Tag Archives: china

Free Stadiums, At a Price: China’s Global Stadium Diplomacy

The chief of the Royal Grenadian Police Band was immediately relieved of his duties. His musical troupe had made a major diplomatic gaffe: at the grand opening ceremony for the Caribbean island nation’s rebuilt national cricket stadium, they had played the National Anthem of the Republic of China, to the considerable discomfort of the dignitaries present who hailed not from the Republic of China (Taiwan) but from the People’s Republic of China. An embarrassment all the greater given the latter had paid for and built the stadium, a great boon for a nation recovering from the devastation wreaked on its infrastructure by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, including the severe damage to its national cricket stadium.

Grenada National Cricket Stadium. AP Photo/Harold Quash.

The mistake was, perhaps, understandable. After all, it could just as easily have been Taiwan who had funded the stadium, and in part, they had. In December 2004, not long after Ivan had hit the island, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell made a surprise visit to Beijing, upsetting Grenada’s political establishment. They had forged close relations with Taiwan, with whom they had formed diplomatic relations in 1989, and had already received a pledge of $40 million in aid to rebuild the hurricane-wrecked national stadium and other infrastructure.

On hearing of Mitchell’s trip, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry tartly severed relations with Grenada and stated that “The government of the Republic of China regrets Prime Minister Mitchell’s lack of foresight. We have stated sincerely our intention of not participating in a meaningless game of “dollar diplomacy” with China, and will never let Grenada waver between the two sides of the Strait in order to seek profits. The government of the Republic of China expresses its serious protest against, and condemns, the People’s Republic of China for its use of “dollar diplomacy” to drive us out of the international community.”

Taiwan realized they had been trumped. Mitchell had worked out a better deal for Grenada from Beijing. Stung, Taiwan has since been trying to recover $28.1 million in loans dating back to the 1990s, even attempting to seize Grenadian properties in the United States. That loan had funded the cricket stadium’s original construction in 1998.

Meanwhile, 500 Chinese workers toiled day and night for a year to build Grenada’s new stadium. And elsewhere in the Caribbean, another cricket stadium showcased in the 2007 World Cup also came courtesy of China, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, at a cost of $21 million.

Sir Vivian Richards cricket stadium, Antigua

Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua. AP Photo/Jonhnny Jno-Baptiste.

Taiwan, though lacking the extensive reserves and free spending ability of its rival, also scored with the $12 million renovation of the Warner Park cricket facility in St. Kitts & Nevis.

Warner Park Stadium, St Kitts and Nevis.

Warner Park Stadium, St Kitts and Nevis. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky.

This stadium construction rivalry is the result of each nation’s aim to receive “one China” recognition from the Caribbean nations: with the latter trading an unusual resource, the identification of sovereignty, for financial assistance.

Asia and the Africa Cup of Nations

Outside the cricket-mad Caribbean, twenty-first century dollar diplomacy has had a similarly dramatic impact on football stadium infrastructure, and is proving particularly significant for the Africa Cup of Nations. Andrew Guest wrote extensively about that on this space two years ago, looking at China’s role in building the stadia used for Angola’s hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations. Andrew focused on China’s motivation from a different diplomatic angle, noting that the stadium could be seen as a chip in China’s bid for access to Angolan oil in competition with the United States.

Estádio da Tundavala, Angola

Estádio da Tundavala, Angola. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell.

Angola is far from alone in benefiting from China’s “dollar diplomacy”, whether motivated by competition with Taiwan or the United States. Zambia’s shiny new 41,000 capacity Ndola Stadium came at a cost to the Chinese of $65 million, while in 2012, we will see another Africa Cup of Nations played at a Chinese built stadium in Libreville, capital of Gabon.

New Stadium in Libreville, Gabon

Stade d’Angondjé, Libreville, Gabon

As well as the politics in play, the construction of the stadia themselves raise some questions. Typically, these Chinese-funded stadiums are built relatively cheaply and quickly, and a large part of the reason for that is China’s use of its own workers and technicians in large numbers, instead of training local workers. And when local workers are used, problems have arisen.

