Beijing Offers Low Key Olympics Anniversary

(ATR) There won’t be fireworks on this first anniversary of the Beijing Olympics, but the Bird’s Nest Stadium will be filled tonight with cheering sports fans for the first time since 2008. ATR’s Ed Hula reports from Beijing.

New Inter Milan star Samuel Eto’o in training at the Bird’s Nest stadium. (Getty Images)One Year Ago Today

Unlike August 8 a year ago, the day is much more ordinary in Beijing in 2009. Traffic is down, security cordons have gone and a morning thunderstorm will keep the heat from building to the 34c mark that baked the opening ceremony.

Beginning this year, Aug. 8 is to be known as Sport for All Day. While there doesn’t seem to be much awareness of the new purpose of the date, thousands of Beijingers were supposed to take part in mass exercises at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in the morning.

Saturday evening, the 80,000 seat stadium will be partially filled with spectators for the Super Cup match between Inter and Lazio, scheduled more than a year ago for this date. It’s the first sporting event in the arena since the Paralympics in September.

About 60,000 tickets are to be sold for the match.

IOC Gives Beijing Top Marks

Leaders of IOC preparations for the 2008 Olympics offer praise for organizing the Beijing Olympics – and steer clear of controversies – during speeches Friday at a forum in Beijing reviewing the impact of the Beijing Olympics.

The Beijing Olympic City Development Forum, held at a hotel on the Olympic Green in northern Beijing, attracted a couple of hundred attendees and panels of experts on the Games from Beijing government agencies as well as the IOC.

IOC Marketing Chairman Gerhard Heiberg used his remarks to praise the legacy in transport, sport, economics, learned from his days leading the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer.

“Lillehammer might not seem to have a lot in common with Beijing. The population is about 25,000. Beijing’s population is upwards of 17 million,” he told the forum.

“But the people of Lillehammer know what is like to catch the Olympic spirit, and to feel the excitement and exhilaration of hosting the Games.

“Every host city leaves its mark on the Games, and the Games leave a mark on every host city. Some of the positive impacts ¬— the competition venues, improved transportation and other infrastructure — are easy to see. Others are less tangible or become evident only with the passage of time.”

Heiberg also said sports marketing and management had come of age in China through the Olympics, making the country even more ready to host major events.

Hein Verbruggen, the former IOC member who chaired the Coordination Commission for Beijing, applauded the social legacy of the Games, citing what’s happening in the schools as the “strongest” example.

“The Heart-to-Heart Partnership program, a joint effort IOC members Gerhard Heiberg (l), and Kevan Gosper at the Beijing Olympics forum Friday. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix) by BOCOG and the Ministry of Education of China, has allowed more than 400 million children in 400,000 Chinese schools to learn about Olympic history and values,” he said.

Senior Australia IOC member Kevan Gosper complimented the management stability of BOCOG and the “excellence” of BOCOG’s communications with the public. Gosper served alongside Verbruggen as vice chair of the IOC Beijing commission

Was it all too high a gloss on Games that are also remembered for some controversy?

“I don’t think so,” Gosper told Around the Rings at the end of the forum Friday.

“I think that what the assessment shows is that the positive outcomes far outweigh any of the negative elements. You’ve got to judge Beijing from where it was when it was bidding to where it is now,” said Gosper.

Beijing Legacy Push

Nobody Zhang Haidi, chair of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)seems to mind much that the giant Bird’s Nest stadium and the Water Cube are tourist attractions – rather than sports venues. Many of the other 31 venues built for the Games have become part of university campuses. But the Olympic Village has yet to return to life as private market housing and the Water Cube could face a destiny as a shopping mall.

But a year after the Games, Beijing now has a public agency to deal with questions of legacy.

The Beijing Olympic City Development Association was formed this week. Mayor Guo Jinlong will serve as executive

chairman.

BOCOG President Liu Qi describes the association as a voluntary group, open to all government offices involved with legacy issues from the Beijing Olympics.

China Paralympics Chief Urges More Changes

The new chair of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation says the country needs to do much more to bring equal treatment under the law to the disabled.

Speaking at the forum Friday, Zhang Haidi expressed her happiness with the outcome of the Beijing Paralympics. She said the event last September has helped the cause of disabled Chinese like no other, a legacy that is leading to other changes.

“We need to complete the Chinese laws to completely recognize disabled people,” she says.

Zhang, who uses a wheelchair, but cannot legally drive, is the spokeswoman in a campaign to overturn that ban, which applies to a range of disabilities.

Some changes were made to the laws earlier this year, but not the driving ban.

“We are only now considering the right of disabled people to be able to drive,” she says.

Written by Ed Hula.