Beijing’s gleaming new sports stadiums, efficient subway lines and legions of smiling volunteers are a testament to the Communist Party’s power to mobilize a country of 1.3 billion people. But to do so, the party has had to draw vast resources from faraway towns and villages, where millions of ordinary citizens such as Li are now suffering from water shortages, blackouts and business losses brought about because of the Games.
Other countries that previously hosted the Olympics made sacrifices of their own, particularly financially. But the actions that China has taken highlight just how far it is willing to go — and just how much its people are willing to endure — for the sake of an event that has the rest of the world watching.
Here in Hebei province, almost 80 billion gallons of emergency water is being sent to the capital through a series of canals hastily built over the past few months. The construction has displaced farmers, leaving some patches of land so parched that it’s difficult for them to grow anything.