In Zambia, for example, the construction of a Chinese-funded shiny new stadium has not allayed suspicions in the country about China’s motives and methods of assistance. Just two months ago, Michael Sata – a vocal critic of Chinese investment – was elected as the country’s president. He has in the past demanded the deportation of Chinese workers, and accused Chinese companies of mistreating Zambian workers (it should be said, whispers have long persisted that Sata has received funding from Taiwan). Sata, though, has toned down his criticism of China in recent months – perhaps a sign that China’s dollar diplomacy is, indeed, working.

Yet on a local scale, serious questions are still being raised in Zambia. China’s Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company has overseen fatalities and strikes that have raised major question marks about the conditions workers have been placed in at the Ndola stadium construction site. Workers downed tools in the spring over unpaid wages, with one worker saying “We don’t know what will become of us. This stadium is finishing in two months time, so who is going to pay our benefits? Is it the Chinese or the Zambian government?” He continued, “We are not ready to go back for work until we get answers from government and the same government should tell their Chinese friends to improve our conditions of services.” This came shortly after a fire killed two workers at the site.

In Costa Rica, similar controversy has arisen. Eric Beard on the Football Ramble covered this superbly recently, noting the concessions Costa Rica’s then-president Oscar Arias made to China in return for the “donation” of a new 35,000 capacity home for Costa Rican football, Estadio Nacional.

“Arias agreed that Chinese workers could build the stadium, despite the fact that Costa Rica was stricken with unemployment from the global economic crisis,” Beard writes. “He allowed the Chinese company in charge of the project, AFEC, to entirely bypass Costa Rica’s labor laws, which are notoriously strict. Though Costa Rica is a proud advocate of human rights, Chinese employees of AFEC worked inhumane hours right under the nose of the Costa Rican democracy. There was even one casualty on the project, as 37-year-old Liu Hong Bin was hit by a construction vehicle in November 2010. Putting human rights aside, the stadium barely stimulated Costa Rica’s economy, as even most of the materials used were shipped over from China.”

And as is the case elsewhere, a sparkling new stadium came at the cost of disrupted relations with Taiwan and with a free trade agreement with China, along with questions about labor rights and worker safety. As China’s international power grows, expect to see China’s stadium diplomacy to continue its controversial path.

The Chain Of 2018-2022-2026 World Cup Hosting Bids

It’s fairly absurd that the World Cup a full generation away from us in 2026 is critical for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosting bids, but there’s a chain reaction if China signals even a little more firmly that it will bid for the 2026 World Cup before FIFA’s 24-man Executive Committee makes its determinations on 2018 and 2022 in December. With China looking like a shoo-in for 2026 if it bids, that decision would essentially guarantee the United States would win the race for the 2022 World Cup.

This is because FIFA will not allow one confederation to host two consecutive World Cups, and China would be a shoo-in for 2026; with a European nation 99% certain to get the 2018 World Cup, that means 2022 will go to one of five bidders: Australia, South Korea, Japan, Qatar or the United States. And only the latter is not in the Asian Football Confederation alongside China, following Australia’s move on the pitch to Asia a few years ago.

Meanwhile, Simon Kuper’s dismissal of Qatar’s bid in the Financial Times this week prompted a swift response. Kuper wrote that “Qatar is spending oil money on lobbying. But few foreigners want a World Cup played in the desert, in indoor stadiums in 40-degree heat. Choosing Qatar would look a choice for money. That would make Fifa look tacky.”

That prompted Qatar 2022 chief executive Hassan Al Thawadi to respond in a letter published in the FT:

“First, the Qatar 2022 bid committee, in co-operation with a talented team of local and international science, technology and environmental experts, has developed the capability to cool outdoor stadiums, training grounds, FIFA fan fests/fan zones and walkways from metro stations to venues.

“Players and fans will enjoy temperatures not exceeding 27°C, and all of this will be accomplished using carbon-neutral technology. These cooled outdoor stadiums will be in a concentrated area, allowing fans to see more than one match per day.

“Second, Qatar is a vibrant and dynamic economy, set to grow by up to 20 per cent this year according to some estimates. While petroleum and gas resources are a key part of our growth, they are by no means the only source of revenue.

“Thousands of foreign and domestic companies providing a variety of non-energy related goods and services are based here.

“Furthermore, Qatar’s bid is playing firmly within FIFA’s rules, which include full disclosure of fund disbursement and written notification prior to talking with any FIFA’s executive committee member.”

