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Challenges remain for Beijing as Olympics wait in the doorway

As the clock ticks towards the Olympic Games, Beijing still faces awesome challenges as host city.

"The situation is pressing, and the tasks are daunting," said Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games (BOCOG), when visiting non-competition venues on Monday.

"We need to prepare ourselves for all kinds of situations, put in more effort, and continue to work on the details," he told the Games organizing staff.

With less than eight weeks to the Olympics, which opens on August 8, Beijing has been tightening security, one of the major focuses.

Last Wednesday, China launched a series of national-level anti-terrorist drills, preparing the security forces against chemical attacks, hijacking and other possible contingencies.

Spectators evacuate from the "chemical explosion" site outside the beach volleyball venue during an anti-terrorist exercise in Chaoyang Park of Beijing, China, June 11, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)

Sniffer dogs will be brought into the capital to help detect explosives. Beginning from June, the country's postal service has suspended mailing parcels containing liquids until Oct. 31. The new measure followed a previous liquid ban introduced in April on carry-on baggage in domestic flights.

"Security work is the basis and key to a successful Olympics... and it has come to a critical point as the Games approach," said China's top security official Zhou Yongkang, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau, on an inspection tour of the safety work for the Olympics on June 1.

Besides security, logistics poses another major challenge for Beijing as it hosts the largest sports event in its history.

Rescuers help the injured evacuate from the "chemical explosion" site outside the beach volleyball venue during an anti-terrorist exercise in Chaoyang Park of Beijing, capital of China, June 11, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)

Beijing authorities have been tackling the chronic traffic problems by improving public transit and introducing partial traffic ban. Special lanes will also be earmarked for Games vehicles during the competition periods.

But the influx of millions of tourists and chances of extreme weather during the Games period are likely to complicate the transit system. Besides, complaints have been voiced by foreign tourists that there are not enough English-speaking taxi drivers to take them around.

Similarly, despite repeated assurance by the Chinese authorities to present clean air for the Olympics, worries over pollution linger among those heading to Beijing.

At the beginning of this month, the Games organizers unveiled a standard four-part cheering routine for Chinese sports fans, its latest efforts to boost etiquette among the citizens.

But as much as the organizers advocate civilized behavior, there will always be surprises.

Last month, spectators who attended the debut event of the main stadium Bird's Nest were criticized because they left en masse after hurdler Liu Xiang, a home favorite, won the race.

"I don't think that was appropriate," said four-time Olympic table tennis champion Deng Yaping.

"As an athlete, I was warmly welcomed in other countries. I think we should reward the foreign athletes with the same kindness and applause," she advocated.

"We look forward to the Olympics, but when it's approaching, we are feeling a lot of pressure," said Yuan Zhiping, an official with the Qingdao Sailing Committee of the BOCOG.

"This is a major test, and we are waiting. We have to prepare with the utmost caution and discretion, because mishaps through bad preparation would be hardly excusable," he added.

In a meeting convened last Friday, top Chinese leaders urged the people to understand the significance of hosting a successful Olympics, to display heroic spirits, particularly after the deadly earthquake hit southwest China's Sichuan province on May 12,and to make efforts to be an excellent host.

"No matter what difficulties and challenges we face, we should conform to the aspirations of the people of all ethnic groups and fulfill our promise to the world to host a good Beijing Olympics," according to meeting document.

"We should work even harder and be more meticulous in the preparatory work to ensure that the Games are distinctive and of a high standard," it said.

Source: Xinhua

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