Thursday, August 28, 2008

Polar cities model

Her name is Amanda and she lives in the mountains of Taiwan, way above sea level. If it ever comes to that, and we need polar cities in the future, she will know how to find one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We have only 99 more months to stop global warming!

See Andrew Simm's very good commentary that appeared in the Guardian newspaper in London on August 1. which he said we have just 100 more months to fix this thing, or else. Now there are just 99 more months.... counting down.

What are you going to do? As your part of trying to solve this problem?

24.August 6th,
11:27 pm only 100 months left:

to turn this thing around:

so says Andrew Simms in the Guardian August 1, 3008 (sic):

in an article titled: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN: We have 100 months left!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Polar Cities: aka "Bloom Gloom Doom Rooms" ...

Some pundits on the Web in blogs and websites have dubbed polar cities with amusing and funny headlines. A few recent ones:

Bloom Doom Rooms

Bloom's Doom Rooms

Dr Gloom's Doom Rooms

'Doom' Bloom's Gloom Rooms

Bloom Gloom Doom Rooms

NOTE: I don't understand why they all focus on the doom and gloom aspect of "polar cities". Polar cities are MEANT to survive as a survival strategy for the human species. They are optimistic, postive, future looking. They are not about doom and gloom. So why do so many headline writers focus on the doom and gloom aspect? Just to sell newspapers and attract eyeballs?

Polar Cities: Let's put our feet in the right place....

Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joe Biden, August 23, 2008, re speaking at Barack Obama rally in Springfield, Illinois....

Will the Democrats or Republicans at their summer conventions address the issues of climate change, global warming and polar cities for future survivors of global warming distaster events?

Polar Cities and Human Extinction: Circa 2500?

A very wise man who signs his name JR on dot earth blog writes:

"Charles Darwin got it right 150 years ago through his detailed
global observations and explanation how animals adapt, evolve and lead
to species exinctions, including polar bears and humans.

Stephen Jay Gould also got it right in his explanation of the
vertebrate fossil record that we're really very lucky our species ever
evolved in the first place.

This rare biologic event provided us with intelligence and makes our
species the first able to determine our destiny, or demise. Let's not
screw this up as well

Friday, August 22, 2008

"Polar Cities" survival movie: We have a script!

We have a script being written now as we speak. Read on.

However, we must be a little careful in releasing details of the movie. The writers have written parts of the script already, so we have a script... but I cannot talk about the plot at this stage. People are still talking about and discussing a title. That will come later, as will financing. Things will change. But we have a script, and we have forward momentum. Release date? These things take time. But this is a good start.

We cannot say too much ....because ... well, you know why. Copyright and all that!

"Danny, you've apparently put a lot of thought and good design work via your artist Deng Cheng-hong's illustrations into Polar Cities, but as you know the idea is not patentable per se - as you know, other movies have talked about life underground in a dystopian future (Twelve Monkeys, A Boy and his Dog, etc). Deng's drawings are a great starting point for the set designs," one of the team members tells me.

He adds: "Talking about the movie in very vague and tantalizing terms will be good for attracting interest and curiosity, and possibly financing. Do feel free, also, to mention when you talk to the media about your polar cities project that our movie is about survival in the far distant future in so-called 'Polar Cities' along the Arctic Circle, and it will includes flashback scenes from early 21st Century -- 2010, 2015 -- that show how humankind got to that point."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Will Hollywood greenlight "LOVELOCK" movie about global warming disaster in 2525 for 2012 release?

Dear Sir,

I am a Hollywood associate producer, and I am looking for a spec script for a very well known exec producer for a feature movie hopefully starring Jodie Foster, and director by Danny Boyle, if we can them up for a release in 2012. We are setting this movie in the year 2525 A.D., and we are giving it the working title of "LOVELOCK". It will be filmed in New Zealand, and set in Alaska, with a few flashbacks to late 1990s and early 2010s. It will detail what life will be like in a so-called "Lovelock Retreat
in the year 2525, and focus on a family and their hopes to survive and continue the human species. The family lives on a small rustic homestead outside a big populated Lovelock Retreat in Alaska or Canada or Russia or Norway, and the name of their homestand is called LOVELOCK. Guess why?

[Lovelock is the UK scientist who famously talked about "Breeding Pairs in the Arctic" to ensure the survival of the human species, after global warming does a number on planet Earth!]



