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Feature: Chinese open arms to Olympic guests with hospitality, confidence
20:33, August 06, 2008

The Olympic torch relay began its final leg in Beijing on Wednesday, traveling through the host city which celebrated the torch arrival with flying flags and beaming smiles.

"Beijing is fully ready for the Olympic Games. The city is opening its arms to guests from around the world," said Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong at a brief ceremony.

The torch returned from a journey of 129 days and 137,000 km through six continents under the theme of "Journey of Harmony", the longest since the tradition started at the 1936 Berlin Games.

A cheerful and eager crowd had gathered in Tian'anmen Square since the early morning, holding high the red Chinese national flags and Olympic flags. Besides them was a clock numbering the days before the Games start.

The square was decorated with a multitude of flowers; Olympic signs and flags were seen in every corner; Songs with Olympic themes were played in taxies passing by.

In the northern part of the city, the National Stadium and National Aquatics Centre, nicknamed Bird's Nest and Water Cube respectively, show their magnificence.

China, based on its more than 5,000 years of civilization, a century-old Olympic expectation and seven years of preparation, is opening its arms to guests from all over the world with hospitality, in a confident way.

All venues and facilities are in operation, and all staff are in their posts. Most of the 205 delegations have checked into the Olympic Village, and were satisfied with best-ever Olympic venues.

Volunteers could be the first ones to impress guests with hospitality. A team of Australian TV reporters, who just got off the plane and arrived at the Green Homeland Media Village at 1:30 a.m. Monday, were surprised to see more than a score of smiling volunteers waiting for them at the gate.

As soon as the reporters got off the bus, they were greeted by the volunteers with trolleys in hand. The reporters' piles of luggage were immediately carted to their rooms.

"Oh, my God! It is sensational!" murmured one reporter.

There were about 47,000 volunteers for the Sydney Games, while Beijing has nearly 100,000 in Olympic venues, 400,000 around the venues and along the streets, and one million serving in communities.

Meanwhile, drivers of about 67,000 taxis in Beijing wore their new uniform, a yellow shirt and blue trousers, for the first time on Aug. 1.

"They say our taxi drivers are the face of Beijing. We should leave visitors a good first impression," said driver Jin Shunhai.

On the same day, about 25,000 security personnel started working on thousands of Beijing buses and at bus stations to remove possible safety risks during the Games.

The security personnel, comprising mechanics, management and support personnel of the Beijing Public Transport Holdings Ltd., were deployed at every bus station and on every bus.

The preparations for the Olympic Games even included the toilets. Beijing launched a three-year campaign -- with a 400-million-yuan (about 59 million U.S. dollars) investment -- three years ago to modernize its public toilets.

With 1,000 new public toilets being built and renovated each year, the fetid back-street privies are being replaced with clean, well-maintained flush toilets.

In addition, 1,500 temporary toilets were installed in Olympic venues and nearby.

Now, Beijing is flushed with pride that all the 5,333 public toilets,

boasting standardized white male and female figure signs, are available within a five-minute walk of any downtown location.

Beijingers were also encouraged to learn English, queue for buses, stop spitting and use correct translations for restaurant menus.

China has also been opening up to international media. The government issued a series of regulations at the end of 2006, which stipulated foreign journalists could conduct interviews in China as long as they had consent from the intended interviewees.

"China's open door to the foreign media will not close after the Games," said Liu Binjie, the General Administration of Press and Publication minister.

With this policy, the international media reported China's preparations for the Olympic gala, and the violent protests in Tibet, Zhejiang and Guizhou, as well as other scandals.

The open-door policy has shown the confidence of the Chinese government, who now believes negative reports, seen in every country, cannot negate what China's achievements over the past 30 years, said Yin Yungong, a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences senior journalism expert.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded 1.3 trillion yuan for the first half of the year, and is expected to hit 2.6 trillion yuan when the year ends, compared with 1.1 trillion yuan in 2001 when China was selected to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

Li Meiying, a 67-year-old retiree, greeted foreign photographers with smiles at a downtown plaza, where she dances for daily exercise.

"Welcome to China watching Olympic Games!" Li told the photographers in English, while Chinese were often regarded as shy in front of strangers.

Samir M. Janakat, head of the sports edition of Jordan's leading Arabic daily Al-Ra'i, wrote in the newspaper, "When asked who will be the winner on the Beijing Olympics, I immediately gave the answer of China."

A successful Olympic Games could erase the misunderstanding and hostility some countries hold toward China, and build a new image of China -- a China of prosperous, rich and opening-up, said Janakat.

Source: Xinhua

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