What is going to happen to Beijing's economy after the 2008 Olympic Games? How to take advantage of the many Olympic venues after the competitions are over? Will Beijing have to pay a lot for their post-Games maintenance? Though it is still two years to go before the Games, Chinese scholars are already studying the post-Games issues. The following is a translation of an interview between Chen Jian, deputy president of the Beijing Olympic Economy Research Association, and the Chinese newspaper Guangming Daily.
The post-Olympic issue is a universal headache faced by almost all host cities. What do the post-Olympic risks include?
There are generally two sides to the issue. One is called the rock-bottom effect, the other is the utilization of Olympic venues after the Games.
During the preparations for the Olympic Games, investment usually surges dramatically due to the mass construction of Olympic venues and urban infrastructural facilities. For instance, Beijing is expected to invest more than 180 billion yuan (US$22.5 billion) in the construction of infrastructure during its preparations for the Games. However, when the Games comes to an end, such investments will decline considerably. If the city fails to take precautions ahead, its economy might suffer a low growth rate or even slow to a standstill, which would do harm to the city's economic development in the long term. The rock-bottom effect takes place because economic growth is pulled back by the drop in investment.
And how to use the Olympic venues after the Games is another hard nut to crack. Beijing has been building a number of new sports venues for the Games. However, these venues would be left idle after 2008 if we do not think of how to use them ahead. The annual maintenance fees alone would be a huge financial burden to the host city.
Do you have any suggestions on how Beijing could avoid such a scenario?
From my point of view, city planners should readjust the urban development plan. Now, most of the Olympic venues and related facilities are located in the northern part of the city. The municipal government should take administrative and economic measures to encourage private capital to be invested in the southern part and the outskirts of the city, in order to avoid too much concentration of investment in the downtown area.
And the city leaders should consider how to arrange the fixed asset investment in a more balanced way so as to prevent a sharp decline of investment after the Games. For instance, the city could postpone some projects that are not urgent and have little connection with the Games, and then launch them after 2008.
Are there any good experiences of ex-host cities in the utilization of Olympic venues in the post-Olympic period?
We can draw on the experience of Athens in this regard. During the design and construction of a sports venue, the city did not take the venues alone into consideration, but rather combined them with the development of surrounding areas, so that the venues could better serve the local community after the Games. And all the Olympic venues have different applications, so that they would not compete with one another. Moreover, the Athens government invited private investors to be involved in the management and operation of the venues, and it is also a good way of reducing post-Olympic risks.
Apart from Athens, we can also learn from Seoul, which was one of the host cites of the World Cup 2002. The designer of the Seoul Stadium took the post-tournament utilization into consideration first and built the stadium into a multi-functional one. Now the stadium can host not only football matches, but also baseball games and large-scale performances. The stadium also has auxiliary buildings such as a movie centre, a shopping mall and a swimming pool. Due to its multi-purpose functions, it can earn US$1 million for the Seoul city government every month.
What can we do to reduce risks of limited post-Games use of our Olympic venues?
First, we should take full consideration of how the venues could serve the public in the long run during the design. And the city has cut off some projects and plans to use more temporary buildings and facilities, which can reduce some risks.
Second, the government should encourage more private capital in the construction and management of Olympic venues. I'm glad to see that private capital is more than half of the total investment in the venue construction.
Third, the designers should equip the venues with various functions, which may increase their post-Games utility. For instance, in the central Olympic area in northern Beijing, there are not only sports arenas like the National Stadium and the National Aquatic Centre, but also shopping malls, exhibition halls, hotels and many other auxiliary buildings, which are good for post-Games use.
Last but not the least, proper management and operation mechanisms are of great importance. At present, many comprehensive sports venues in China are rented separately to different individuals and companies. This situation hampers the full use of the venues and brings many inconveniences to customers. We should introduce professional management companies and integrate all the resources of sports venues. This may reduce costs and lengthen the usage period of each venue.
Source: China Daily