Kuper is probably right; Qatar’s bid would have been stronger as part of a regional bid, as Todd Reisz points out. Right now, the favourites are the global heavyweights: Russia for 2018, United States for 2022 and China for 2026, quite the superpower line-up.

China’s 2026 World Cup Bid: Watch Out

The news that China is likelyto bid to host the 2026 World Cup brings to mind a daunting number of points related to that possibility: a vast country still to be truly conquered by the game, lacking a strong domestic league, but one that (in raw television viewing numbers) already has a massive audience for the World Cup; the corruption seeped into the game in China; the politics of China; the poor performance of the Chinese national men’s team; and much more.

Fortunately for us, Alex Usher reviewed these issues for us back in 2007 when China was in the running for the 2018/2022 World Cup hosting rights, and as someone who’d spent some time there, was able to cover most of this in a way that remains relevant today. So go read that: his conclusion remains relevant, “As long as the Chinese FA learns to play politics well over the next four years and courts its CAF counterparts properly (perhaps in conjunction with Chinese companies who are making real inroads all across Africa), a potential Chinese bid has to be seen as one of the front runners.”

The Sweeper: Chinese Football No Longer Exists

China football shirt

Big Story
When fans in China tuned in their television sets to the all-powerful state sports channel to watch their country take on Japan this weekend, they got a surprise: they were instead treated to the local version of a long-running European gameshow.

Reuters reports that “In Sunday’s sports news bulletins, CCTV-5 did not mention the 0-0 result, or even that the match itself had taken place, local newspapers reported.”

This comes in the wake of a match-fixing scandal that has rocked Chinese football to its core, with many top officials, including the former head of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), under police investigation.

The task of reviving Chinese football falls to Wei Di, the new head of the CFA, who said “Chinese football has degraded to an intolerable level. It has hurt the feelings of fans and Chinese people at large.”

The level of corruption has even caused concern for Hu Jintao, China’s president, and the dramatic action with the arrests of top officials and the black-out of the sport from television screens could be taken as a positive: serious action is finally being taken to deal with the endemic problem of the “black whistles” in the game. Either that, or the sport is done for.

The timing is crucial: football is enormously popular, but so of course are many other sports. The NFL made a big push this weekend to spread the popularity of the Super Bowl there. China’s Super League is due to start play in May, but might be delayed as the investigation into match-fixing continues; what’s important is that this time, real reform comes that can take football forward.

Quick Hits

  • The English press finally wises up to the possibility that the Bundesliga might be a decent model of financial sanity, with Patrick Barclay asking “Is the German model of football administration the way forward for the game in England?”  He looks at an annual report on the Bundesliga’s finances, which show the league as a whole less in debt than Manchester United alone, yet still with ticket prices laughably lower than the Premier League.
  • The Daily Mail says Manchester United fans are planning a boycott of season ticket purchases, to hit the Glazers in the pocket for inflicting said debt on the club as the “Green and Gold” campaign ramps-up, though the piece offers few details. We’ll take a look in more depth at this later today.
  • Tim Vickery looks at the complicated resolution to the controversy over Mexican clubs in the Copa Libertadores, following last year’s swine flu panic.
  • Peter Storrie, somehow back in charge at Portsmouth, pleads for time. Again. Meanwhile, in the same report, it’s said that “An Irish/American consortium is in talks about becoming the fifth owners of the club this season with the Hong Kong-based Chainrai, who exercised his right to take control of the club on Thursday.”

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

Building Stadiums: Angola, China, and the African Cup of Nations

CAN 2010

The African teams are mostly set.  After last weekend’s final qualifiers, we know that Cameroon, Nigeria, and either Egypt or Algeria will join hosts South Africa, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana as Africa’s representatives at the first African World Cup.  But those qualifiers also served to decide the field for a more immediate event: the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Angola in January (shorthanded as CAN2010—for the Campeonato Africano das Nações em Futebol Angola 2010).  So the African qualifiers will first be travelling to Angola, where they will be joined by the hosts and the teams that finished second and third in the four team final qualifying groups: Gabon, Togo, Tunisia, Mozambique, Zambia, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Malawi.

