Beijing kicked off the marketing campaign for the 2008 Olympics yesterday with a hi-tech, razzle-dazzle launch aimed at luring sponsors to pick up the US$1.7 billion tab for running the Games. Mainland companies are expected to join global corporate giants in the rush for marketing gold, shelling out tens of millions of dollars each to have their name associated with the Beijing Games. 'This will be an opportunity for Chinese enterprises to create global brands,' said Beijing party secretary Liu Qi, who is also chairman of the Beijing Olympic organising committee. 'China is a developing nation. The Olympics isn't only an event symbolising peace, culture and sports exchange. It is also an event that will help China grow economically and help Chinese enterprises become global players.' Beijing needs US$1.6 billion to $1.7 billion to cover the operating expenses of the 14-day sports extravaganza. A further $37 billion has been budgeted to build stadiums, roads and information grids and to tidy a skyline once dominated by smokestacks. Yesterday's launch of the 2008 Marketing Plan is the centrepiece of the fundraising process. Although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already garnered nine 'top partners' for the Beijing Olympics - and also the Winter Games in Turin, Italy - Beijing officials must raise the bulk of the money locally. The plan calls for local and foreign companies to compete in open tender for exclusive marketing rights as partners, sponsors or suppliers. Partners will contribute cash, while sponsors will contribute technology, equipment and services. Suppliers will be licensed to sell the goods and services that are necessary for the event. Bidding for the top-tier partners will begin in the coming months, while vying for sponsorships will begin next spring. The bidding for suppliers will begin next autumn. Becoming a Beijing 2008 Partner is the most difficult of the three tiers, as the IOC and Beijing Olympic organising committee will be quite selective. Not only must companies be prestigious, enjoy market leadership, have bright growth prospects and financial strength, they must be willing to spend a lot of money. The marketing plan does not specify how much companies must spend in order to become an Olympic sponsor. IOC marketing director Michael Payne said rates would be determined by market forces. Exclusive marketing rights will be given to a winning bidder in each category of selected major industries, including banking, finance, telecommunications, insurance, food and media and entertainment. For the 2004 Athens Olympics, the winner of the banking category paid US$70 million. In Sydney in 2000, partners paid between $40 million to $50 million each. These sums are relatively small compared with what the nine global 'top partners' have to pay. General Electric, for instance, paid the IOC US$2.2 billion for the global broadcast rights to Olympic events in 2010 and 2012. Other major partners for those events include Visa International, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Kodak and Panasonic. Mr Heiberg said a few major Chinese conglomerates had approached the IOC and expressed interest in joining the ranks of global 'top partners'.