Costella's thoughts on Beijing

By Charles Whisnand

Appeal Sports Editor

Like anyone who has spent time in Beijing, Ryan Costella will have a unique perspective when he's watching next month's Summer Olympics in China.

The 2000 Carson High graduate, who went on to compete for the Villanova men's swim team, spent nine months in Beijing as part of his studies at the University of Cambridge in England. Costella studied at Beijing University during his time in China.

"It's obviously going to be a sight to see," said Costella about the Olympics. Costella said the Chinese government " and people " are determined to give everything "they have to make it an overwhelming success and a show to the world.

"It's going to put on a really great show. They're going to put everything they've got into it."

But Costella noted obviously China will have to continue to deal with criticism and protests over its human rights record and treatment of Tibet. "There's also a bunch of challenges they're going to have to face," he said.

While he was in Beijing, Costella said the growth in the city was unbelievable. One day while he was there he said he counted 14 cranes on one street corner along. "It's Las Vegas times 10," he said. "It's just totally explosive growth."

With growth comes pollution and Beijing's pollution problem has been well documented. Costella said there were days he couldn't see across the street and other days he couldn't even go outside. "It was very, very polluted," he said.

He noted the city's population is 15 million people and with the transient work force, it's likely "much, much higher than that."

But while athletes have talked about taking measures to deal with the pollution, Costella said there won't be any pollution during the Olympics. He noted that when he ran the Beijing Marathon in 2005 there was no pollution and when President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visted the city there wasn't any pollution then, either.

"I don't know exactly what went into doing that," he said. "They're able to make it clean."

Costella said it's likely the measures that are taken include shutting down the factories and regulating how many vehicles can be on the road. Costella lamented the fact the city couldn't stay relatively pollution free all the time. "When everyone leaves then it's going to go back to pollution," he said.

With any developing city, Beijing has growing pains like poverty, Costella said. He said many of the construction workers on the development projects make $4 a day and live on the project sites they work on. He also noted many of the older neighborhoods were removed to make room for more modern development, which received criticism for hurting the cultural value of the city.

"There were a lot of contrasts when I was there," he said. "There's give and take with development."

Costella said NBC should cover the Beijing Olympics like any Olympics they've covered in the past.

"I think at the end of the day this is a peaceful sporting event," he said. "They should continue to apply the same standards."

China has promised NBC the same kind of access it has received in other countries when televising the Olympics and Costella said it will be interesting to see if that happens.

Costella said he hopes that NBC doesn't just focus on Beijing, but also gives a great deal of coverage to the rural part of the country. Costella said China is really a rural country with estimates up to 80 percent of the population living in rural areas.

The inland rural areas have been left out of much of the economic growth because China has just one coast, so developing in the rural areas for business is less attractive, Costella said.

There are 600-800 million people in the country who live as farmers and 400 million people who make $2 a day.

But Costella said NBC shouldn't focus on the poverty. "I wouldn't necessarily want them to focus on it for the sensational purposes," said Costella about NBC's possible coverage of the rural areas.

Costella said if NBC can show the rural culture as well as Beijing " "if they can show that they will give people a full understanding of China.

"China is a much more diverse and complex country. There's a lot of really good things about China. things that make China really special. The culture is so rich."

Costella earned his master's in Chinese economics and management from Cambridge. He's now living in Washington, D.C. working as a special assistant to Senator Bob Casey (D) of Pennsylvania.

Along with being Senator Casey's Chief of Staff's "right-hand" man, Costella said he also advises Casey on issue concerning China.

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