Beijing was elected as the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympics on 13 July 2001, during the 112th IOC Session in Moscow, defeating bids from Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka. Prior to the session, five other cities (Bangkok, Cairo, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and Seville) had submitted bids to the IOC, but failed to make the short list chosen by the IOC Executive Committee in 2000. After the first round of voting, Beijing held a significant lead over the other four candidates. Osaka received only six votes and was eliminated. In the second round, Beijing was supported by a majority of voters, eliminating the need for subsequent rounds. Toronto's bid was their 5th failure since 1960 (failed bid for 1960, 1964, 1976 and 1996 games losing to Rome, Tokyo, Montreal and Atlanta).
Members of the IOC did not disclose their votes, but news reports speculated that broad international support led to China's selection, especially from developing nations who had received assistance from China in the construction of stadiums. The size of China, its increased enforcement of doping controls, and sympathy concerning its loss of the 2000 Summer Olympics to Sydney were all factors in the decision. Eight years earlier, Beijing had led every round of voting for the 2000 Summer Olympics before losing to Sydney by two votes in the final round.
Human rights concerns expressed by Amnesty International and politicians in both Europe and the United States were considered by the delegates, according to IOC Executive Director François Carrard. Carrard and others suggested that the selection might lead to improvements in human rights in China. In addition, a number of IOC delegates who had formerly been athletes expressed concern about heat and air quality during the Games, considering the high levels of air pollution in Beijing. China outlined plans to address these environmental concerns in its bid application.
The Oxford Olympics Study 2016 estimates the outturn cost of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics at USD 6.8 billion in 2015-dollars and cost overrun at 2% in real terms. This includes sports-related costs only, that is, (i) operational costs incurred by the organizing committee for the purpose of staging the Games, e.g., expenditures for technology, transportation, workforce, administration, security, catering, ceremonies, and medical services, and (ii) direct capital costs incurred by the host city and country or private investors to build the competition venues, the Olympic village, international broadcast center, and media and press center, which are required to host the Games. Indirect capital costs are not included, such as for road, rail, or airport infrastructure, or for hotel upgrades or other business investment incurred in preparation for the Games but not directly related to staging the Games. The Beijing Olympics' cost of USD 6.8 billion compares with costs of USD 4.6 billion for Rio 2016 and USD 15 billion for London 2012. Average cost for the Summer Games since 1960 is USD 5.2 billion.
On 6 March 2009, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games reported that total spending on the games was "generally as much as that of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games", which was equivalent to about US$15 billion. They went on to claim that surplus revenues from the Games would exceed the original target of $16 million. Other reports, however, estimated the total costs from $40 billion to $44 billion, which would make the Games "far and away the most expensive ever".
Its budget has since been exceeded by the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which suffered from major cost overruns, causing the budget to exceed US$51 billion.
Canadian Solar Constructed the 2000m Landscape Avenue Project for the Beijing Olympic Games Stadium in 2008.
By May 2007 the construction of all 31 Beijing-based Olympic Games venues had begun. The Chinese government renovated and constructed six venues outside Beijing as well as 59 training centres. The largest structures built were the Beijing National Stadium, Beijing National Indoor Stadium, Beijing National Aquatics Center, Olympic Green Convention Center, Olympic Green, and Beijing Wukesong Culture & Sports Center. Almost 85% of the construction budget for the six main venues was funded by $2.1 billion (RMB¥17.4 billion) in corporate bids and tenders. Investments were expected from corporations seeking ownership rights after the Olympics. Some events were held outside Beijing, namely in Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Tianjin; sailing in Qingdao; and, because of the "uncertainties of equine diseases and major difficulties in establishing a disease-free zone", the equestrian events were held in Hong Kong.
The centrepiece of the 2008 Summer Olympics was the Beijing National Stadium, nicknamed "The Bird's Nest" because of its nest-like skeletal structure. The stadium hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics competition. Construction of the venue began on 24 December 2003. The Guangdong Olympic Stadium was originally planned, constructed, and completed in 2001 to help host the Games, but a decision was made to construct a new stadium in Beijing. In 2001, the city held a bidding process to select the best arena design. Several criteria were required of each design, including flexibility for post-Olympics use, a retractable roof, and low maintenance costs. The entry list was narrowed to thirteen final designs. The bird's nest model submitted by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in collaboration with Li Xinggang of China Architecture Design and Research Group (CADG) was selected as the top design by both a professional panel and by a broader audience during a public exhibition. The selection of the design became official in April 2003. Construction of the stadium was a joint venture among the original designers, project architect Stefan Marbach, artist Ai Weiwei, and a group of CADG architects led by Li Xinggang. Its $423 million cost was funded by the state-owned corporate conglomerate CITIC and the Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Company.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics caused traditional Hutong neighborhoods to be cleared for the construction of modern Olympic stadiums. In an effort to ensure success for the games, the government invested billions in building new infrastructure, although clearance to tiny, outdated neighborhoods in Beijing called hutongs resulted (Petrun). Jim Yardley, a New York Times reporter interviews Pan Jinyu, a 64-year-old local resident: "They [the government] don’t want foreigners to see this scarred old face". Feng Shuqin and her husband, Zheng Zhanlin have lived in their house for 50 years and the family has owned the property before the Communists took control in 1949. The government, trying to clear the area, has offered them to move with a compensatory sum of $175,000 USD, but the family insists the land is worth $1.4 million USD (Yardley). Michael Meyer, an American who lives in the hutongs reported that a total of 500,000 residents were relocated from their homes before the Olympics began (Meyer).