Which all leads me to a random trivia question: What is the most expensive city in the world for foreigners?  Tokyo?  Copenhagen?  Geneva?  All good guesses, all in the top 10.  But, out of context, I bet few people would have guessed the number one spot goes to the city that this coming Friday (November 20th) will host the draw for the CAN2010: Luanda, Angola.  Luanda is an archetypal global mega-city where massive wealth (due primarily to Angola’s huge reserves of oil and diamonds) combines with massive poverty (due primarily to the dual legacies of Portuguese colonialism and a brutal 27 year civil war between its 1975 independence and the 2002 death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi) to create a place rife with both hope and hardship.  And now, during January’s African Cup of Nations, a place that makes an unlikely host for a major international soccer tournament.

I spent six months living in Angola during 2002-2003, working on my dissertation research through a volunteer posting with an international organization doing development-through-sports programs in refugee camps.  It was an intense and rich experience.  Living in Luanda and working outside the city in communities hosting refugees from Congo along with internally-displaced Angolans, I saw much of the diversity of Africa within a few square miles.  The region has a mix of quaint but crumbling Portuguese colonial villas, bullet strewn government blocks, private beach resorts, sprawling slums, modern high-rise bank headquarters, lush agricultural villages, modern suburban developments, old Cuban military bases, glistening corporate mansions in walled compounds, and hardscrabble squatter camps.  And then there were those ubiquitous African landmarks: hundreds of improvised soccer fields crammed into any available nook.

But now Angola is doing some improvising on a much bigger scale: through arrangements with China, Angola is building four brand new stadiums to host the Cup of Nations.  The designs for these stadiums were up on Pitch Invasion last month, and their aesthetics are well worth appreciating.  But the stories around the stadiums are also worth some consideration.  As the tournament approaches I hope I’ll have the chance to write some more personal stories about my soccer related experiences in Angola.  For starters, however, I’ll focus on the stadiums and the nation itself.

Estádio Cidade Universitária, Luanda's stadium for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

Estádio Cidade Universitária, Luanda

The Geo-Politics of Building Stadiums

As a country Angola is a prime example of the “paradox of plenty:” having massive quantities of natural resources too often makes places ripe for exploitation and destructive inequality.  Angola’s approximately 18 million people have a per capita GDP of around $6000 per year—which is relatively high for Africa, particularly in a country just emerging from a long civil war—but 70% of the population lives on less than $2 per day, the country has extremely high rates of infant mortality, low life expectancy, and is often rated among the most corrupt countries in the world.  In my experience, however, Angolans are also a proud and resilient people, and considering the challenges of overcoming the damning legacies of colonialism and war there is still some cause for hope.

One major reason for both hope and concern is the fact that among Angola’s wealth of natural resources is oil—what Venezuelan politician Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo called “the devil’s excrement.”  The short and massively over-simplified version of why Angola’s civil war went on for 27 long years is that one side had oil, the other side had diamonds, and the long-burn of the war allowed each to keep funding themselves.

The more contemporary geo-political implication of Angola’s oil is that it is one of several African countries embroiled in a quiet contest between the US and China in their quest to ensure energy for the future.  One by-product of the end of Angola’s civil war was the opportunity for the country and multi-national countries to more efficiently exploit the country’s oil—Angola became a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2007, and will host its first set of major OPEC meetings this December.  Several months ago when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on her first major African tour, the New York Times declared “once again Angola is a crucial battleground.  This time, it is the contest for influence between the United States and an increasingly powerful, resource-hungry China.”

And what does all this have to do with soccer?  One of China’s most interesting tactics as it strives for global influence as an emerging superpower is what some have called “stadium diplomacy.”  China’s general scheme in the world of international development has been to worry a lot less about moralizing and telling developing countries what to do (which has been the general caricature of much Western aid), and to worry a lot more about making friends and creating business opportunities with no strings attached.  In Africa at least, building soccer stadiums are a great way to do that.

According to at least one source: “The Chinese have built or are in the process of building stadiums across a veritable A to Z of African states, including Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, the Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.”  I can’t imagine the US Congress would be willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for soccer stadiums in Africa, but China doesn’t seem to have that problem.

