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Asian Olympics Greatly Spurs Regional Growth

Posted August. 20, 2008 07:32,   


China has spread its wings wide through the Beijing Summer Olympics.

The Chinese people as well as their communist government seem confident about their future, but forecasts are mixed about their country.

The Dong-A Ilbo conducted a comparison of the Beijing Games with the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and the 1988 edition in Seoul.

By the time the third Asian country hosted the Summer Olympics, they had a larger middle class and a stronger aspiration toward affluence. The three countries all jumped on the global stage through the Olympics.

Japan, however, is losing its momentum and Korea undergoing social changes. China’s 1.3 billion people are doing the unprecedented by combining economic growth with a socialist system.

Over the past 44 years between the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics, Asia’s status has greatly risen in the world. Hosting the Olympics helped the three Asian countries to show they were rising out of poverty and giving the region potential and momentum.

▽ Stepping stone to the world

In the Tokyo Olympics, Japan’s per capita income was 835 dollars, which would be worth 3,300 dollars today.

For Korea, the Bank of Korea says per capita income was 1,800 dollars in 1981, when Seoul was awarded the hosting bid, but that figure shot up to 4,000 dollars in 1988.

The average Chinese earned 2,400 dollars last year, but China`s economic volume is different from Korea and Japan. China is expected to become the third-largest economy this year after being fourth last year. By mid-century, the Middle Kingdom will be on par with the U.S. economy.

Before the Olympics, all three Northeast Asian countries showed growth nearing double digits.

Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing built infrastructure such as roads and transportation networks to prepare for the event. In October 1964, the bullet train "shinkansen" connecting Tokyo and Osaka was built. Subways and a highway were added later.

This year, Beijing opened the world’s largest airport terminal and a high-speed train with a maximum speed of 300 kilometers per hour. China spent 293.2 billion yuan (42.7 billion U.S. dollars) on the Olympics, including 13.2 billion yuan (1.92 billion dollars) on stadium construction. If indirect costs China has spent since July 2001 are included, the amount rises to 1.5 trillion yuan (218.6 billion dollars).

Korea spent 2.38 trillion won (3.26 billion dollars) to redevelop Seoul for the Olympics.

▽ Brief post-Olympic recession

As a result of the hasty construction of infrastructure, Tokyo and Seoul witnessed a slowdown in economic growth for a year after the Olympics.

The "Olympic recession” was rumored to hit Japan in 1965, but the country showed strong economic growth for 57 consecutive months. The growth rate reached 11.5 percent, wages rose 79.2 percent, and individual consumption grew at an annual rate of 9.6 percent.

Before the Olympics, the average Japanese hoped for three machines -- a black and white TV, a refrigerator and a washing machine. After the Olympics, the three items turned into the three "Cs" - a color TV, a cooler (air conditioner) and a car.

Korea was no exception in suffering a post-Olympic economic slowdown. Real annual growth dropped from 10.6 percent in 1988 to 6.7 percent the following year, but recovered to around nine percent in 1990.

The Chinese economy is expected to slow from its average growth of 9.8 percent shown over the past 30 years. Beijing has changed its strategy from quantity to quality.

▽ Emergence of Asia

If the Tokyo Olympics was a symbolic event signaling Japan’s return to the global stage after its defeat in World War II, the Seoul Olympics declared Korea`s democratization to the world.

Beijing hopes that its hosting of the Olympics will affirm its status as the center of the world.

After the Seoul Olympics, Korea allowed more overseas trips by its nationals in 1989; formed official ties with Russia in 1990; joined the United Nations in 1991; and set up diplomatic relations with China in 1992. Unlike the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, both of which were boycotted by one side, the Seoul Olympics saw both the capitalist and communist blocs compete against each other for the first time in 12 years.

After the Tokyo Olympics, Japan accepted Western culture, something which led to its student movement of the late 1960s.

China has declared "a renaissance of the great Chinese people," but faces a widening gap between rich and poor, trouble with its ethnic minorities including Tibet, and freedom of the press and human rights issues.

▽ Etiquette education

The Olympics has also functioned as a catalyst for national integration.

Before the Olympics, the three Asian countries began nationwide efforts to promote manners. In 1964, Tokyo waged campaigns such as “Let’s line up,” or “Let’s properly dispose of waste.” Korea also began a public awareness campaign in 1988.

This is because the two countries knew hosting would be impossible without their people`s participation and drive to be nice before the world.

Pollution was a headache for Tokyo in 1964 as well as for Beijing this year.

The Chinese government and the Beijing City Hall devoted the biggest part of their Olympic budget to clean up pollution.

After Beijing was awarded the hosting bid in 2001, an estimated 42 trillion won (42 billion dollars) was spent on fixing environmental infrastructure. Buses and taxis in Beijing began to use natural gas and smoke-spewing factories in the city center disappeared.

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