The InterContinental Resort Beijing is one of four five-star hotels, shown here in an artist's rendering, being designed in China for the Olympics by Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo.

Hawaii sees opportunity
for business in Olympics


Anticipation. That's the feeling building worldwide about the 2008 Summer Olympics, the first Games to be held in Beijing. Hawaii is already positioning itself to get in on the action, through trade missions, an international sports management workshop and videoconferences like one recently held in Honolulu.

Olympics 2008

On a sunny afternoon, about 50 members of Hawaii's business community, including state officials, gathered for a live video conference with Beijing, sponsored by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

On the other side of the world, a panel of American diplomats and top officials involved in organizing the Beijing Olympic Games had just made their way through morning rush-hour traffic.

Suddenly, through the magic of technology, they appeared on the screen. The state department's director, Ted Liu, welcomed all the participants. And then the face-to-face talks began. The topic: "Doing Business in China and the Beijing Olympics."

China connections

To find out information about doing business in China, contact:

>> The state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, Strategic Marketing and Support Division, 808-587-2783, e-mail

>> U.S. Commercial Service Web site:

One of the participants who raised questions was Chao "Robert" Zheng, director of business development for Greater China for Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo, an international architectural firm specializing in hospitality, leisure and entertainment design.

Zheng finds videoconferencing helpful because "it would be difficult to meet with that many government officials in one place if you're going to Beijing."

A few years ago, WATG's China business was nominal, but now 80 percent of its projects are in China. "In 2000, WATG did $800,000 of work in China. This year, the company expects to sign $10 million in contracts. That's an increase of 12 times," Zheng said.

"We can't compete with the giants going directly after Olympic projects like the National Stadium, but we do have advantages in tourism development, planning and building facilities," Zheng said. The firm is designing four five-star hotels in Beijing in time for the Olympics -- the InterContinental Resort Beijing, the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Marriott Beijing and the Beijing International Forum Hotel, plus the Asian Art Center Museum and two residential projects.

Liu sees "huge opportunities" in China for Hawaii companies.

"The videoconferences are not only an opportunity for Hawaii companies to be kept abreast of the situation in China, but to gain the type of information that will put companies in position to respond to the opportunities and hopefully get them."

He thinks videoconferences are a cost-effective way to prepare for the challenges of doing business in China. "You have to work real hard to be able to enter that market, gain a foothold in that market and do well. And in my experience, having done a lot of business in that side of the world, there is no substitute for that type of preliminary hard work," said Liu.

Doing business in China is not easy. Liu knows what it takes to overcome some of those hurdles. In 1980 he helped found China Daily, China's first English-language newspaper. As managing director for Morgan Stanley's investment banking business in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Liu was responsible for taking a Chinese state-owned enterprise public for the first time.

He believes Hawaii has a great appeal in China. "I call it a unique brand that we just have to do a better job in taking advantage of ... because we are a melding of East and West, we are American, yet we are Asian, we're also Polynesian."

In China when many people think of Hawaii, they also think of a historical connection because Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who established the Republic of China in 1911, was educated in Hawaii and founded his first political organization here. "So in a certain sense, little old Hawaii had a hand in launching modern China," Liu said.

In the future, Liu hopes China will view Hawaii as a "knowledge portal." He says the state High Technology Development Corp. is setting up a technology and education consulting program in Beijing. And when it comes to developing business relationships, there is nothing quite like meeting in person. So in December, Liu will lead a tourism development and environmental services export mission to China.

His department is also excited that Hawaii has become the first state to be awarded a U.S. Department of Commerce grant to export tourism development services to China in connection with the Beijing Olympics.

According to Richard Bahar, a state business development manager, the nearly $400,000 grant will assist small- and medium-size enterprises. "The main thrust is to take our expertise over there and help Hawaii firms expand their market. Consequently, it would create additional jobs in Hawaii, since the work would be handled by Hawaii-based firms."

As part of a larger China initiative, Bahar says the state and its Hawaii partners will bring business travelers to Hawaii for training and for meetings with Hawaii experts. He also thinks Hawaii's relationship with China's central government is strengthened by having a Hawaii business development office in Beijing.

In positioning Hawaii for the Beijing Olympics, the University of Hawaii College of Business is also stepping into the ring. It just unveiled plans to organize a sports management workshop with the International Academy of Sport Sciences and Technology, based in Switzerland. The state will co-sponsor the event, endorsed by the International Olympic Committee, and help market it in China.

"The purpose is to help participants organize world-class quality sports events," said the workshop's organizer, UH professor Tung Bui. "We hope to attract participants from around the world, but especially China, due to the upcoming Beijing 2008 Olympic Games."

For the past two years, the seminar has been operating in Switzerland. While that seminar will continue, targeting mainly Europe and Africa, this marks the first time a similar seminar will be held in Hawaii and China, targeting mainly Asia and the United States.

According to Bui, the idea for the workshop came out of the experience the International Olympic Committee had at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. "The organizers realized that many of the national coaches lacked business and management skills in areas such as planning, budgeting, logistics, negotiation and security management."

Bui thinks "Hawaii is developing its reputation as a training center for sports management and hopes to make it an ongoing program." He points out that Hawaii already has a successful track record in organizing many annual sports events: the Honolulu Marathon, the Ironman Triathlon, surfing competitions, golf tournaments and university sports such as football and volleyball.

The week-long Hawaii seminar is scheduled for April. Training would be offered to high-level executives, including government officials and business professionals. The China seminar will be held in May or June, offering training to local sports managers.

For decades, China had closed its doors. But as the nation continues to open up, the anticipation continues to grow.

"When China returned to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, after a 50-year absence, it marked a great turning point," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said in the official Games newsletter. "In 2008, more people than ever will tune in to experience the unique celebration that China will stage for the world."

And Hawaii might have a hand in contributing to that spectacle.


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