There is also a sort of natural political connection between Angola and China since the governments in both places have a historical tie to Marxism and a contemporary affinity for making lots of money.  The MPLA party has officially ruled Angola since independence, and much of the framing of the long civil revolved around cold war ideology.  One of the amazing stories of the Angolan civil war involves a turning point when heavily armored and anti-communist South African convoys made a long charge up the Atlantic coast to take Luanda—but the MPLA called on their comrade Fidel Castro who sent Cuban troops to help the Angolans repel the invaders.  But now, likely to Fidel’s great consternation, Luanda is home to gleaming new skyscrapers for capitalist behemoths such as ExxonMobil that sit, with great irony, just off Avenida Lenin and not far from Rua Comandante Che Guevara.

The Practice of Building Stadiums

The situation in Angola does raise interesting questions about when and how a developing country should spend money on sports.  This question seems particularly acute considering the way China tends to go about building the African stadiums—by using Chinese contractors and Chinese workers.  So where South Africa has tried to partially justify the massive expenditures it is making for World Cup stadiums by arguing that the money offers employment to local workers (of course, the South African worker’s strikes confirm this is not always a clean process either), Angola is just making sure the stadiums get built.  In one report from the BBC, for example, the construction site at Benguela (a provincial capital on Angola’s Atlantic coast) was reported to have 700 Chinese workers contrasted with only 250 locals.

Benguela, Complexo da Sr. da Graca

Benguela, Complexo da Sr. da Graca

Overall, though there has been much concern and speculation as to whether having Angola host in 2010 was too ambitious—a familiar refrain for international tournaments in Africa considering naysayers targeting the just completed FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria and upcoming South Africa 2010—it does look like the Angolan stadiums will be ready.  True, the opening date for the main stadium in Luanda has been pushed back, having targeted a grand opening for next week against Ghana in a friendly that will now be played in the old Estádio da Cidadela.  And they may have to do without the exterior landscaping that helped make the early drawings look so pretty.  But Luanda really is the least of the concerns—though the new Luanda stadium would be the biggest, the old stadium is still serviceable.

The other stadiums, in contrast, are in provinces more directly affected by the long civil conflict and without Luanda’s access to resources.  The fact that the stadiums in Benguela, Lubango, and Cabinda seem well in order, though smaller than in Luanda, is certainly an accomplishment of some sort.  And even with the Luanda stadium, the few Angolan workers are confident—as one told the Reuters when asked if the stadium would be ready: “I’m sure it will, the Chinese are building this thing.”

The other thing the Angolans, or the Chinese, or whoever, should probably get some credit for are the details of the stadiums themselves.  I attended a few games at the old Estádio da Cidadela, and it is one of those classic cement monstrosities common to many African capitals.  It can handle lots of people, and does the basic job, but that’s all that can be said for it.

From concept on, the new Angolan stadiums seem to be something more.  The original designs were apparently made by an Angolan architect to be based on the Welwitschia plant, which grows only on the borders of Angola and Namibia.  And, at least for the Luanda stadium, Reuters notes: “The stadium rim is expected to bend like the horns of the black sable antelope — the country’s national symbol. The soccer team is known as the ‘Black Antelopes.’”  Others of the stadiums also have thoughtful touches—such as Benguela’s Complexo da Sr. da Graça which opens out to a view of the ocean.  The efforts to make the stadiums aesthetically pleasing and culturally meaningful is important in African contexts long assigned only austere basics.

It is also worth noting that despite the expense of living in Luanda, the estimated costs of the stadiums could be considered reasonable in comparison to the insane sums devoted to other modern complexes: a common estimate seems to be a total cost of around $600 million for the four Angolan stadiums.  While that is still a huge amount of money to spend on sports, the four combined are only slightly more than the single Green Point Stadium being built in Cape Town for the World Cup.  Granted, the Angolan stadiums are significantly smaller and not fully enclosed, and soccer spectators may not appreciate the eyesore of running tracks, but considering where Angola is coming from and how it has all come together the stadiums would still seem to be an intriguing sort of modern soccer monument.

Stadium Spotlight: Design Proposal — Dalian Shide, the Organic Stadium

Dalian Stadium

Dalian Shide Stadium Rendering

Stadium Name: Dalian Shide Stadium
Location: Dalian Liaoning, China
Team: Dalian Shide F.C., China
Capacity: Unknown
Opening: Unknown
Cost: Unknown
Architects: NBBJ Architects (US)

Dalian Shide F.C., founded in 1983, play in the Chinese Super League, currently at 30,776 capacity Jinzhou Stadium — a stadium that was only itself built in 1997. But such is the pace of change in China that Dalian Shide will soon be playing in a new venue. UN Studio won the contest (see their “bamboo stadium” design here), but it’s worth looking at a much more innovative design entered for the stadium by NBBJ Architects out of L.A.

