The List: Five Ways Beijing Will Be the Biggest, Baddest Olympics Ever
From massive construction budgets to an unprecedented security lockdown, the Beijing Games are already Olympian in proportion.
China Photos/Getty Images
China Photos/Getty Images
A Bigger Budget
The numbers: At least $40 billion total, including $35 billion for new roads and subway lines, $1.8 billion for venue construction and renovation, and a $2 billion operating budget
Behind the numbers: At roughly 2.5 times what Greece spent on the 2004 Athens Games, Chinas spending spree is far and away the biggest in Olympic history. Transportation carries the largest price tag. Beijing built a 14-million-square-foot terminal for its airport (one of the worlds largest enclosed spaces, according to The Wall Street Journal), along with 34 new bus routes and five new subway lines, one of which cost nearly $2 billion. Overall, construction has required 3 million tons of steel, including 110,000 tons for the $486 million birds nest national stadium alone.
YUI MOK/AFP/Getty Images
A Longer Torch Route
The numbers: 137,000 km (85,100 miles), 130 days, 20,000 torchbearers
Behind the numbers: Officially dubbed the Journey of Harmony, the 2008 Olympic torch relay has been anything but harmonious. Marred by protests and counterprotests, and labeled a crisis even by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, the torch relay has been a microcosm for the broader controversy surrounding the Beijing Games. Groups supporting autonomy for Tibet received most of the attention, but a variety of activists decrying Chinas stance on democracy and promoting press freedom, Taiwanese nationalism, and a range of human rights causes made their voices heard. But although politics shortened the relay in some places (San Francisco) and torpedoed it in others (Taiwan), the torch relay did have some things going for it. Chinas Olympic torch traveled the longest distance and included the greatest number of torchbearers since the tradition began in 1936 under Adolf Hitler.
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
More Media Coverage
The numbers: 4 billion TV viewers, 3,600 hours of coverage in the United States
Behind the numbers: Aside from the timeless spectacle of international sport, interest in Chinas rise and the controversy off the field make this years games must-see TV. Chinese media project a record 4 billion viewers will tune in throughout the 17-day games, which will be entirely produced and broadcast in HDTV for the first time. In the United States, NBC Universal plans to shoot more than 3,600 hours of coverage on its networkstripling its previous high of 1,210 hours in Athens. After making limited amounts of coverage available in previous years on its Web site, NBC will provide 2,200 hours of streaming video online and will use the Olympics as a billion-dollar research lab to measure how viewers use different media platforms, according to the Associated Press. More than 20,000 accredited media will cover the Olympics for outlets worldwide, but they arent all happy about it: Journalists are already complaining that China has broken its word to allow the same media freedoms as previous Olympics.
China Photos/Getty Images
The numbers: 1.5 million volunteers from a pool of more than 2 million applicants
Behind the numbers: Brimming with national pride and eager to show off their country to the world, Chinese people have been stricken with Olympic fever. Some 400,000 were selected to serve as city volunteers across Beijing, mostly helping foreign tourists navigate the language barrier. Others will help visitors cross busy streets and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. About 100,000 games-time volunteers will serve the Olympic and Paralympic games themselves, an increase over the previous record of 60,000 for the Athens Games. Some 400 have been rigorously training for weeks as cheerleaders, supporting whatever team that needs it, while another 400 have been practicing poise and posture for their role as medal presenters. The volunteers also have their own theme song, I Am a Star.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
The numbers: $6.5 billion for Beijing, $300 million for Olympic venues, 1 million video cameras, 100,000 antiterrorism squad members
Behind the numbers: The Olympics are often a prime target for radical groups seeking attention while the entire world is focused on a single event. Ever since the terror of Munich 72 and the Atlanta bombing in 1996, the threat of security breaches has been keeping Olympic organizers up at night. China, in an effort to ensure a perfect Olympics, has made Beijing the most protected city in the history of the games. (Security cost only $1.5 billion for the Athens Games and $1.4 billion for the 2006 Turin Games.) Along with Uighur militants from Xinjiang and Tibetan freedom advocates, the government has cracked down on activists, beggars, prostitutes, and stray animalsall of which threaten Beijings desire to project a modern image during the games. The security measures will include biometric keys (fingerprinting and iris scanning) for sensitive areas, Segway-riding antiterrorist bomb squads, and extensive video surveillance, according to the Virginia-based Security Industry Association. Activists worry that once the athletes and spectators depart, this massive new security apparatus will be used to monitor rights advocates and political dissidents with even greater sophistication than before.
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