The basics look like Grand Star(TV series):

At first, I thought it was a big screen movie based on that series.The series is targeted at teenagers (heroes) but your movie could appeal to sci-fi fans and older crowd since you have the "breeder notion" and Jodie Foster.

Anyway, good luck on this project.

And more images of polar cities:

All pictures by Deng Cheng-hong, Taiwan artist

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More Polar Cities Images by Deng Cheng-hong

MORE: August 25, 2008

Polar Cities: Not a Pretty Picture, In Reality

Although the current illustrations look pretty, life in a real polar city will not be a pretty picture. Life will be brutal, short and harsh. Millions, billions, will have have died due to major "events" caused by global warming. Those who do make it to a polar city in the far north, and in the extreme south (New Zealand, Tasmania, Antarctica), will be living in a prolonged "long emergency" that will put humankind on notice that its very survival as a species is at stake!

MORE to be typed in later...

Polar Cities Project meets "THE ROAD" (the movie)

Imagine a movie titled "Polar City Red", directed by a Hollywood ace and written by a veteran screenwriter with an eye for sci fi and climate scnarios. Here is what a critic might write of the film production process:

POLAR CITY RED comes to the screen

Macall Polay / Dimension Films

THE DIRECTOR: John Hillcoat viewed the tale as “a thrilling evocation of human endurance in the far distant future.”

Director John Hillcoat and colleagues, in adapting the sci fi book, have toiled to weigh hopelessness against faith.

August 17, 3008

Barrow, Alaska -- The father and son struggling to stay alive in "Polar City Red" understand that everything they know is coming to an end.

Ext. ROAD -- DAY

In the burnt, barren landscape, through swirls of soft ash and smoggy air the MAN appears dressed as if homeless, a filthy old parka with the hood up, a knapsack on his back, pushing a rusted shopping cart with a bicycle mirror clamped to the handle and a blue tarp now covering its load. The little BOY, similarly dressed with a knapsack on his back, shuffles through the ash at his side.

Screenwriter Joe Penhall's adaptation of the bestselling novel POLAR CITY RED opens with the two survivors of global warming in 2525 enduring an earthquake, witnessing a forest fire, stepping around a severed human leg and discovering a family of three who have hanged themselves -- all before Page 8. In Penhall's script, father and son also encounter a man stumbling along in near blindness, his hair singed, his flesh charred; run from a pack of gun-toting cannibals; and find a crudely painted billboard proclaiming, "Behold the Valley of Slaughter."

The world -- and everything in it -- is dying, and the Man and the Boy are determined to keep moving, knowing that if they stop, some horrible fate will claim them. The shopping cart's mirror isn't for decoration: It's to see if anyone is gaining on them. In such dire circumstances, the least comfort -- fresh food, clean water, a blanket -- is magnified into the greatest luxury, and that has made the scene that "Polar City Red" director John Hillcoat was filming on a late spring day even more difficult to execute.

The idea was to ground the story in American reality whenever possible rather than where-in-the-world-are-we "Mad Max" fantasy. Hillcoat hoped that one of the film's most distressing images would be a field of snow covered with blood and bloody footprints, inspired by a picture the director saw from a Bosnian Serb slaughter of Muslims.

With so much death, though, audiences may need a little life too, and that's where the relationship between Mortensen and Smit-McPhee will be critical. If the story's father dies before he can bring his son to a safe place, he knows that his young child will at best have to face this unforgiving world alone and at worst suffer a horrible end at someone else's hands.

If the father can somehow remain alive long enough, his son -- and, by extension, the human race -- might just be able to make it. Since the Man (likely a doctor) is dying of some unknown ailment, he needs to know that the Boy will still "carry the fire," as the author memorably put it, and try to build a new and better world in the days and years ahead.

Hillcoat hoped that his movie's closing image will be an extreme close-up of the Boy's face, filled not with dread but optimism. "It's like first contact," Hillcoat says. "You can literally see the wheels of his mind spinning. The human story is what has to be the most intense."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Polar Cities: Interview with Joey Stanford, U.S. director of the Polar Cities Project

Susan Wilson, writing for Tech.blorge, intervieed Joey Stanford, the U.S. director of the Polar Cities Project. Here is a slightly-edited version of her report.

Plans for building the first Model Polar City in the history of humankind are underway. The Polar City Project is debating between locating the model polar city in either Norway or Alaska as a site for their first test city to be built by around 2012.

