If it is not too early for a Los Angeles committee to begin talking about a possible bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics, then it certainly is not too early for the Chinese to begin thinking ahead to 2000.
Even though the International Olympic Committee will not select a host city for the 2000 Summer Games until 1993, Beijing, China, already is considered the front-runner. IOC members presumably would like to reward the Chinese for rejoining the Olympic movement a decade ago by awarding them the first Games of the next century.
Oddly, perhaps, there appears to be less doubt about the site of the Games in 2000 than in 1996. Athens, Greece, and Toronto, Canada, are actively campaigning for that year. Barcelona, Spain, has been chosen for 1992.
As for Beijing's ability to stage the Olympics, IOC members will see a preview in the fall of 1990, when China's capital plays host to the XI Asian Games, a multi-sport competition involving 37 countries.
Two Chinese officials, Chen Han Zhang of the Asian Games Organizing Committee and Miao Shubao of the China Sports Service Company, said Monday in Beverly Hills that they believe Beijing will be chosen as the site for the 2000 Summer Olympics if the Asian Games are a success.
To achieve that goal, Chen said, the organizing committee for the Asian Games has a $700 million budget, $500 million of which has been pledged by the national and local governments. The organizing committee hopes to raise the other $200 million in television rights fees and sponsorships, Chen said, which is why he and Miao are in Beverly Hills this week for the International Sport Summit, an annual sports business conference. Chen said that of the 31 official sponsors they are seeking, he anticipates that one-third will come from foreign countries.
Chen said the Olympics would be important to Beijing politically, socially and economically.
"By hosting a big Games, more hotels would be built, more offices, more sports facilities, and the airport would be expanded," he said. He said a building project already has begun that will add 16 sports venues to the 11 that already are in Beijing. The 80,000-seat Workers' Stadium, built in 1959, is undergoing reconstruction.
"After a big Games, everything would be OK in Beijing," Chen said. "In 1964, as you know, the Olympic Games were in Tokyo. They played quite a big role in the economic development and social affairs (of Japan.)
"But it is also important to enhance people's spirit, their patriotism."
Chen said that effort began in September with a 48-day, 12,000-mile torch run through all 29 Chinese provinces. It will be an annual event before the Asian Games. There were 37 runners, one for each member of the Olympic Council of Asia. Not all, however, ran. The runner selected for the long trip to and from Lhasa, Tibet, was allowed to take an airplane.