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Britain Sends Olympic Officials to Learn from Beijing Organizers

Hundreds of British Olympic officials preparing to host the Olympic Games in 2012 have been sent to China to learn from the Beijing hosts how the Chinese are organizing the event.

People thinking under Olympic banner

Can Britain learn any Olympic lessons from China?

British Olympic officials will be meeting Chinese organizers and visiting all the main locations in order to learn how to cope with tens of thousands of athletes, journalists and supporters.

Referring to the Beijing Olympics, Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), was quoted by British media as saying, "I'm not sure how many other countries would have either the resources or the control of the resources to be able to put them behind an event like this."

"I think London is much more likely to the model for the games in the future," he said.

Nevertheless, the officials will most probably be looking at how the host organizers deal with security and transport, especially since the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings on the London underground took place the day after it was announced that London had been chosen to host the Olympics in 2012.

Growing criticism in London

Mayor of London Boris Johnson

London Mayor Boris Johnson wants a lasting legacy

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, published Tuesday Aug. 12, Mayor of London Boris Johnson voiced his concerns that not enough work has been done to ensure the legacy of the games.

"There are … I think, serious questions to be asked about the legacy value of some of the sites and some of the venues," Johnson said.

"I want to make sure that we can alchemize them into gold for London for 50 years to come, and that is going to take some pretty crunchy work."

After the huge delays in building the new Wembley Stadium and the squandered investments in the Millenium Dome, London's Olympic projects are being met with growing skepticism.

The opposition political parties have also criticized the decision to send so many officials to Beijing, arguing that little is to be learned from China because of the huge difference in budgets.

Budgetary differences negate comparisons

Chinese police stand at attention as fireworks go off during opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics at the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008.

London is unlikely to be able to compete financially with the extravagance of Beijing

Britain's budget for the Olympic Games has already almost trebled from a predicted 3.4 billion pounds (4.3 billion euros, $6.5 billion) to 9.3 billion pounds ($17.8 billion, 12 billion euros). By contrast it has been reported that, by the end of the games, China will have spent over 20 billion pounds (25 billion euros, $39 billion).

This has led to more general questions of whether it is at all useful to look to other countries' examples when preparing to host the games. Officials in London have stressed the unique nature of each Olympics based on the location and have also said how London has great potential to set its own standard.

Boris Johnson's comments add to the concerns that the massive new building projects for the Olympics may not provide lasting value for the poorer areas of East London where most of the sites are being built. One of the main aims of hosting the Olympics was to regenerate the area with a legacy of good sports facilities and more inspiration for young people to play sport.

Neither Boris Johnson nor British Prime Minister Gordon Brown went to the opening ceremony in Beijing, although both are going to the closing ceremony when the baton will be passed on to London.

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