April 11, 2007
Courses for horses

Way back in July 2005 we first looked at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's plans (and not-so-hidden agendas) for the staging of the equestrian events for the 2008 Olympics. Remebering the Jockey Club is not just the city's biggest taxpaer but it's de-facto welfare body as well, it isn't much of a surprise they get their way. The SCMP reports:

The Jockey Club looks set to keep 44,000 square metres of government land in Sha Tin after the equestrian events for the Beijing Olympics...The site has been proposed as home for the Games' stables and training facilities. The club is set to spend HK$800 million hosting the event.

It also needs the site as part of a plan to replace stable blocks that have been damaged because of "settlement" problems. The club's facilities were built on reclaimed land 30 years ago. The Home Affairs Bureau had expressed its intention to let the club claim the extra land after the event "to meet needs of the Sha Tin racecourse, to provide a legacy value to co-hosting an Olympic event and to avoid wastage, which would be the case if these brand new facilities were to be demolished", the government paper said.

The paper also said that the equestrian facilities would be welcomed by the international sports community. It said key stakeholders, including the Sports Institute's board and national sports associations, had no objection to the plan.

The deal is simple: the Jockey Club pays to run the Olympics event and in return gets chunks of land without having to go to public auction or pay a land premium.

Everyone's a winner, except the city's taxpayers.

The same HKJC this week is also dealing with a massive outbreak of horse herpes. Let's not forget Beijing chose Hong Kong to host the equestrian events because it is better set up to deal with quarantine issues. And what were all those horses doing to get herpes?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:49
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February 21, 2007
Be polite...or else

Beijing's social engineering instincts are not always bad. In the lead up to next year's Olympics the government is trying to make its citizens more polite and the good news is its working:

Sha Lianxiang, sociology professor with the People's University of China, said that there has been a decline in the number of people littering, spitting and flaunting traffic rules...Sha said the "civic index" of Beijing residents scored 69.06 in2006, 3.85 points higher than 2005. The index takes into account the residents compliance with rules in public health and public order, their attitudes towards strangers, etiquette in watching sports events and willingness to contribute to the Olympic Games. The survey found that the occurrence rates of littering in public places has dropped from 9.1 percent in 2005 to 5.3 percent in 2006; that of spitting has dropped by from 8.4 percent to 4.9 percent; queue-jumping dropped from 9 percent to 6 percent.

However, Sha said the citizens' "civilized degree" still could not meet the demand of the 2008 Olympics. She expected the index to rise to 72 to 78 during the 2008 Olympic Games...

The city has also established the 11th day of every month as "voluntarily wait in line" day to rid the city of queue-jumping.

They have a "voluntary wait in line" day...and its only once a month? Sure there are Orwellian overtones in an academic measuring and targetting this index of manners. But why stop there? Surely happiness needs to be on the list. And why does this only apply to Beijing? Many visitors to the Olympics will also visit other Chinese cities and the countryside, so this should be a national campaign.

Most telling would be to get anecdotal evidence from people in Beijing. Certainly judging by the behaviour in the taxi queue at Causeway Bay yesterday, there's a long way to go in the spitting and queue jumping stakes. Could we have a "voluntary keep your spit inside you" day?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:11
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November 22, 2006
Animal Olympics banned

The SCMP reports on a clampdown:

A popular performance and photo opportunities have been halted at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park after an outcry from animal rights activists, including the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation. But park spokesman Su Feilong would not rule out the return of the "Animal Olympics" show in the future. "We heard there were a small number of people, especially some foreigners, who objected to this show so we stopped it," Mr Su said yesterday.

The show, originally scheduled to run from last month to the end of this month, included 300 animals, ranging from monkeys to elephants, competing in events such as soccer matches, bicycle races and gymnastics.
What is most amazing is not that the show was closed, but that the zealous Beijing Olympic crew didn't shut 'em down first. But if you've missed it, don't fear...
The park also charged people to take photos with the animals, including tiger cubs, but some children were injured while posing with them. Witnesses have allegedly seen keepers shouting at and hitting the animals to make them pose for the pictures.
Do you get a discount on the photo if the monkey takes a swipe at you? Luckily no-one (yet) has shouted and hit my kids to force them to pose for photos, but the day can't be too far away.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 13:11
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May 30, 2006
Beijing Olympics are smoking...

Proof the Beijing Olympics will bring great benefits to the people of China:

Zhang Bin, an official with the Ministry of Health (MOH), said on Monday that smoking will be banned at all hospitals that will be used specifically for the Games by the end of 2007.
That from the People's Daily telling us about the "non-smoking" Olympics. Unfortunately all non-Olympic hospitals in China will not be covered. And then there's the pollution....

Will has more on China going up in smoke.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:03
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