Date of this Version
August 5, 2008 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
Only a short six-hour ride on board the shiny new bullet trains moving at 230km per hour from Beijing, the formerly sleepy port city of Qingdao will be host to the Olympic sailing events for 2008. As a sport with relatively high costs and requiring access to the ocean or at least large lakes, sailing is not a popular sport in China but is emerging as a favorite of the newly rich. In Qingdao and Beijing the influence of class has fundamentally affected government planning and China’s Olympic development. Rather than bring investment and tourism into poor or less developed areas, most Olympic venues in both Beijing and Qingdao are concentrated in the wealthier parts of town. Post-2008 the incredible facilities built at great expense will likely remain as isolated from ordinary citizens as during the Olympics itself.
As a former German colony from 1898-1914 Qingdao is justly famous for its European-style architecture with tree lined streets and stone buildings. Over the past twenty years, new development has seen investment pouring into Qingdao as it became the ideal commercial center for easy access to the Shandong countryside. North of the old city, glittering skyscrapers housing the main Chinese banks and luxury highrises line the shore heading to the Olympic event center. The Qingdao Olympic sailing center has become the focal point of a large development plan which features luxury apartments, shopping malls featuring Gucci, Prada and Cartier, along with dozens of seaside villas. After the Olympics, its grounds can be recast as a luxury hotel and the boat landing into a marina for local private sailboats and speedboats.