David Tang

Imagine the terror of the Chinese officials

David Tang reflects on his visits to Beijing in the run-up to the Games, where Western expertise has been harnessed to the ruthless efficiency of China’s government machine

David Tang reflects on his visits to Beijing in the run-up to the Games, where Western expertise has been harnessed to the ruthless efficiency of China’s government machine

Albert Speer was commissioned by the Chinese government to lay out a masterplan for the access to the Olympic Green in Beijing. His design consisted of one impressive avenue connecting the Forbidden City and the National Stadium in which the opening ceremony will take place. Speer is indeed the son of the infamous Albert, chief architect to Hitler and his minister of armaments. Speer Senior had also laid out his signature axis within Hitler’s megalomaniac city ‘Welthaupstadt Germania’ which, thankfully, was never realised. So what the father failed to do in Berlin, his son managed to achieve in Beijing, about 60 years later.

It has also taken about 60 years for a commercial flight to fly directly from the mainland to Taiwan. The historic landing on 4 July signalled a seminal thaw between the two Chinas. Such friendly news could only be a bonus for the political stature of mainland China. It, together with the show of some highly efficient relief work on the Sichuan earthquake, was a timely dilution of the uglier internal conflict with Tibet, an irritating thorn in China’s anxious promotions of the Olympics. Indeed, the success of these Games has become an obsession for China from the moment she secured them seven years ago.

Not only was the German Albert Speer recruited, the Australians were brought in to design the aquatic stadium and the British to build it. The Swiss were appointed to design the main stadium in collaboration with a leading avant-garde Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, responsible for the ‘bird’s nest’ effect of the outer crust of the stadium (even though Ai Weiwei is a vocal critic of the Chinese government).

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