Beijing 2008: focus on the Olympic Games and employment
As the Games of the XXIX Olympiad finally got under way last Friday with the spectacular Opening Ceremony in Beijing, an expected global audience of hundred of millions of TV viewers will watch competitors strive for Olympic glory over the next 12 days. They will see a city transformed by the Games – and not only in the showpiece competition venues. The “Olympic Factor” is more than just skin-deep cosmetics; it has resulted in a huge boost to the city’s economy.
Beijing residents benefiting from Olympic Games
Experts estimate the Games will have brought an extra 105.5 billion yuan (USD 13.4 billion) to Beijing’s GDP between 2004 and 2008. The city’s economy grew at an annual rate of 12.2 per cent between 2001, when Beijing was awarded the Games, and 2006. Over the same period, Beijing’s per capita GDP more than doubled to USD 6,300, while the average annual wage for Beijing city workers rose from 20,962 yuan (about USD 3,050) in 2001 to 40,117 yuan (about USD 5,840) in 2006 – an increase of almost 110 per cent, and an annual rise of 15.7 per cent in real terms after inflation is factored in.
Nearly two million news jobs created
A wide cross-section of Beijing’s commercial sectors has benefited from the Olympic Games, none more so than the construction industry. Major building projects have resulted in the creation of an extra 430,000 jobs in the sector between 2004 and 2008, while the retail and wholesale industries will have gained 130,000 new jobs. Other sectors to have gained include finance and insurance, the IT industry and communications. Cumulatively, the Games will have resulted in the creation of 1.8 million new jobs across all sectors, more than 370,000 of them this year.
Growing service sector will counteract post-Olympic lull
The Olympic factor is also boosting Beijing’s service sector and that of China as a whole. In the past, Beijing’s tertiary sector has lagged behind that of cities in developed countries, which are typically around 80 per cent. But it has been growing strongly and is forecast to reach 70 per cent in 2008. That growth will help to offset any post-Olympic slowdown in China’s economy, something every host city and nation goes through in the immediate aftermath.
Beijing Games help lift the international language barrier
One side effect of hosting the Games has been the take-up of foreign languages by Beijing residents – a boon for their future career prospects as China integrates even more closely with the rest of the world. A city-wide campaign over the past five years has encouraged inhabitants to learn and speak English and other languages. More than one million people have taken lessons and training courses, while the city has also encouraged taxi and bus drivers, shop assistants and post office workers to improve their language skills. Officials say nearly five million Beijing residents can now speak English to some degree, representing about 35 per cent of the population. With an estimated 30 million people overseas learning Chinese, the Beijing Games have served to break down international barriers.