Beijing promises US$20 billion in Olympic spending


In its most lavish promise yet, Beijing has vowed to spend US$20 billion if it is awarded the 2008 Olympics _ a construction frenzy bid officials said would rival the building of the Great Wall, state media reported. The spending on new subways and other facilities was announced as Olympic inspectors were in the Chinese capital to assess its bid. Beijing, eager for the prestige of holding the Games, had talked about spending US$12 billion over 10 years to spruce up the city. The plan to triple the size of Beijing’s expressways and build dozens of sports facilities “will be one of the largest construction projects ever in China since the construction of the Great Wall,” the official Xinhua News Agency quoted the bid committee as saying Wednesday, the first day of the four-day Olympic inspection. Reporters were not immediately able to confirm the scope of the lavish plans with the bid committee. In the course of the bid, state media have given differing figures on Beijing’s spending plans. Xinhua said the US$20 billion was “to facilitate its bid.” On Thursday, bid officials and the 17 member inspection team met for a second morning in the plush Beijing Hotel to comb through Beijing’s proposal. A film set to pulsing rock music included futuristic images of Beijing sports venues.

Despite Beijing’s efforts to focus attention on its enthusiasm and preparations, human rights issues have dogged its bid, as in 1993 when Beijing lost the 2000 Summer Games to Sydney by two votes. The wife of a jailed pro-democracy campaigner who sent a petition to the IOC calling for her husband’s release was sentenced Wednesday to two years in a labor camp, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said Thursday.