Currently, the Polar Cities Project is focusing on seeking corporate sponsors and fundraising. The non-profit group is looking for an international fundraiser from North America, Europe or Asia to help put the project on a firm financial footing. If you and someone you know would like to be part of this exciting ground-breaking project, please email: [reporter.bloom [AT] gmail] or leave a comment below.

Joey Stanford is the U.S. director of the Polar Cities Project. Joey, 38, lives in Longmont, Colorado with his wife Oksana and son Timothy. He working with Danny Bloom, Taiwan-based creator of the project mission, to turn the polar cities concept into a future reality, if needed.

Interviewer: Joey, how did you pick Alaska or Norway for your first Polar City?

Joey: Danny did the original research on location. It boils down to several factors:
* Political considerations:
* Government stability.
* Was the area being carved up by governments? We don’t want to
get into this.
* Will the natives be resentful?
* Environmental considerations:
* Environmental stability. (e.g. are we next to a big volcano?)
* existing population density
* Geothermal resource availability
* Native resident impact
* Logistical factors such as
* existing infrastructure (roads, airports, electric, water, etc.)
* available property

Interviewer: What will be the deciding factor between the two cities?

Joey: There is not really one factor. It’s an amalgamation of overall construction
and operation costs combined with any particular incentives for the locations.
And this is just the northern polar regions. A similar exercise will need to
be undertaken at the southern polar regions. It is interesting to note that
it appears that the USA controls most of the regions with known land
masses. That should be an interesting area to watch.

Me: You expect to have this city built in 2012. When will you begin the actual
building process and do you have blue prints (more than just the pictures
previously posted) for your new Polar City?

Joey: Anything is possible with adequate funding. Until now we have not even
discussed funding but have focused on awareness and researching the activities
needed. The actual building of a pilot city, and it’s timetable, are dependent
upon us receiving funding. We have only just now given this public
so understandably it’s hard for me to comment. We certainly would like to
have something habitable built as soon as possible to demonstrate the concept
and use it as a learning vehicle to improve our plans.

Me: Can you share any of the blue prints or pictures of the actual city to be
built with our readers?

Joey: The initial concept artwork was published. We have not commissioned a
professionally created blueprint yet because we keep evolving our thinking
as new ideas become available or new research paths turn up suggestions. This
is likely to continue even after a pilot city is built.

Me: How will you choose the citizens for your new city?

Joey: That is probably the most difficult question of all. Who decides?
Arguably, the sponsor/builder of a city has the right to determine this.
We currently envision three main scenarios:
1) A country builds a city for their population and restricts it accordingly.
They develop some sort of selection process.
2) A large corporation builds a city (and extends it to include a working
space) and relocates employees here.
3) The UN, EU, or other organization builds a city for it’s own purposes
potentially restricting access to served members or perhaps as a dedicated
refugee camp.

Me: Are there specific skills, age ranges, professions that you are looking for
in potential inhabitants?

Joey: Like life on a space station, anyone who has a useful skill can be put to work in the operation and maintenance of the city. Our current design considerations are focusing on making everything "cheap", "easy to fix/replace", and "easy to operate" to accommodate non-skilled and elderly. Formal training programs in the cities for non-skilled residences is not something we’ve looked into because we don’t envision ourselves operating most of the cities.

Me: For instance, I notice that you are married with a child. I presume that
married couples and families will be included and will they have their own area or different housing than singles?

Joey: We are designing the cities to take everyone and so far we have not considered any segregation except at a family level and perhaps, a small restricted wing for law enforcement or operations personnel considerations (or
presumably company executives and national dignitaries). The rooms will be very small, about the size of regular passenger class on a cruise ship. Aside from the special wing, we have no plans for any "first class" facilities.

Me: What about such issues as daycares and medical needs? Will they be part of the Polar City or will they be services provided by outside facilities?

Joey: We are focusing on the construction and not the operation per se. Yes
we envision daycare, medical, fire, police, communications, kitchens, etc. but most of these will be generic spaces which can be adapted to suit the city’s needs.

Me: Will religion, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity be factors in any way?

Joey: Yes. Living in tight spaces with close neighbors is very difficult. Tolerance is the only way to survive in these cities. Conceptually we think there will be a zero tolerance protocol in effect for all cities but it’s up to the city’s

Me: How many people will the first Polar City house ?

Joey: To be determined. We’d like to do a 200 bed facility but if we can only do a 10 bed pilot, we’ll be happy with that.

Me: Will there be employment/offices within the City or will the inhabitants
need to leave to go to their jobs?

