Since Flushing challenges Manhattan’s Chinatown for the title of largest Asian-American center and most dynamic micro economy in the city, it’s not surprising that the bustling area was affected by the Beijing Olympics, bringing the community together and even giving a little bounce to some local businesses.
Store owners stocked up on Olympic memorabilia and several restaurants had promotions and giveaways for patrons who came in to eat and watch the Olympics beamed directly from Beijing and broadcast in Chinese.
Mabel Law, executive director of the Flushing Business Improvement District, said that people were traveling to Flushing from around the city because for those who couldn’t afford to be in Beijing, Flushing provided the chance to soak in some of the atmosphere and energy of the games. She also expected to find that local travel agents had done well since people booked tickets for China to the Olympics.
Spring Garden and Mei Shi Lin Chinese restaurants on 40th Road, were among those who offered patrons T-shirts and other incentives to come out and watch the opening ceremonies.
By Thursday evening, however, the audience at Spring Gardens had dwindled somewhat, although the owners, Linda Wang and David Guo, said they had been pleased with the response to their promotion. “Business has most certainly picked up,” Guo said.
There was plenty of interest in the games on Main Street, with crowds gathered outside several stores that had placed televisions in their windows for people to watch. “It’s the best Olympics ever,” said a Flushing man watching, but who declined to be named.
Peter Tu, general secretary of Destination Flushing Cuisine Association, was somewhat skeptical of the boost to restaurant business during the games. “There may have been a boost to supermarket sales as people rushed to buy food to take home and cook in time to watch,” he said. He didn’t think many people would be enticed out of their homes, preferring instead to stay in where they could, “watch in their underwear and be comfortable.”
Tu, a Taiwanese-American was somewhat skeptical about the way the games were perceived by different ethnic groups within the Asian-American community. He said that strong support for the American team among Taiwanese and other Asian-Americans was not always appreciated amid the euphoria of the first ever Olympics held in mainland China.
Peter Koo, president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, was more upbeat about the impact of the games. He guessed that the economic impact was small, but significant, a sort of mini holiday, not on a par with Christmas, but generating extra sales, nonetheless. Koo said that the biggest impact of the games was to bring the Asian-American community together and have them share in the pride of seeing that China could have such an important triumph.
“Before the games there was anxiety in case there was a terrorist attack, or something else to go wrong, but after such an incredible success, people felt pride and excitement,” he said, noting the large number of gold medals China won. “China proved it can compete in international sports, whereas before, people said the Chinese were too small and not strong enough to win.”
He didn’t think the local businesses made a lot of money from the games, but he was amused to see that DVDs of the closing ceremony were already for sale on the street by Monday morning.
Tessa Gerald, a spokeswoman for the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel, said that there was a nice flow of customers during the Olympics. The hotel offered Chinese language coverage of the games in their restaurant and in the bar area, and noticed an increase in patronage.
“Overall, the effect of the Olympics on our business was positive, with higher occupancy,” she said, adding that at least one family travelled from out of town to experience Olympic fever in Flushing.
Fred Fu, Community Board 7 member and president of the Flushing Development Center, said there was little or no economic effect on Flushing from the Olympics. However, the Chinese people in Flushing were very happy and excited during the games. “America and China won two-thirds of the gold medals, so everyone is doubly happy.”
Fu, a travel agent, said getting tickets to the Olympics was so hard, few people made the trip.”