Countdown to Beijing 2008 12-31-2004 16:04

We continue with our year-end review series. In this section, our focus is on the Beijing Olympics. When the closing ceremony ended the Athens Olympics, world attention turned to Beijing. With the Olympics in 2008 coming in less than four years, plans are well underway. Organizers see the games as a "coming-out party" for the world to meet China, and for China to get to know the world. Here's more on the latest plans for the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.

It was July 13, 2001 when Beijing, was declared host city of the 2008 Olympic Games. Now, with Athens over, Beijing's preparations are speeding ahead.

The Athens Olympics were considered a success, despite some last-minute panic about venue construction. Now the torch has been handed over to Beijing, everyone involved in Olympic preparations is under pressure.

In November, the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, or BOCOG, decided to reduce the number of permanent Olympic venues from ten to five. The move is part of Beijing's "Frugal Olympic" policy for a more cost-efficient Game. By shedding waste from the budget and downsizing possible future debts, Beijing is determined to exploit existing resources. BOCOG announced that the money saved will be earmarked for improving the city's traffic and hiring more service providers.

Alongside frugality, the organizers want the games to be Green and Hi-Tech. Authorities aim to reduce waste gas emission, promote the use of recyclable materials and equip the city with more green space to honor their commitment to a "Green Olympics". Over the next three years, Beijing will invest 12.2 billion US dollars in 20 environmentally friendly projects. Organizers also aim to improve the city's air quality.

Traffic jams are all too common in Beijing. For this reason, some 300 new highways and roads are to be built in the next couple of years, as the city's traffic network is upgraded. The city is also developing dozens of new bus routes and improving its subway system. City dwellers are being strongly encouraged to limit the use of private cars and use public transportation.

A frugal Olympic Games does not mean low-quality. Organizers intend the games to be a "High-tech Olympics". The Beijing municipal government and private firms will inject more than 3 billion Yuan, or some 380 million US dollars into high-tech Olympic projects, ranging from stadium construction to data and video transmission. The original design of the "Bird Nest" stadium, or the Games' main stadium, was altered for safety and budget reasons. Organizers say that Olympic projects would not only be built as a symbolic showcase, but should be used by Beijing residents for years to come.

Security is another top concern. Athens dramatically increased its security budget months before the Games' opening, and Beijing plans to do the same. Experts have predicted Beijing will spend up to 1.2 billion euros beefing up security, an amount roughly equal to that of Athens, although the official budget will not be disclosed until next year.

In late October, an International Olympic Committee delegation, led by president Jacques Rogge, visited some of the construction sites and reviewed Beijing's latest development. At the 3rd coordination meeting, they praised China's efforts and expressed their confidence that the city would fulfill its goals.

Other preparations are well underway. The Beijing Olympic Press Center was launched in October to meet the growing demand from domestic and international media for information. Beijing Olympic TV Broadcasting Corporation, the host broadcaster of the 2008 Olympics, was also established to provide broadcasters with services throughout the Games.

Multinationals as well as domestic giants, including General Electric, Volkswagon, China Mobile, Sinopec and Bank of China have become official Olympic partners, marking a major step forward to the Games' multi-billion-dollar marketing package plan. Proceeds from the partnership have already exceeded BOCOG's expectations.

In late November, Beijing's Olympic planners embarked on the search for a theme song for the Games. A panel of judges will short-list 10 songs a year, making the final selection in 2007. The winning song should not only reflect Chinese culture and the Olympic spirit, but also be popular throughout the world. Another campaign to decide the official mascot has also caused public attention and debate.

Traditional Chinese folklore figures including the Monkey King and the internationally cherished animal, the Giant Panda, are among a long list of candidates.

Beijing will welcome its largest number of international visitors in 2008 to attend the world's biggest and most popular sporting event. Beijing is already at the half-way stage of preparations. With the world watching, "A green Olympics, a people's Olympics and high-tech Olympics" in 2008 seems within reach.

With this come to the end of this year's year-end review. Here's to hoping that the Beijing Olympics are as successful as the Athens Games.

Editor:Chen Zhuo

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