With just two years remaining before the 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing, the Chinese capital is getting closer to meeting the standards of an Olympic host, chief organizer said.
Liu Qi, President of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG), made the remarks during an interview with Chinese reporters this week.
"Our preparatory work is progressing very well as planned," said Liu. "Beijing's conditions are almost ripe for the Olympic Games."
Beijing plans to build or refurbish 31 venues in the city for the Games, which will take place from Aug. 8-24, 2008.
"Twelve brand-new venues are all under construction, and by the end of this year we will start renovation of all the existing venues," said Liu.
"By the end of next year, all competition venues will be in place for the test events," he added.
Like many other metropolis, Beijing has long been plagued with serious traffic congestions, but Liu believes that new roads and subways and better traffic management would ensure a smooth Olympics.
"We have already made progress in unlocking traffic jams thanks to efforts that include expanding public transportation and building new highways to the city's suburbs," said Liu.
"We are also considering strengthening traffic control during the games time, such as instituting special lanes.
"I am confident that traffic won't be a concern in August, 2008," he added.
After winning the Olympic bid, Beijing promised to make itself an "ecological city" with "green hills, clear water, grass-covered ground, and blue sky."
According to the State Environmental Protection Administration, the central and Beijing governments has invested nearly 100 billion yuan (12.5 billion dollars) to fix the city's air pollution problems.
Beijing has replaced hundreds of coal-burning boilers with gas-based ones, improved the city's vehicle emission standards and upgraded the quality of fuel for automobiles.
In addition, Beijing had started moving the capital's worst polluter, stated-owned steel giant Shougang Group, out of its western suburbs and suspended operation of Beijing Chemical Works.
"It was a bitter but important decision," said Liu, who had previously worked in the Wuhan Steel and Iron Factory for more than 20 years.
Liu noted that more needs to be done in pollution control and prevention, despite much progress has been made over the past few years.
"There is still a distance from our goal of 'Green Olympics', so we have to step up our efforts in the next two years," he said.
Although public backing for the 2008 Games is overwhelming -- a Gallup poll in 2001 found nearly 95 percent in favor -- there is deep concern among the organizers at a lack of engagement with Olympic ideals and humanity.
Beijing, thus, has launched a propaganda campaign in press and on television aimed at improving the manners of the local population, particularly at sporting events.
"It is extremely important that around the city, and at stadiums, that people show a high level of quality and welcome athletes and visitors from around the world," said Liu.
"I am confident that Chinese people will play a good host to the Olympic Games in 2008."