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Olympic Preparation in Beijing

By Preston Price

    Visiting Beijing showed me that China is really geared up for the Olympics, and they seem to be using the fact they are the upcoming host as a tool for building the economy of the city.  One of the first advertisements that I saw when I got off of the plane was a big billboard that read “Beijing 08,” signifying the next Olympic year.  People everywhere in Beijing seemed to be geared up for an event that is two years away.  Everywhere I went within the city I saw loads of people selling “Beijing 08” merchandise.  The upcoming Olympics were being used not only to boost the national pride of China, but also to boost the economy by using it as a powerful marketing tool for tourism.  For instance right outside the hotel that I stayed in were about a dozen Chinese merchants trying to sell Olympic paraphernalia to all the passing tourists.   They were even so eager as to try to make eye contact with people inside their hotel rooms who just happened to be looking out the window. 

    The Chinese government played just as much of an active role in trying to use the Olympic theme to appeal to tourists as did the Beijing merchants.  When I went to Tiananmen Square I noticed numerous large statues of cartoon-like girls and guys doing various Olympic activities.  Being as colorful as they were and unique according to their surrounding environment, it seemed as if the statues were specifically aimed at catching the wandering tourist’s eyes at every opportunity.  I was fascinated by the fact that a place like Tiananmen Square, which has such a rich history of political conflict and turmoil, was now a landmark for advertising an international sporting event. 

    In Alan Smart’s article, “Participating in the Global:  Transnational Social Networks and Urban Anthropology,” he suggests that Hong Kong has developed vast social networks and links with parts of surrounding China.  As true as this may be, I expected to witness more marketing similarities between the two places.  I did not see one advertisement for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing during my brief stay in Hong Kong.  This serves to prove that although Hong Kong has connections with surrounding parts of China, the northern city of Beijing has much more of a cultural separation with Hong Kong.  This also leads me to conclude that Hong Kong may be more isolated from certain parts of China, such as Beijing, than I originally assumed.  However, the fact that the Olympics hold less reverence in Hong Kong in comparsison to Beijing could be because Beijing needs the Olympics in creating more of a global profile, possibly for economic growth purposes.  Whereas Hong Kong has an international reputation as having a booming economy with many transnational linkages
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