Can neighbours learn
from mainland China?

Watching the marathon events on TV on the final day at the Asiad in Guangzhou was an eye opener in many respects. China is still a mystery to many of us.

By Moni Mathews (DEBATE)

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Published: Tue 30 Nov 2010, 9:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:29 AM

They have their own methods to solve their problems and the answers they have, with sheer hard work, tenacity and driven energy are astounding. There seems to be a direction in almost everything they do locally and abroad.

Guess it’s in their genes to be productive first rather than ask questions. It’s something Far East Asians have in their blood. Just see the end results. Each is an economic giant or is well on the way to achieving super power status in every respect thanks to their practical approach to life, right from the common man to the top executive.

In fact, every move of China is a lesson by itself. We tend to dispute the ‘state driven’ factor about the means to an end but we have to understand the issue in the context to a ‘developing’ nation. Today, the majority of the people in the mainland seem to be better off with the positive shift that is influencing the political ideology. The basics — food, shelter, education, clothing and security — are almost guaranteed, at least for the middle and lower middle income groups, which many of mainland China’s neighbours some of whom are ‘friendly’, some justifiably ‘suspicious’ and some voluntarily ‘submissive’, cannot even dream of.

Many may say it is all staged or used as a contraption for prestige and image building but what do we get in the end, a happy Games as well infrastructural development which has some meaning for the masses in general and not just confined to a handful of rich men and women who call the shots, in the developing nations elsewhere.

Though without much roadside cheering due to the lack of a marathon culture, the long distance (42.195km) road route at China’s second Asian Games after Beijing in 1990, was all spick and span with parks, trees and community playgrounds. There was a cycle path as well all along the route, something even the modern cities in the advanced world have come to achieve only in the past decade.

Guangzhou in southern China is the third largest city in the country and was formerly known as Canton or Kwangchow. It is located in southern China on the Pearl River, nearly 120km northwest of Hong Kong and is a key transportation hub and trading port.

A tendency in developing nations seems to be the obsession to portray only the capital city when it comes to mega events whether it be a Games or a Grand Prix event. There has to be a balance in the outlook to overall national development with a consideration for regional progress and China’s choice this time is justified.

In 2004, Guangzhou was awarded the right to host the Games.

The other likely aspirants for the host status, withdrew for various reasons just before the bidding and final presentation. Seoul pulled out after considering the short span of time between 2002 and 2010, because the South Koreans hosted the 2002 chapter in Busan. Kuala Lumpur, which seems to be the only city bidding for mega events in a sports loving nation, was forced to withdraw its bid after the Malaysian cabinet denied the move stating the high costs involved. Here, the Malaysians did right and were realistic about the pros and cons and the ongoing economic recession would have hit the exchequer hard.

It’s not that Guangzhou did not have it’s own share of problems no matter how much the government backed them.

A marketing spokesperson in an informal estimate in 2009 put the Games’ expenditure at about $500 million and revenue at $550 million and said the organisers were finding it a problem to identify the lead and support sponsors due to the global economic downslide.

In October this year, the mayor officially said at a media gathering that the total cost of staging the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games would be about $17 billion, of which more than 80 per cent was for infrastructure, and nearly 10 per cent each on the venues and the Games’ operations.

The initial total budget estimated by the Indian Olympic Association in 2003 for the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG) in New Delhi was $364.5 million but escalated official estimation late in 2010 shot up to $2.6 billion, which excluded non-sports-related infrastructure development in the city such as airports, city beautification and roads.

A leading business magazine estimated that the CWG cost the tax-payers $6.8 billion. The 2010 CWG has been the most expensive Gaming event ever, for a loosely set of norms and a virtually non-existent and non-performing identity called the Commonwealth, unlike what the Olympics or the Asian Games stands for.

Moni Mathews is a senior reporter with Khaleej Times

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