Changing China

Giant on the move

Liu Qi: the strong, silent type

March 10, 2008

Red London busLondon Mayor Ken Livingstone’s plan to send a red double decker bus from the host city of the 2012 Olympics toBeijing for this Summer’s Games has already come under fire for”wasting” a million dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Ok, Ken is in the middle of a mayoral election campaign so his every decision was always going to come under scrutiny from his rival and the British media.

But thoughts of the man they used to call “Red Ken”– and of British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell– came to mind as 2008 Olympic chief Liu Qi presided over the meeting of the Beijing delegation at the National People’s Congress last Thursday.

The London Olympic organisers have already been subjected to a media storm of criticism over the Games’ budget and it is unlikelyto become any easier for them in the remaining 1635 days until the Olympic flame burns over London for the third time.

Watching Liu Qi in the Great Hall of the People on Thursday, I realised that in two years of reporting on the preparations for the Olympic Games, I had never seen him take so much as one question from the media.

As President of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), a former mayor and Communist Party boss of the host city, there would be no shortage of questions the growing band of reporters in Beijing would like to ask him. So far, though, he has kept his counsel.

Last Thursday was no different and it was left to BOCOG secretary general Wang Wei to tell the meeting that the operational budget for the Olympics would be revealed in May and that it is expected to be easily covered by the $1billion or so contribution from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Beijing’s own revenues from ticketing and marketing.

Chairman of Beijing's Olympics Organising Committee Liu introduces London's Mayor Livingstone to the media in Beijing

BOCOG officials have previously estimated that it would work out at about $2.1 billion and it wouldbe a huge surprise if it were to be much more than that.

(Before Londoners start scratching their heads in wonder at how Beijing could produce such fine venues and a wholesale upgrade of the city’s infrastructure for some $16 million less than London, this is just the operational budget and doesn’t include the estimated $40 billion the city is spending on new airport terminals, roads and subway lines.)

Whatever final figure emerges in May, it is almost certain that Liu Qi will not have to suffer the grilling from the media that Livingstone and Jowell are going through.  He’d have to talk to us first.

Photo of Liu Qi and Ken Livingstone in Beijing in 2006 by REUTERS/Peter Parks/Pool. London bus by Kieran Doherty.


Ah, the beauty of an authoritarian regime.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

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