A map of the Olympic venues in Beijing. Several expressways encircle
the center of the city, providing for quick transportation around the city and between venues.
To prepare for Olympic visitors, Beijing's transportation infrastructure was expanded. Beijing's airport underwent a major renovation with the addition of the new Terminal 3, designed by architect Norman Foster. Within the city itself, Beijing's subway was doubled in capacity and length, with the addition of 7 lines and 80 stations to the previously existing 4 lines and 64 stations. Included in this expansion was a new link connecting to the city's airport. A fleet of thousands of buses, minibuses, and official cars transported spectators, athletes, and officials between venues.
In an effort to improve air quality, the city placed restrictions on construction sites and gas stations, and limited the use of commercial and passenger vehicles in Beijing. From 20 June through 20 September, passenger vehicle restrictions were placed on alternate days depending on the terminal digit of the car's license plate. It was anticipated that this measure would take 45% of Beijing's 3.3 million cars off the streets. The boosted public transport network was expected to absorb the demand created by these restrictions and the influx of visitors, which was estimated at more than 4 million additional passengers per day.
The 2008 Summer Olympics emblem was known as Dancing Beijing. The emblem combined a traditional Chinese red seal and a representation of the calligraphic character jīng (京, "national capital", also the second character of Beijing's Chinese name) with athletic features. The open arms of the calligraphic word symbolized the invitation from China to the world to share in its culture. IOC president Jacques Rogge was very happy with the emblem, saying, "Your new emblem immediately conveys the awesome beauty and power of China which are embodied in your heritage and your people."
The official motto for the 2008 Olympics was "One World, One Dream" (同一个世界 同一个梦想). It called upon the whole world to join in the Olympic spirit and build a better future for humanity, and was chosen from over 210,000 entries submitted from around the world. Following the announcement of the motto, the phrase was used by international advocates of Tibetan secession. Banners reading "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet" were unfurled from various structures around the globe in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, such as from the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
The mascots of Beijing 2008 were the five Fuwa, each representing both a colour of the Olympic rings and a symbol of Chinese culture. In 2006, the Beijing Organizing Committee released pictograms of 35 Olympic disciplines (for some multi-discipline sports, such as cycling, a single pictogram was released). This set of sport icons was named the beauty of seal characters, because of each pictogram's likeness to Chinese seal script.
The 2008 Games were the first to be produced and broadcast entirely in high definition by the host broadcaster. In comparison, American broadcaster NBC broadcast only half of the 2006 Turin Winter Games in HD. In their bid for the Olympic Games in 2001, Beijing stated to the Olympic Evaluation Commission that there would be "no restrictions on media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games." However, some media outlets claimed that organizers ultimately failed to live up to this commitment.[c]
According to Nielsen Media Research, 4.7 billion viewers worldwide tuned into some of the television coverage, one-fifth larger than the 3.9 billion who watched the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. American broadcaster NBC produced only 2 hours of online streaming video for the 2006 Winter Games but produced approximately 2,200 hours of coverage for the 2008 Summer Games. CNN reported that, for the first time, "live online video rights in some markets for the Olympics have been separately negotiated, not part of the overall 'broadcast rights.'" The new media of the digital economy was said to be growing "nine times faster than the rest of the advertising market."
The international European Broadcasting Union (EBU) provided live coverage and highlights of all arenas only for certain territories on their website, Eurovisionsports.tv. Many national broadcasters likewise restricted the viewing of online events to their domestic audiences. The General National Copyright Administration of China announced that "individual (sic) and websites will face fines as high as 100,000 yuan for uploading recordings of Olympic Games video to the internet", part of an extensive campaign to protect the pertinent intellectual property rights. The Olympic Committee also set up a separate YouTube channel at Beijing 2008.
The theme song of the 2008 Olympic Games was "You and Me," which was composed by Chen Qigang, the musical director of the opening ceremony. It was performed during the opening ceremony by Chinese singer Liu Huan and British singer Sarah Brightman.