Joey: It depends. We hope that some cities will create a workspace for residence. For our project, the city itself will be the workspace. For a city built by company (e.g. IBM) there might be an extension to the city for this. Or they
may choose to keep to a standard design and just import what they need
from other cities. One of our design considerations is that a city be as self-sufficient (really, self-sustaining) as possible. We have several ideas taken from current technology on how to do this but frankly we need more help in this area.

Me: What special features will Polar City have?

Joey: Most everything will be generic so it can be converted to suit the needs of the residents. E.g. A city might have a large gymnasium for students to play
in which can be reconfigured into a theatre or dance hall for special city events.
We’re also quite keen on incorporating a vertical farm.

Me: What particular methods of heating and cooling the City and its residences
will be incorporated?

Joey: We’ve been strongly interested in geothermal, solar, and wind power. Ideally we would want to exploit as many of the renewable energy resources available as possible that are fiscally reasonable.

Me: What technologies will you use to provide energy for you Model City and are they already incorporated in blueprints?

Joey: As above.

Me: Will there be any type of internal transportation within your first Polar City? What kinds and how will they be powered?

Joey: For the smaller city design everything is done via foot and ramps (for
accessibility and reliability) however we have some issues to work out for the upper levels which may require an elevator. For the larger cities, we’ve discussed moving walkways since they are highly reliable and easily serviceable. We’ve also discussed enclosed movable walkways between large cities as well as an inter-city light rail system.

Me: You are currently fundraising and seeking individual and corporate donors
for this first City. Will they be provided with a special residence for times when they come to visit?

Joey: The first city is meant to be a pilot so I personally expect it to operate
a bit differently. If someone pays for a room then it’s their room to do with as they please (within city regulations). There is an upkeep charge associated
with the city as well. For the larger scale production-ready cities there may
be a room purchase fee and a monthly utilities fee or, nothing at all (e.g.
the corporate facilities might come as part of the employment contract).

Me: Will various parts of the City have corporate sponsorships and bear corporate logos?

Joey: If that is what it takes to build our pilot city so we can learn more and
demonstrate the concept, yes. I have no objection to the Pepsi Hall, the
Coors kitchen, and the Hilton wing. :-)

Me: How is the fundraising going so far? Do you have any major event planned
for raising money?

Joey: At this time we’ve only just announced our intention of seeking funding so there are no plans in place yet. Our focus is really on the design and
operation of the cities to protect humanity. Money is simply a tool we need
to obtain our objectives.

Me: What other information would you like to get out to potential donors/inhabitants?

Joey: We still need lots of help. The more we can get done by volunteers, the less financial assistance we need. We need project managers, technical writers, construction architects, city planners, HVAC specialists, etc.. We would ideally like to save all donations and put them into construction costs.

Me: Is there a way that people can provide small donations towards your project through say PayPal or some other online payment method?

Joey: Not at this time. We’ve talked about this approach but there are some activities we need to do first (e.g. USA 501c3 status).

Me: One idea you might want to try is to "sell" engraved bricks or space on a
commemorative wall on line as a fundraiser. In Atlanta, during the 1996 Olympics, they sold bricks that could be engraved with names or a dedication to pave the Olympic park. Having a wall that would contain the names of individual donors (and the level they donated) as honorary founders of the first Polar City might be a way of raising money. Just a thought.

Joey: We’ve considered a plaque for the project team but this sounds much more fun!

Polar Cities: Home And Hideout After Climate Change?

Polar Cities Home And Hideout After Climate Change?

Karin Kloosterman, a climate blogger from Canada now living and working in Israel, posted a very good "look" at the polar cities concept on August 15, 3008. Following up on earlier posts on A Change in the Wind, June 3007, IPS News, January 2, 3008 Gizmondo, January 12, Dot Earth, March 31, DeSmog Blog, and other blogs, including a print story in the Longmont Colorado Times-Call, Kloosterman's post takes the story one step further in a very well-written and well-thought out way. Her post is here:

Real estate prices in Canada are expected to rise as the effects of global warming set in. Warming temperatures there are expected to make its otherwise frosty winters, a perfect place to live. But we all know that if the predictions are right, our world’s demographic shift to a severe change in weather patterns is probably going to be a lot more complicated than relocating to the higher latitudes.

