“Mao would be proud” that Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic Games. As with anything in China, Beijing’s Olympics are a complicated matter.
As tourists, we were eager to explore the Olympic sites, yet we couldn’t help but wonder what negative impacts they may have had on local citizens. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones. The Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions reported that over 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes to make space for the Bird’s Nest, the Watercube, and the rest.
Clearing land for the Olympics is always controversial, costing as many as two million people their homes over the past twenty years and primarily affecting minority groups. Even in democracies like the US, government land grabs are controversial, as we saw in the New London, Connecticut case ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.
In China, take all those issues and scale them up. Way up. A Chinese citizen may come home to find a character spray-painted on his home, his first indication that he has two weeks to move out before demolition begins. The system is rife with corruption and is the most common cause of protests among Chinese citizens.
Popular unrest, a choking haze, some really nice pools, and the chance to go for a segway ride… that’s the Olympic legacy we found in Beijing.