THE day after Beijing lost its bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympics, a young businessman was disappointed but philosophical.
``If China had won the bid, my company would be able to operate in a more relaxed surrounding. There would be more business opportunities with the influx of foreign investment,'' said the consultant, who was a leader during student democracy demonstrations in 1989.
``But I think the Chinese leaders should draw a lesson from this. To be a qualified member of the international community, one has to show good records not only in economic development, but also in human rights, democracy, and freedom.''
As Beijing residents slumped into soul-searching after their city's setback, China's Communist leaders struggled to rebound from the biting blow to their pride and sagging reputation.
Sydney edged out Beijing by 45 votes to 43 on Sept. 23, ending the most politicized race to host an Olympics ever.
As the keenest bidder among five contending cities, Beijing had orchestrated a ruthless quest for the 2000 Games in an effort to erase international condemnation of suppression of Tiananmen Square protests four years ago and to restore its place among the world elite.
In its bid, Beijing invoked Chinese nationalism and hoped the Olympics would boost its economy and world standing just as the 1988 Games did for South Korea and the 1964 Olympics did for Japan.
Many young Chinese concurred, seeing the Olympics as an insurance policy at a time of rising unemployment and economic and political uncertainty.
``I was so dejected,'' said a journalist in Beijing. ``The Olympics would have been good for the economy and brought a lot more jobs to Beijing.''
Chinese analysts say the decision has struck the Communist government at a time when its authority is eroding, the fast-growing economy is in disarray, and the economic reforms championed by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping have stirred discord in the party.
``This is a heavy blow to the leadership, especially at a time when it is in trouble,'' said an analyst, suggesting the Olympics would have been used by the government ``to further ... nationalism and to reorient the economy to the fast lane.''
He said Sydney's victory could stir conservatives to attack Mr. Deng and other advocates of the Olympic bid and ``could go further by criticizing the economic disorder and the more accommodating policy toward the US and other Western countries.''
Western diplomats said Beijing's loss could reignite anti-Western sentiment in China. The US House of Representatives and British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd opposed China's bid because of human rights abuses despite the release of several prominent dissidents this year.
A government directive before the announcement urged people to ``display the demeanor of a great and proud country,'' but noted that ``international prejudice, misgivings, and hostility against China have not been completely eliminated.'' Demonstrations were banned because of fears of anti-foreign resentment and that any protest could turn into an anti-government rally.
An editorial in the Communist People's Daily took a gracious tone the day after the announcement, although some Chinese officials and sports figures were quoted in the press as calling the Western opposition ``unfair.''
``I feel a little bit angry,'' says Zhang Shaowei, a student at the Beijing Sports College. ``America has no right to interfere in the [International Olympic Committee] decision.''