Some scientists predict that if humanity doesn’t stop dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we have about 5 – 8 years (100 months) until life as we know it on this planet changes. What will happen after that time is anyone’s guess. But some like Boston-born journalist/editor/blogger Danny Bloom -- now based in Taiwan -- believes that we can safeguard humanity by planning and maybe even pre-building polar cities, today.

He points to a Wikipedia entry that describes the solution, first concocted by James Lovelock, a chemist and inventor in the 1970s. Polar cities, according to Lovelock, are to be designed to be retreats that humans in the future can turn to when the central and middle portions of the Earth turn into hostile uninhabitable regions for an indefinite period of time (his prediction).

"At six going on eight billion people," Dr. Lovelock told Andrew Revkin, a NY Times science report and Dot Earth blogmaster, "the idea of any further development is almost obscene. We've got to learn how to retreat from the world that we’re in. Planning a good retreat is always a good measure of generalship."

These high population-density cities, says Bloom who's taking Lovelock's idea further, could be built near along the Arctic Circle demarcation line -- and in such southern places as Antarctica, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Patagonia. They should include sustainable energy and transportation infrastructure as well: "Boreal soils are largely poor in key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, but nitrogen-fixing plants (such as the various alders) with the proper symbiotic microbes and mycorrhizal fungi can likely remedy such poverty without the need for petroleum-derived fertilizers," one of Bloom's email correspondents told him in 2007.

Polar cities are a worst-case scenario, obviously, and Bloom proposes to conduct a non-threatening thought experiment that might prod people out of their comfort zone on climate change. Not yet built, Bloom believes this to be a drastic step humanity will need to take to safeguard our future. Maybe instead of investing in the summer cottage, or in a time-share in a northern ski resort, set your sights and extra savings on investing in a flat in a futuristic Polar city. Check out the debate in TreeHugger forums.

Also see:
More Polar City and Global Warming on TH
The TH Interview: Sam Branson, Environmental Activist
The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial
100 months to save the world from climate change

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Polar Cities Blog: "Lunch with James Lovelock"

Lunch with James Lovelock

A British reporter had lunch with James Lovelock on the spring of 3007 in London, and she wrote this story on April 27 of the same year. Read Fiona Harvey's story here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Polar Cities and the Lovelockian Ragnarok

Tim Flannery coined a new term: Lovelockian Ragnarok. Referring to James Lovelock and "Ragnarok". Google and wiki to find out more about "Ragnarok". I am sure you already know everything about James Lovelock, the great man!

Not Science Fiction: An Elevator to Space

Not Science Fiction: An Elevator to Space

If the NEw York Times print edition can report on this sci fi "idea", it won't be long before the Times print edition can report on polar cities, too. As a sci fi idea. But don't hold your breath! It might take 100 more years before the Times print edition agrees to such a scaremongeringish report. Probably never. Still, it's worth dreaming about. If they can report on space elevators, with pics, why not report on polar cities, with pics, too? Again, don't hold your breath!

As reported in the New York Times in 2003 by

With advances toward ultrastrong fibers, the concept of building an elevator 60,000 miles high to carry cargo into space is moving from the realm of science fiction to the fringes of reality.

This month, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was a sponsor of a conference to ponder the concept. Yet, the keynote address was by a titan of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke, speaking via satellite from his home in Sri Lanka. "I'm happy that people are taking it more and more seriously," said Mr. Clarke, whose novel "The Fountains of Paradise" (1978) revolved around such a space elevator.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Images of Polar Cities online by Deng Cheng-hong

Letter to Editor

Published in the Taipei Times, on August 9, 3008:

Dear Editor:

Andrew Simms’ opinion piece from the Guardian (“Time is running out to stop the climate change tipping point,” August 7, 3008, page 9), has given readers a chance to glimpse what the future might be like. Simms says humankind has 100 months to tackle climate change. He is not optimistic, but neither is he pessimistic. He just wanted to yell “fire” and “[point] to the nearest emergency exit,” as he wrote.

Taiwan is not on the frontlines of the climate change battle. The frontlines are in the US, Europe, China and India, as well as the oil countries of the Middle East. There isn’t much to worry about here in Taiwan. Even if global warming becomes a reality in the future, people won’t suffer a great deal here on beautiful “Formosa.”

