GUANGZHOU, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Games will come to a close on Saturday but the host city of Guangzhou is looking to secure a sustainable legacy from the Games.
The two-week-long competition is the largest sporting event been held in the capital of the southern province of Guangdong and the biggest of the 16 Asian Games held every four years since 1951. More than 10,000 athletes from 45 countries and regions are participating in a record 42 sports ranging from archery to chess.
The event has offered Guangzhou an opportunity to emulate Beijing, which transformed itself for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and Shanghai, which went on a construction spree for the recently completed Shanghai World Expo 2010, as the third largest city in China has invested some 120 billion yuan (about 17.9 billion U.S. dollars) on projects including stadiums, roads and subway lines.
"If you haven't seen Guangzhou since last year, then you'll be seeing a totally different city now," said Liu Jiangnan, deputy secretary-general of the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.
One of the most striking new facilities is Asian Games Town, a new community located some 40km southeast of downtown Guangzhou that is home to the athletes' village, press center and media village.
The 600-meter-tall Canton Tower (or Guangzhou TV & Sightseeing Tower) which opened in late September in time for the Asiad, has become a new landmark and been attracting several thousand visitors daily despite the 150 yuan (about 22.3 U.S. dollars) cost of a ticket.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said he was impressed about the great changes that have taken place in the city which he first visited in 2001.
"Nine years ago, you didn't have so many skyscrapers, you didn't have the high TV tower," Rogge told Xinhua last week after he attended the Asian Games opening ceremony held in the Haixinsha Island on Nov. 12.
"Guangzhou was just a provincial capital then, now it has become a world city."
In stark contrast to the tradition that venues were clustered at previous multi-sports events, the venues for this Asiad are scattered throughout the city's 10 districts, two country-level satellite cities and the three co-host cities of Foshan, Dongguan and Shanwei.
Liu admitted that the participants may feel inconienvent about traveling from venues to venues but it is for "the sake of the city's future development".
"Guangzhou has taken actions to ensure the venues don't become 'white elephants' when the games are over," he said.
The Asian Games Town will become a residential community, and a dragonboat venue 74 kilometers from downtown Guangzhou will become a public park.
"Big events usually result in short-term losses for their hosts," said Chen Jian, an economist at the Beijing Institute for Socialism. "But the impact on a city's image is huge, and the investments will bring infrastructure improvements that will boost future growth."
China's economy has expanded almost 20 times since 1990, when Beijng hosted the 11th Asian Games, the first major international sporting event held in the nation, and Guangzhou saw its gross domestic product rise 11.5 percent last year to 911.3 billion yuan.
"After the Asian Games, Guangzhou's moving toward world city status," said Li Yongning, a professor of economics and sociology at the Guangdong Research Institute for International Strategies in Guangzhou. "The investment for the games helped internationalize and modernize the city."