The preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing has been characterized by massive infrastructure and property development, with the latter used to boost local fiscal revenues and economic growth to help the former. However, the resultant growth comes at a price, i.e. the loss of sustainability. This paper examines property-led development in Beijing in the run-up to the Olympics and its impact on environment, the property market and urban competitiveness of the Chinese capital city. It uses an analytical framework on urban sustainability, underpinned by indicators drawn from economic, social, environmental and institutional dimensions, to evaluate major property development and infrastructure projects on their contribution, both positively and negatively, to sustainability. It is found that both residential and commercial developments are not well coordinated with the transport systems, reducing the efficiency of public transport and causing widespread congestion and air pol lution. The reliance on urban expansion for economic growth has aggravated resource constraints, e.g. the shortage of water. Institutional barriers disrupt rational decision making on location and density of property developments, leading to chaotic land uses, urban sprawl, loss of greenfield sites, oversupply of commercial space and shortage of sites for low-end housing. The demand for capital from infrastructure and landmark projects reduces investment for low-cost public housing. The paper concludes that hasty and uncoordinated development for the Olympics has undermined sustainability in Beijing and a plan-led development approach should be adopted to control growth, improve coordination of land uses, alleviate pollution and rehabilitate the ecological balance.