SBD/Issue 222/Olympics

On The Ground In Beijing: GWU Professor Lisa Delpy Neirotti

Neirotti Providing On The Ground
Perspective Of Beijing During Olympics
Today we continue our discussion with Lisa Delpy Neirotti, associate professor of tourism & sports management at George Washington Univ. Delpy Neirotti, who arrived in Beijing on Monday, has been to 13 Olympic Games. This time around, she's leading a group of 28 students to China from August 4-24. She gave us her initial thoughts of Beijing via e-mail yesterday.

Q: What's the first thing that strikes you about Beijing?

Delpy Neirotti: The new airport is massive and architecturally striking. There were people to greet the media immediately outside the airplane door, not even at the gate. I breezed through customs, although two major United flights landed at the same time.

Q: Much has been made about the air quality in Beijing. How do you find it to be and will it have an impact on the Games?

Delpy Neirotti: The air is cleaner than my last visit to Beijing in October of 2007, and far better than four years ago when lead gas was still being pumped. By late afternoon [yesterday], I could actually see blue skies. There is still an overcast feel, but by no means is it deadly for athletes.

Neirotti Says Beijing Olympic Logo, Samsung 
Have Visual Presence Throughout City
Q: What brand has emerged as having the most noticeable presence?

Delpy Neirotti: The Olympic brand is really what stands out. The slogan "One World One Dream" and the 2008 Beijing Olympic logo is everywhere. Beyond general Olympic branding, Coca-Cola and Samsung seem to stand out along with national sponsors, such as China Mobile and China Bank. Visa had a visitor kiosk at the airport distributing some maps. Compared to other Games, it seems as if commercialism is low key. I am waiting to see if all of the sponsors will have wrapped buses.

Q: What is the initial buzz in the city around the Games?

Delpy Neirotti: It seems as if the local citizens are very excited about the Games. I asked one person about directions and he offered to take me there in his private car. The entire ride he kept saying in broken English, "Olympics good, friends around the world." I, of course, gave him a GW Olympic pin for his kind hospitality.

Neirotti Compares Subway Crowds As
Being Similar To Rush Hour In DC, N.Y.
Q: How easy is it to get around?

Delpy Neirotti: Taxies are hit or miss in terms of getting a driver who can read the address of where you want to go [even though it is written in Chinese with a map showing the location]. I was trying to get to a sponsor's five-star hotel and the driver tried to drop me off at the zoo, even though the directions and map clearly identified a hotel. The subways are crowded [same as rush hour in Washington, D.C., or New York City], but easy to figure out. The new line to the Olympic Green is very modern.

Q: What has been most shocking and most surprising for you?

Delpy Neirotti: Thus far, the language has been the most frustrating part of the Olympic experience. The staff in our youth hostel seem to speak more English than employees at the five-star hotels, which could be a big problem for sponsor guests. I assume it will be this way at venues. Using some basic hand gestures does not even seem to help as they just look at you like you are crazy. With that said, I can say only two words in Mandarin -- "hello" and "thank you" -- so I do not have much room to complain.

Neirotti Hopes Street Sweepers
Are Being Paid For Their Efforts
Q: Any other thoughts?

Delpy Neirotti: The torch relay for these Games has had to dramatically change. The length of each torch bearer is shorter and it is run in a secluded location [e.g., in a closed amusement park]. With so many people in Beijing, all very interested in touching or feeling part of the Games, it could be a logistical and safety issue if streets were closed for the public to view. Unfortunately, I always felt this was one of the most exciting parts of the Games, seeing the torch run through the city and light up the faces and Olympic enthusiasm of the locals.

The city has definitely been beautified with flowers and Olympic "welcome" signage throughout. You can also see many street cleaners. Here is a photo of a street sweeper. The band around his arm said Olympic volunteer, but I certainly hope this person is being paid. Tonight starts all the parties. I will be attending Casa Brazil and Olympic Reunion Center openings.

Do you have a question for Lisa? If so, e-mail us at

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