It would be difficult not to be impressed with the scale and majesty of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. From the spectacular Opening Ceremony to the almost as impressive Closing Ceremony, the Games were run effectively and efficiently. There were some hitches and glitches, but as a modern mega-event the Beijing Olympics will prove to be difficult for London to live up to, not least because of the global economic recession that commenced in late 2008. As Sebastian Coe, Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), stated to the delight of Xinhua, the Chinese State-Run News Agency, in July 2009 at an African Olympic meeting in Abuja, Nigeria:
Although Coe suggested that he was excited rather than ‘challenged’ by the success of Beijing, this was exactly what the Chinese authorities wanted to hear. After all the concerns expressed beforehand concerning human rights, social costs, atmospheric pollution and other issues, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had achieved their objectives to impress as respected an Olympian as Lord Coe and to develop a model for future Olympics. As social scientists, however, it behoves the authors to take a more critical perspective, to note the successes that did occur, but also the problems that arose, and to consider both the pluses and minuses of Beijing’s legacy and the longer term implications of the Olympics for the reinvention of China as a participant in the global economy.