08-08-2008 13:18

Special Report:   2008 Beijing Olympic Games

The date for the opening of the Beijing Olympic -- August 8th, 2008 is an auspicious one. Chinese people consider the number 8 a lucky number. It symbolizes wealth and good fortune. As Li Xiang reports, the selection of the date was not just about lucky numbers.

The date for the opening of the Beijing Olympic -- August 8th, 2008 is an auspicious one. Chinese people consider the number 8 a lucky number.

The date for the opening of the Beijing Olympic -- August
8th, 2008 is an auspicious one. Chinese people consider 
the number 8 a lucky number.

Setting an opening date for the Beijing Olympics is far more complicated than combining auspicious numbers on a calendar.

The interests of the IOC had to be balanced with those of the host city and those of Olympic broadcasters all around the world.

To ensure a large global audience for the opening ceremony, the IOC requires that opening day for the games should be on a Friday. That policy was set after the Atlanta Games in 1996.

Gilbert Fellt, Executive Director of IOC's Olympic Games, said“The IOC didn't have fixed Olympic period before. Then in 1998, International sports federations suggested the Games should be fixed during a certain period. They said it would assist planning of international sports calendar. We then held discussions with every international sport federation. One of the topics was Olympic television coverage. We reached a consensus that the best time to open the Olympic games is the last week in July or the first week in August. ”

When Beijing kicked off its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, the original opening date was July 25th.

That was reviewed after the city was awarded the games.

Weather statistics played an essential part in the re-evaluation.

Weather charts revealed that historically, the weather in Beijing is prone to rains in the last week in July or in the first week in August.

Therefore, Beijing handed its request to change the opening date of the games to the IOC in 2002.

Xie Pu, Director of Beijing Olympics Meteorological Service Center, said“The best time to open an event like this in Beijing is September. That's the beginning of autumn, and many people consider that the best season in Beijing. It's also the time of year when the 1990 Asian Games were held.”

Beijing asked the IOC about opening the Olympics in September. But that would have created an overlap with other International sporting events like the IAAF Golden League and the US Open tennis tournament.

Former Vice-President ofnChinese Olympic Committee Wei Jizhong said, “The US Open was the biggest hurdle. The tennis tournament usually starts on the first weekend of September. So we had to wind up the Olympics before the start of the US open.”

The final date for the Beijing Olympics was delayed until IOC session in Prague in 2003.

Broadcasters exert powerful influence in those decisions. Their influence derives from the enormous amounts of money they invest for Olympic Games broadcast rights.

America's National Broadcasting Company was awarded the U.S. telecast rights for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics a month before the IOC was to meet in Prague.

NBC spent a record amount to purchase broadcast rights.

That gave NBC a strong voice before the IOC on the question of the Olympic dates.

Former Director of BOCOG INT'L Relations Department Zhang Qing said, “NBC spent over 3.5 billion US dollars on the telecast rights for the Games from 2000-2008. It wanted the Beijing Games to open before September, because important baseball games and often the NBA begin at the end of August. ”

Given the complexity of the issues, Beijing suggested the opening day for the Olympics be set back as late as possible.

Zhang Qing said, “We suggested that the date should not be before August 15th. That's one week after Beijing enters the autumn season. Historically, this is a period of very good weather in the city.

The IOC made the final decision at its Prague session, setting Beijing's big day for August 8th.

The Games' organizers say though the date is not the most ideal one for Beijing, it is better than July 25th.

Finally, Beijing chose 8 P-M for the Games’opening ceremony.

The auspicious number also brings the hope of good fortune for the first Olympics on Chinese soil.


Editor:Meng Rui