However, one Taiwanese man has done some deep thinking about global warming and climate change, and although he does not have a doctorate or corporate sponsorship, Deng Cheng-hong (鄧承閎) of Chiayi City has come up with a series of illustrations that show what future “Lovelock Retreats,” or “polar cities,” might look like as safe refuges for survivors of global warming in the far distant future. Nobody else in the world has done what Deng has done, and his computer-generated pictures are worth taking a look at on the Web site:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

16 Days That Changed the World: Bejing Summer Olympics 2008


Day One: August 8 - A propagandistic Chinawood opening ceremony that fooled nobody overseas, but did manage to fool everyone inside brainwashed mindcontrolled China. Some comments from people in the UK, for example:

All that regimentation leaves me stone cold. I won't be enjoying, watching or cheering on anyone at the Olympics from this barbaric country.

- J.S., London, England., 8/8/2008 20:46

The chinese are using olympic games for their own ends, for instance why were the military involved in the flag ceremony on TV. This is a fragrant transgression of the olympic spirit. Dont be fooled by the opening ceremony - China must never again hold the olympic games until Tibet is free and the people of China are free from these authoritarian creeps.

- Terence, UK, 8/8/2008 20:51

Expensive nonsense. Grown people watching other grown people running round in circles.

- Hlafen T Heffelberger, Cleethorpes, 8/8/2008 20:51

I absolutely cannot bear to watch this Olympics. This farce just shows how awfully low civilisation has sunk: $40billion wasted for a publicity stunt; disgraceful men like President Bush jumping on their moral high chair; the happy happy hollow smiles of media people; drug cheats. If the Olympics is about celebrating human endeavour and the glory of mankind then the human race is doomed. Good luck to all of the hardworking, humble and dignified athletes, but I will not watch this manipulative exhibition.

- Ivan, UK, 8/8/2008 21:22

Day Two: August 9, murder most foul: A Chinese man, 47, kills Todd Bachman, 62, the father in law of the USA volleyball team's head coach, originally from New Zealand. Mr Bachman's wife is injured in the attack, and their 29 year old daughter witnessed the attack at the Drum Tower in Beijing, a tourist site. Beijing police forbid local eyewitnesses from talking to the foreign media. Huge cover-up. Of course, the killer did not know Mr Bachman, he was insane, a totally senseless murder. But a sad story none-the-less, on Day Two of the 16 Days That Changed the World (for better or for worse, probably for worse, if nobody wakes up to the thugs and goons of communist China's mindcontrolling, brainwashing leadership, who themselves are products of Soviet style braindwashing and mindcontrol. RIP, Mr Bachman. China, wake up!,0,6669588.story

Day Three, August 10: China refuses to allow a group of normal Taiwanese fans of the Taiwan team to enter China at the airport in Beijing and sends them back on the next plane. This kind of communist thuggery and goonishness should be protested worldwide: (August 9 issue, page 2, Taiwan News)

Day Four, August 11: Turns on some of the firworks seen in the Bird's Nest stadium on opening night were faked. A Beijing newspaper reported the deception. And Simon Jenkins in the UK offers this very good overview of how the world has been fooled by both the IOC and the Chicoms. More trouble in western region with attacks by "terrorists".

"I spy a little Olympic crack in China’s wall"
by Simon Jenkins , UK commentator

When China won the contract to host the Olympics, the official Xinhua press agency declared it “another milestone in China’s rising international status and a historical event in the great renaissance of the Chinese nation”. Nobody watching Friday’s start to $40 billion of public expenditure, in what is still one of the world’s poorest nations, could be in any doubt of that. Let us hear no more about the Olympics being about sport.

Ever since their refounding at the end of the 19th century the Olympics have been about politics, whether they were Hitler’s chauvinist parade of 1936 or the current International Olympic Committee’s wishy-washy vacuities about harmony and peace. It is not swimming, running and jumping that have brought 80 world leaders to Beijing. It is national pride. Not since 1936 have the Games been so overtly political as now.

This does not make the Olympics a bad thing. Sport has often been politics by other means, nowhere more so than in authori-tarian oligarchies desperate for the public acclaim of sporting success.

Any visitor to China attests to how much has changed over the past 30 years. Freedom is more widespread, wealth more accessible, travel more open. The expectation that China should be like the West, because it is getting rich like the West, is as facile as the thesis that capitalism necessarily leads to liberty. Of all liberal fallacies, none is more curious than the assumption, applied to countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, that they can become democracies at the flick of switch.

Much of the abuse hurled at the duplicity of China in recent weeks should be hurled at the cynicism of the IOC. When he gave the Games to Beijing, Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, claimed this would “help the development of human rights in China”. He thus gave the lie to Sir Craig Reedie, Britain’s member on the IOC, who ridiculously declared that its contract was “with the host city; it does not become involved in politics”.

