Nema Etheridge for GlobalAtlanta
In bringing 26 Chinese officials to Atlanta last week to hear the city’s best practices for hosting the 1996 Olympic Games, Delta Air Lines Inc. is building a case for an Atlanta-Beijing route one relationship at a time.
“The relationships are incredibly important,” Doug Blissit, Delta vice president of public affairs and corporate real estate, told GlobalAtlanta, after Beijing officials said they wanted to build a lasting friendship with the city of Atlanta.
Beijing officials came to Atlanta on Delta via Tokyo last week to participate in a three-day workshop on aviation and airport security in preparation to host the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. Delta is working to drum up support in China to open a direct flight to the Chinese capital before the games begin.
The workshop was organized by CIFAL Atlanta, a local branch of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, so the city of Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport could share their best practices in hosting the 1996 Olympics with Chinese officials.
In addition to hearing Atlanta’s best practices, the visiting officials, who represented the city of Beijing, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, the Beijing Capital International Airport Company Ltd. and the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority, got a chance to learn about Atlanta and build relationships with its leaders.
For Delta, having established relationships with senior level Chinese officials could help the airline when it makes a bid to the U.S. Department of Transportation to get service into China. It also builds brand recognition within the country for when a new flight does eventually begin, according to Mr. Blissit.
For Atlanta, helping Beijing prepare for the Olympics raises the city’s profile as a potential site for the next Chinese consulate to open in the United States. But it also extends the hand of friendship, according to Mayor Shirley Franklin, and allows Atlanta to build its own brand and reputation abroad.
“Of course we would like a Delta flight to China. Of course we would like a consulate in Atlanta. But more than that, we want to build a friendship with you who care about the peace and prosperity of your people,” Ms. Franklin told the delegation at a closing luncheon ceremony held Nov. 1 at World Trade Center Atlanta. She added that Atlanta had a “moral responsibility” to build friendships on peace and prosperity because it was the home of Martin Luther King Jr. and the seat of non-violent social change in the U.S.
During her luncheon address, Ms. Franklin, who served as senior vice president for external relations on the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, shared with Chinese officials lessons learned by the city of Atlanta while hosting the Olympics.
She told the visiting attendees, who included Wu Kairong, director of the port office for the Beijing Municipal Government & Emissary- representing Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan, that security should be of utmost importance during the Olympic Games. During Atlanta’s games, one person was killed and more than 100 injured when a pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park.
Ms. Franklin also suggested that Beijing officials be prepared to transport tourists during the Olympics and suggested that Atlanta’s initiative to offer free public transportation to Olympic Games’ spectators was an example to follow.
She also told the Chinese delegation to have fun and enjoy the games, which was warmly received by Zhao Xing, director of administration with the China Civil Airports Association.
“She said she was sharing ‘lessons,’ but we see them more as recommendations,” Mr. Zhao told GlobalAtlanta after Ms. Franklin’s address.
He added that the Beijing Capital International Airport had already begun to prepare for the influx of traffic that the games are expected to bring, estimating an increase from the 48 million passengers the airport is to handle this year to 60 million passengers in 2008.
“China has opened,” Mr. Zhao said. “Just like ‘everyday is an opening day in Atlanta,’ it will be that in Beijing too.”
For more information on the workshop, visit CIFAL Atlanta’s Website at www.cifalatlanta.org or contact Andrew Waskey, CIFAL program manager, who helped to organize the conference, at (404) 962-4837.