Talking about China and sports

Once again I welcomed a group of Dutch sports professionals who are visiting Beijing. The trip is organized by the Wagner Group (see The group is following an MBA in sports management.

This time my presentation not only included a short and personal introduction of what is China today, but also a look back at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, how it was prepared, how it went and what its legacy is today.
One of the key problems in China is the lack of mass sports: soccer, rugby and similar suffer from a shortage of players and grassroots clubs. Soccer has been plagued by scandals and corruption. A city like Beijing has only one club worth mentioning and China is nowhere in the World Cup. It is also a result of the lack of sports in the education system, due to too much emphasis on studying. As a result, the levels of obesity and myopia (80%!) among college students is alarming. The government is aware but there are many problems to change the attitude among parents and schools. And there is a great shortage of teachers qualified for physical education.

IHT/NYT: still clueless about Beijing 2008 Games

Lofty Games vision, grim reality?
I refer to the article by David M. Herszenhorn – 8 February 2013 (IHT version)
On the New York Times website:
“Putin’s Vision of Olympic Glory Meets a More Earthbound Reality in Sochi”
Published: February 6, 2013 (NYT)
The article mentions US$42 billion spent for the 2008 Beijing Games. The figure is totally wrong, as it happens very frequently in the media. My estimate for the real cost is well below $10 billion. Journalists still cannot distinguish between investing in a new subway line and running the Olympic show. I hope his figures for Sochi are more reliable. Having worked inside the Beijing Government I have a pretty good view on the real cost of the Olympics, except for the part related to security (e.g. police forces, army and related).
Beijing did not even have a budget to build the stadiums: this is the reason why they called me. Find us the money, they told me. So we did. The city proper spent little for all the venues, except for the Bird’s Nest: they bought back the investment done by the private sector. The Watercube: donation by overseas Chinese. And so on.
Not to wonder why people still ask me to give seminars on the issue.
As for Sochi: a different case, they building stuff that will have little or no use in the future. That is real waste.

Olivier Strebelle and the Athletes Alley

I haven’t been back in the Olympic Forest Park but I was told the gate on the West Side is now open and the statue can now be seen. The gardening was never completed, for obvious reasons (obvious to us!).
Cleaning up my many documents I stumbled on two documents:
– Publication dated September 2008 of the Belgian-Chinese Economic and Commercial Council, with an interview of the artist. The story told is part hilarious and part sad. A complete distortion of the facts, nothing ever happened that way. Just to suit some (famous) people in Belgium  who have selective amnesia. I use the story of the project as an illustration on ”How to do successful lobbying in China and how consulting companies can be the victim of dishonest foreign counterparts”. The story is very popular and I used it in several EMBA seminars.
Download: 080901strebelle.pdf
click to enlarge
one the seminars on lobbying
– A Chinese publication that reports the signing of the agreement covering the donation by The Kingdom of Belgium to the City of Beijing, ceremony held on 14 August 2007 at the Beijing Municipal Planning Commission. Pictured are Ambassador Bernard Pierre and myself.
More details about the sculpture, search this blog…

Documentary about Gilbert

cover of the documentary about Gilbert

cover of the documentary about Gilbert

back cover of the documentary about Gilbert

back cover of the documentary about Gilbert

“The” movie is out on DVD and can be bought in DVD shops! Basically a documentary about Gilbert. It was previously shown during a couple of months on Hainan Airlines. See here the covers of the box (can be bought online for 50 RMB). My piece is on disk 4, second part and comments are in English or Chinese.

The 30 minutes documentary tells the story of my work for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
See earlier entry about the shooting:

Beijing Development and Reform Commission

On 24 August, delegates of the BDRC came over to my office to express thanks for my work as Senior Economic Adviser for the City. With the Olympics behind us, my task is finished – as for now. I received a “Honor Certificate” (one more to hang on the wall) plus a nice present.

The present was actually a crystal stone from…. Brazil, something I love – I have many in my collection.