The Design
Touted as the “Garden Stadium”, the architects say its carbon footprint will be “minimal”. Its eco-friendliness includes water recycling, renewable energy and “green walls” — clad with living plants. NBBJ calls it an “organic stadium”, using reclaimed land folded in half around the seating bowl in the stadium, like so:

Dalian Stadium -- walls folding up

Dalian Shide Stadium -- walls folding up

The roof is perhaps the strangest part of the design. The architects say “The roof is a flexible system of cables and fabric to protect the fans from the elements, beautiful and unique, fluttering overhead,” but it’s rather unclear what elements such a flexible roof would protect fans from (it sure doesn’t look water-proof) — and might all that fluttering not be rather distracting during a game?

Dalian Stadium rendering -- the roof

Dalian Shide Stadium rendering -- the roof

The walls of the stadium “contain all of the vital systems of the building: the structure for the roof, the VIP suites, the toilets and concessions stands, the mechanical spaces, and the ticket booths.” These are touted as a key part of the sustainable structure, as they “Provide building insulation, reduces energy use, reduces heat island effect, filters air pollution, reduces green house gases, softens the typical hard edge of a stadium.”

Dalian Stadium rendering -- green walls

Dalian Shide Stadium rendering -- green walls

As you can see, the stadium is essentially two-sided: the architects say that opening the seating bowl to the city of Dalian “not only creates a more integrated experience for those seated in the bowl and walking on the concourses, but it also allows a connection to the site and city surrounding the stadium, allowing the local community to be a part of the event.” How that might work in practice, of course, is a different story (anyone else have visions of the stadium being trampled down by herds of hooligans at a future World Cup? No?)

Dalian Stadium rendering -- from the water

Dalian Shide Stadium rendering -- from the water

Note: M below corrected the original version of this article, by noting UN Studio had now won the design contest. We had missed that important fact!

Dalian Shide stadium

World Cup 2018 Candidates: 2. China

Beijing ChildEditor’s note: China. The elephant in the room when it comes to the 2018 World Cup. Knowing he was recently in China, I asked my blogging friend from Gramsci’s Kingdom to give an overview of their bid, in the second of our series on the World Cup 2018 candidates (see part one on the Benelux countries here).

Anybody who’s ever been to China knows that this is not a country that does things by half. That’s why a Chinese bid for the 2018 World Cup, should it materialize, will be need to be taken very seriously.

A Chinese bid will fundamentally be built around the country’s three obvious strengths.

First, China – as every marketer knows – is an enormous market that football’s powers-that-be would like to make more pro-football. Right now, football is not a particularly popular sport in China. Attendances at Chinese Super League matches are often MLS-sized. Basketball (and even ping-pong) get a lot more exposure at a day-to-day level in the country and the NBA at least is making serious hay of this.

Continue reading

Big Brother Meets the Terrace

With the 2008 Olympic soccer tournament approaching, China is eagerly preparing to completely miss the point:

“Zhongguo, Zhongguo — ha, ha, ha. Zhongguo, Zhongguo bi sheng,” the crowd shouts, simultaneously beating yellow, stick-shaped batons to the rhythm. “Jia you, jia you.” Rough translation: “China, China — ha, ha, ha. China, China must win. Let’s go, let’s go.”

One of about 20 cheers approved by authorities, it’s drilled a half-dozen times, orderly repetitions practiced in a meeting hall darkened by stained gray carpet squares and wood paneling. Thirty red and yellow paper lanterns dangle overhead, casting faint light on government slogans papering the walls.

Welcome to the “Beijing Civilized Workers Cheering Squad,” a public-education program to teach sportsmanship, all part of a larger Olympic etiquette campaign to show off a polite, prosperous and powerful China.

“We are not going to shout profanities in front of foreigners because the Olympics is a show for foreigners,” said Lui Wei, a 21-year-old spectator attending a recent Guo’an game.

Said foreigners were off buying books on Chinese swear words and were not available for comment.