QINGDAO: "The Olympic sailing competition is promoting the city`s image to the world and bringing significant changes," said Xia Geng, mayor of the port city in Shandong province.
In fact benefits are already apparent, Xia said, noting Qingdao has developed rapidly since it won the bid to host the Olympic sailing event.
"In the past 5 years, Qingdao witnessed one of the best and fastest-growing periods in its history. Its gross domestic product (GDP) continued to grow at an annual average rate of 16 percent and hit 378.6 billion yuan ($54.9 billion) last year," the mayor said.
The Olympic sailing regatta has also made the port city better known to the world business community. Growing numbers of multinationals have invested in Qingdao.
Actual inflow of foreign investment to the city exceeded $17 billion over the past five years, accounting for 60 percent of the total in the 30 years since the country`s reform and opening up began in 1978. The city approved 17 large foreign-invested projects each exceeding $100 million in value and 61 projects over $50 million. Fifty-six projects funded by Fortune 500 companies started operation during the period.
Now 166 Fortune 500 companies have operations in Qingdao, including GE, Volkswagen, Toyota and LG, according to the Qingdao Foreign Trade and Economy Bureau.
In 2007 the local government approved 1,068 foreign-invested projects with a combined investment of $3.83 billion. Its port handled 9.4 million units of containers, while the number of passengers through its airport reached 7.8 million.
Tourism revenues broke the 40-billion-yuan mark last year with over 30 million visitors arriving in Qingdao.
"Using the opportunity provided by hosting the Olympics, Qingdao moved big polluters out of the city and introduced service companies such as finance, logistics and education. We are building Qingdao into a city featuring modern service industries," said the mayor.
He noted that the city of Qingdao spent about 80 billion yuan in infrastructure construction over the past five years. People in the city can now reach any part of Qingdao within an hour by car or public transport.
Its list of major projects include completion of the Olympic Sailing Center and two major highways across the city along with expansion of its train station and airport. The Jiaoji Railway from Qingdao to Jinan was modernized. A channel tunnel and a bridge across Jiaozhou Bay connecting Qingdao and its suburbs are under construction.
The income of the local residents has followed suit. Average income of urban residents increased by 15.4 percent annually and rural residents by 12.2 percent over the five-year period.
"Qingdao will continue to benefit from the Olympic sailing event for at least the next 10 years. The city will be more competitive and more open to the outside world," said Xia.
By 2010, the GDP of the city is expected to reach 490 billion yuan, when the port will handle 12 million units of containers, according to Xia.