Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

Beijing, China, Summer 2008:
The Design Olympics

Going for gold: For Beijing, the Olympics is an ideal showcase for a society that is charging, seemingly unstoppably, into a position of worldwide power and influence. As a result, it has the potential to be one of the most successful Games ever. The effort will be expensive, but when you are attempting to turn a still rough-edged city into "a Chinese-style Manhattan," as one observer described it, an estimated infrastructure cost of $40 billion doesn't seem so unrealistic. In particular, the architecture created in the name of the 2008 Games is being hailed as cutting-edge, with the National Stadium, popularly called the "Bird's Nest" (pictured, designed by the Swiss firm of Herzog & de Meuron), likely to be long remembered as a symbol of a rising China.

Tourism legacy: Cleaner air (some say not clean enough), new roads, a new subway, and several dozen new luxury hotels, including the Opposite House, a 99-room boutique with an eye-catching emerald glass exterior (

Results: If the host cities received medals, Beijing could win gold, silver, or bronze, depending on whether unpredictable weather patterns blanket the city with pollution or pro-Tibet activists find a way to make their case heard. And there's also the chance that it will all collapse into chaos once the international spotlight has moved elsewhere.

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