CHINA> Regional
Beijing skyline 'so impressive'
By Maggie Lee (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-08-12 08:07

ATLANTA: The new monuments on Beijing's skyline are so impressive that people watching the Olympics will think differently of China by the end of August, the co-chair of the 1996 Atlanta Games has said.

"The Bird's Nest has already revolutionized people's view of China," 75-year-old Andrew Young said.

He said he is particularly impressed with the new CCTV headquarters, which he likened to the Greek letter pi.

"Everyone that watches will be impressed. Their attitudes to China will change," the former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, said.

"(Beijing is) going through the same thing we went through.

"They (the press) tried to find everything we did wrong. They didn't know Atlanta well," he said, adding that negative coverage about heat and pollution continued for about a week into the Games.

But Atlanta was vindicated in the end with investments, he said.

The Games had a $5 billion economic impact on a metropolitan area that only recently reached the 5 million population mark, according to figures from the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The Bird's Nest "maybe the best stadium ever designed", Young said, adding that the "triumphs of Chinese architecture" come from an advantage that Atlanta did not enjoy: a large budget.

Young declined to predict which country would top the medals table, saying national flags are not an important part of the Games.

Frank Zhou, head of the Chinese Business Association of Atlanta and organizer of its Happy Olympics festival, echoed Young comments.

"The Olympics is not only a sports event, but a multinational festival," he said.

"Our intention is that different races and communities come together," he said.

The seven-hour Happy Olympics program of dance, martial arts performances and singing attracted nearly 50 percent more spectators than we expected, Zhou said.

The crowd was multiracial, but Chinese faces were the most numerous, he said.

"Chinese Americans we are proud of the Beijing Olympics. It's a 100-year-old dream," the naturalized American said.

Josephine Tan, chairwoman of the Asian American Commission for a New Georgia, said: "I think this is the most significant event in China for 20 years.

"This is an opportunity for China to tell the world it is ready to work with the global community."

Many of the booths at the Happy Olympics event reflected the already strong links between the local Chinese community and the mainland.

One exhibitor offered TV subscriptions to mainland Chinese channels; another sold baby clothes embroidered with the Olympic mascots.

Tan said a similar Olympic spirit characterized both the Atlanta and Beijing Games.

"Everybody has one thing in mind - to make the best Games of all time," she said.