible to understate what it's going to mean to the Chinese people
to win the gold medal count, especially given 150 years of feelings of
humiliation and even inferiority."
Experts say, as a result,
China in the future will show more self-assurance on the world stage,
whether in sports, commerce or international politics.