Thoroughfares get Olympic facelift

With the Olympics less than two years away, Beijing municipal government is in a race against time to give the city's major thoroughfares a facelift to meet its aim of holding a "Green Olympics."

All over the capital, city officials have organized projects to tidy up and renovate for the big event in 2008.

"It seems to have emerged overnight," said 70-year-old Wei Shujie, who lives near Andingmen. She was speaking while pointing at a nearby ladle-shaped statue of a compass.

A few steps behind her was the northern part of the Second Ring Road, one of the busiest roads in this bustling city.

Wei was standing in a 2-kilometre-long, 25-metre-wide greenbelt area, where several months ago there was a vast patch of shabby shed-like houses.

Workers can be spotted around the area planting small pine trees or putting the finishing touches to a colourful, ancient-style corridor.

Chinese chess players and drum dancers can be spotted in the narrow park. Singers and children from a nearby kindergarten can also be seen.

"The place used to be called the 'village in the city,' because it was a patch of old and simple sheds, which was out of kilter with the business skyscrapers across the street," said Geng Xuesen, director of the Andingmen Subdistrict Office.

Shacks began to mushroom with the construction of Beijing subway loop line in 1981, he said.

As one of the 87 renovation projects in the city, 1,600 households in the area were moved from this May to make way for the park, Geng said.

The job was completed in only four months, another example of the pace of change in China.

Wang Kui, chief designer of the park, said that she strictly abided by the philosophy of 'cultural rehabilitation' in the project.

"This place is where the old city wall of Beijing once stood. You could say it was a buffer zone for the Forbidden City," she said.

A few metres south of the park, separated by a wall, is Beiluoguxiang, a cluster of old hutong-style houses.

"It is groundless to say we are tearing down historical sites to build this," said Liu Jingdi, deputy director of the culture committee in Dongcheng District.

"We have tried our best to maintain the flavour of the old houses," he said.

Source: China Daily

People's Daily Online ---