The official emblem of the 2008 Beijing Olympics should help promote the image of a modern, bustling metropolis, organizers said Tuesday as they launched a contest to design the logo.
Inviting proposals for the emblem, officials stressed the soon-to-be ubiquitous symbol should not only reflect the Olympic spirit, but also give a positive message about the city and the country as a whole.
"The emblem should capture the special image and spirit of Beijing and China," said Liu Jingmin, vice president of the Beijing organizing committee.
"It should express how Beijing, an age-old city, is entering the 21st century with a brand-new face," he said.
Hundreds of artists, academics and Olympic officials have gathered for a two-day conference on designing the Games, including such central subjects as the official emblem and mascot.
In contrast to the patriotic urges of Chinese officials, Michael Payne, marketing director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), warned against being too parochial in the choice of design.
"The image of the Games should be, must be, a bold statement of the host city and the host country, a bold statement to the world," he said at the opening of the conference.
"The image created by the host committee must speak to the world and not simply to the local parties," he said.
He described the designs as a crucial issue that would determine how people would remember the event long afterwards.
"This is why we are all gathered here today, to begin the road of defining what the identity should be, helping China to realize the full potential of the opportunity ahead," he said.
The best design to help host the best Games
Beijing Mayor Liu Qi, who heads the 2008 organizing committee, said a successful design would help the city in its lofty ambition of hosting the best Games in history.
"We believe with our efforts, the most successful image and look of the Olympic Games will be created, and our goal of hosting the best ever Olympic Games in Beijing be reached," he said.
His comments echo similar remarks in May by Beijing's top political leader, Jia Qinglin, who urged city leaders to ensure the Olympics were remembered as the most successful in history.
"To host the 2008 Olympic Games is a hard-to-come-by opportunity that must be grasped tightly and used amply to advance and quicken our program to build Beijing into a modern, international big city," Jia said then.
The city has earmarked up to 23 billion dollars in infrastructure projects in the years running up to 2008, including ambitious environmental protection schemes, new subway lines and a light rail system.
In the coming years, the organizing committee will also spend billions of dollars on specific Games infrastructure.
This includes building 19 of the 32 planned Olympic venues and a 488-million-dollar "Olympic Green" housing the Athletes' Village and the main stadium. The other 13 venues will be renovated ahead of the event.
Proposed emblems have until November to be handed over, with the result, submitted first to the IOC, to be announced in January.