Beijing Beat blog with Mark Godfrey

Beijing Beat

Beijing's Olympic Scams

Jun 11

Written by:
6/11/2008 5:39 AM  RssIcon

World's biggest event of the year is being exploited by chancers, but will it all be a damp squib?

Talking with a friend doing business in Tianjin, host of several Olympics events (including soccer) this August, it's clear there's plenty of scams doing the rounds in the run up to the Games. In Tianjin foreign companies are targeted by scam Olympic-related events, says Juan Silvestre, who consults for companies like Airbus, investing in the industrial town a two hour train ride east of Beijing. He references a soccer tournament for foreign firms in Tianjin whose organizers disappeared after collecting participation fees and sponsorship. “It’s very common to be approached by people claiming special relations with government and Olympics.” Businesses, he said, are also often approached by local newspapers offering prominent coverage in reportage surrounding the Olympics in return for payment. 

Given the frequently cowboy nature of China's capitalism it's surprising there haven't been more scams. Unauthorised apparel bearing the logo of the Beijing Olympics is ubiquitous in Beijing. Enterprising businesspeople are all cashing in on the Olympic Games. A couple of foreign  businesspeople renting out apartments to Olympics visitors have been caught out by China's tightening of rules on getting Chinese visas. Beijing doesn't want anyone like pro-Tibetan or human rights advocates unfurling banners on Tienanmen Square. A Dutchman heading up the business has been left with a lot of real estate on his hands. But perhaps the hype about hotel rooms and homestay fortunes were all that hype: many visitors have been put off by China's new strict visa policies and the protests and counterprotests regarding China's policy on Tibet, earlier this year.

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