I have lived in Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco but I have never seen anything like Beijing. Over the next two weeks, I'm giving a series of talks at Tsinghua, Peking University and the Lincoln Institute, and the CASS. While I was little surprised to see Mao's face on all of the money and to not be able to access my blog, I have been very impressed with everything I see and I see glimpses of a future "green city".
The Olympics can be awesome for cities. Or they can be devastating. Rarely they're both, and most often they are an economic drain caused by over-investment in facilities with limited long-term usability. So when London's plans for a 2012 Summer Olympics stadium that would reduce from 80,000 seats during the games to a more realistically usable 25,000 seats after, Olympics experts, city officials and taxpayers rejoiced. But recent news has turned that rejoice to disgust.
Whether you've realized it yet or not, soccer is a big deal in this gloabalizing world. And every four years it's a huge deal for one country: the host of the FIFA World Cup. All eyes are on the host country for the 32-team tournament, which is the most-watched sporting event in the world. And though showtime is just one month long, the host spends years vying, preparing and investing for the tournament. It has major potential to spur broad countrywide improvements and economic development. So when the U.S. made news recently by offering forth 70 stadia as possible host sites for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup (along with a reputation booster from President Barack Obama), I had to filter out my national pride. Sure, the U.S. would make a good and clearly able host for the event, but it seems that the potential of the World Cup could be better directed towards a country that really needs large-scale civic improvement and investment.