Beijing prepares to deliver a smooth Olympic Games

By Xinhua,

Beijing : In the eventful year of 2008 which saw China hit by snow storms and a deadly earthquake, Beijing hopes to deliver a smooth Olympic Games to reverse the misfortune.

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With exactly one month to go before the opening of the August 8-24 Games, preparations are all but over and the grandiose stage is already mounted, albeit concerns over security and pollution and a traumatised nation which is still mourning the dead in the May 12 earthquake.

The city has spent $40 billion dollars on infrastructure, including a new airport terminal and subway lines, as well as $2.1 billion dollars to cover the cost of running the Games.

“Our preparatory work is well on track, and on the whole, we are almost ready for hosting the Games,” said Games’ chief organiser Liu Qi.

“As the construction of venues and recruitment of volunteers came to an end, Beijing would shift its focus to the service area in the following days,” he added.

China’s National Stadium, known as the “Bird’s Nest”, was pronounced fully operational on June 28, signalling the readiness of all 37 venues for the Games.

Covering 20.4 hectares in the Beijing Olympic Green, the bowl-shaped structure with its prominent girders can seat 91,000 spectators for the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies, track and field events, men’s soccer, and some Paralympic events in September.

The showpiece work topped the architecture category for the 100 most influential designs in Time Magazine earlier this year.

Meanwhile, each of the 37 venues has been put through trial by four dozen test events, including a full track and field Olympic rehearsal for the Bird’s Nest in May.

Everything seemed to be heading towards a happy ending until the calamitous quake which rocked southwest China’s Sichuan province and already claimed around 70,000 lives.

So much on the agenda has been changed since.

The Olympic torch relay, which was meant to be a joyful event, paused May 19 through to 21, mourning those killed in the massive earthquake.

One minute’s silence is also observed at the start of each day of the torch relay following the quake and the relay in quake-hit Sichuan has been postponed until just before the Games.

Festivities and itineraries have all been scaled down while the charity donation boxes are added along the path of the flame.

NBA All-Star center Yao Ming, the China’s most recognisable athlete, has led a donation pool from Chinese sports field. He has donated $2,280,000 dollars and filmed public service television announcements through the Red Cross for the relief efforts.

The quake, unfortunately, is not the only difficult moment in the Olympic year.
Since January, China has endured paralysing snow storms and a troubled world tour of the Olympic torch.

But devastations or disruptions, which have taken off much of the country’s festive mood towards the Games, will in no way take away China’s enthusiasm for hosting the Beijing Games.

Widely regarded as a symbol of national confidence and pride, the Olympic torch relay was passed in China without a glitch and reached the top of Mt. Qomolongma May 8.
People lined the torch relay routes, unfurling the national and Olympic flags and shouting “Go China Go” and “Go Olympics Go”.

Feeling the breath of the Olympics, the organizers have been working on fine-tuning the Games.

Beijing subway passengers have been receiving security checks starting from June 29 as China beefs up security.

National-level anti-terrorist drills were launched to prepare the security forces against chemical attacks, hijacking and other possible contingencies. Sniffer dogs will be brought into the capital to help detect explosives.

Beginning from June, the country’s postal service has suspended mailing parcels containing liquids until October 31, following a previous liquid ban introduced in April on carry-on baggage in domestic flights.

Pollution is another concern which the city has to deal with seriously. The IOC has warned it may reschedule endurance events to remove a potential health risk.

Beijing, rapidly becoming one of the most congested cities, took 300,000 high-emission cars off its roads last week, as part of measures to clean up the capital’s air pollution and ease traffic on the clogged highways.

The organisers also announced that private cars will be banned on alternate days from July 20, depending on whether their number plates end in odd or even numbers. Half of the government vehicles will be taken off the roads as well.

Over 4,500 tests will be administered, 25 percent more than the number of the 2004 Games in Athens and 90 percent over Sydney in 2000.