Hosting the 2008 Olympic Games has provided a number of legacies for the Chinese city of Beijing, covering areas such as infrastructure, the environment, education and health.
As well as building stunning venues – such as the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Water Cube Aquatics Centre – Beijing made considerable improvements to the city’s transport network ahead of the 2008 Games, which are providing long-term benefits for residents and visitors.
Several significant projects were initiated, including the construction of a new terminal and runway at the city’s international airport, which increased passenger capacity from 20–25 million in 2002, to 65–75 million in 2008.
The investment also led to a complete expansion of the Beijing main road network and a massive extension and renovation of the Beijing metro, with the addition of several new subway lines and a high-speed rail link to Tianjin.
In total, public transport capacity was increased by 4.5 million, leading to a reduction in road congestion. Authorities also invested in air quality improvements, with 60,000 coal-burning boilers being upgraded to reduce emissions and more than 4,000 public buses being converted to run on natural gas – more than any other city in the world.
There were also significant improvements in water treatment facilities, ahead of the Games, while Hans Troedsson of the World Health Organisation described, at the time, the public health legacies as “a long-term gift to China”, with 100,000 Chinese chefs receiving food cleanliness classes, 200,000 additional food inspectors being hired, and a new disease prevention and control system put in place in Beijing.
The Games also had a considerable effect on education, with the Beijing 2008 Organising Committee (BOCOG) partnering with China’s Education Ministry and the Chinese Olympic Committee to launch a joint Olympic education programme, which reached 400 million Chinese children by integrating Olympic education into the existing curriculum of over 400,000 schools. Pupils were able to learn about the Olympic values, the history of the Olympic Games, Olympic sports and the Olympic Movement’s contribution to international peace and friendship.
Beijing 2008 also lead to the creation of a new culture of volunteerism, with over 1.1 million people applying to be volunteers at the Games, while attitudes and perceptions of the disabled and disadvantaged members of the community were also changed as a result of the Games, with new wheelchair ramps for streets, shopping centres and cultural attractions installed.
And Beijing’s famous sporting venues are also providing a long-term legacy for the city, with the Water Cube now being used as a leisure facility, featuring water slides, a wave pool and spa areas, while the Bird’s Nest Stadium has hosted a variety of sporting events and will also stage the 2015 World Athletics Championships.