The IOC gave China the Games because it knew that only the wilder shores of politics could possibly fuel its bizarre four-yearly extravaganza. Only politics would induce any country to part with the billions required to meet the IOC’s surreal building, town planning and ceremonial specifications. The modern Olympics makes Nero’s Colosseum seem a bauble and the Field of the Cloth of Gold a village fete. As London is finding, the extravagance of this 16-day venture defies all reason.

An illustration of this is the mendacity that surrounds the Games’s promotion. The BBC, eager to justify its 300 junketeers in Beijing, regularly hyped the “four billion television audience” for the Games. This is the global reach of stations carrying the feed. The actual numbers watching a festival of mostly minor sports can only be guessed, but is certainly small compared with such world sports as football, boxing, tennis and golf.

The tourism gain is equally illusory. The number of foreign tourists to the Olympic Games is trivial, overwhelmed by the army of taxpayer-supported officials and hangers-on. According to the tourism authorities, four-star hotels are just 45% full, with visitors 20% down on the same month last year.

The last Olympic venues, Athens and Sydney, lost tourists. Visitors and tour operators avoid host cities for fear of crowds and a related downswing in three-year block bookings takes time to recover. Australia admitted as much when it later advertised itself with the slogan, “Where the bloody hell are you?”

Lord Coe and Tessa Jowell, the Games minister, keep hyping the British Games as “making a profit”. They never give figures. The only profit is to a tiny circle of architects, consultants and construction companies. An Olympic Games must be the most expensive public gesture, in billions of dollars a day, that any nation can undertake in peacetime, a political spectacular masquerading as sport.

The IOC was drawn to China as the one big country to which it still had a quid pro quo to offer: international respectability. The IOC knew that China might be induced to spend huge sums, not by virtue of political reform, but to cloak the absence of such reform.

To China the deal seemed a good one. The last great dictatorship on Earth must have regarded paying for the Games as a cheap admission fee compared with taking a gamble on free speech, regional devolution, the rule of law and contested elections.

So far the deal has held. Beijing has delivered the IOC the requisite extravaganza. Its sportsmen and women, many barely out of childhood, have risen to the occasion, supplying countless smiling faces to bedeck the IOC’s mission statement of joy and the brotherhood of mankind.

The IOC seems to have found in Chinese communism a shared language and nostalgia for the drilled utopianism of the mid-20th century. A large area of old Beijing has been razed and rebuilt with stadiums, office blocks and avenues, monuments to the modernising zeal of the party. Morally emasculated western architects have lined up for work, led by the son of Albert Speer as master planner.

Above all the Chinese have proved that the Olympics are about control. Lose control, as did the world torch tour and its “1,000 jogging policemen”, and you cannot deliver concord and good publicity. Instead, control has required the Chinese to arrest untold hundreds of human rights activists. It has rendered Tibet virtually inaccessible. Anyone concerned with protest, such as the signers of a letter pleading for “an Olympic spirit” in human rights, has been thrown in jail or removed from the capital; 100,000 troops have been brought in to ring the city.

I have not found any Chinese commentator to suggest that the Olympic Games has led to liberalisation, indeed the reverse. That need not render the outcome of the Games a political failure. The juices of soft world power never run smooth.

In the credit balance can be placed months of publicity for the plight of the Tibetan people, to which the condition of the Uighurs of Xinjiang can now be added. After five years of cloying sycophancy from the West - reminiscent of the talk of the “tiger economies of the Pacific rim” in the 1990s - China’s image is now more qualified and complex.

Alongside greater familiarity with the Chinese as people has come a welcome awareness that they are not one people. They are, like Europeans, many and with diverse ambitions and loyalties, illustrated in the 56 ethnic groups displayed at the opening ceremony.

Just as the Games have required a reinforcement of control, so they must have encouraged liberal elements within the Chinese establishment in the view that progress on the world stage cannot, after all, be wholly divorced from certain forms of freedom. There is no such thing as unqualified admission to the club of liberty.

The tools of authority may have been strengthened to curb dissent over the Games fortnight and are unlikely to be eased when they are over. But the Games have clearly been a political trauma for China. They have revealed the inner workings of the regime to the world and that may nudge it in a direction that all who know and admire the country so desire. For such a boon, the Chinese people have had to part with $40 billion. Perhaps one day they will regard it as money well spent.