All smiles and niceties as Beijing set to open Games

August 4th, 2008 - 9:14 am ICT by IANS  

By Zhou Yan
Beijing, Aug 4 (Xinhua) With four days to go before the Olympics open, Beijing is all smiles to athletes, coaches, journalists and visitors. Even stone-faced officers manage to keep smiling under the huge signboards saying “Smiling Beijing Traffic Police”. The signs have popped up in hundreds on the capital’s roads.

Liu Zhiqiang, 21, tries to make his grin as broad as possible every time a tourist poses for a photo next to him.

From the point he stands guard on the Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city, one captures an ideal view of the huge Olympic countdown clock, the square and a corner of the blue sky.

“I’m really proud of my job,” said Liu. “My old pals all envy me.”

When Liu was inducted into the Armed Police Force, the Games were at least 1,300 days away. Now he said he could hear the footsteps of the Games.

Smiles and greetings surround Olympic journalists at the North Star media village and Huiyuan media village, about 15 minutes and nine minutes respectively from the Main Press Centre by bus.

More than 8,900 people are serving accredited Olympic journalists in the 10.2-hectare media village with 6,000 rooms, the largest in Olympic history.

“What can I do for you?” smiling volunteers would come up at the villagers’ briefest sign of hesitation.

At the two media villages, immaculately dressed restaurant managers keep chatting with diners to check on the quality of food and take note of their advice.

Among the immediate results of these chats is the inclusion of some spicy dishes in the buffet, at some Chinese journalists’ suggestion.

In the largest athletes’ village ever in Olympic history, a team of international hospitality professionals and multilingual volunteers greet the guests.

Even International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge praised the athletes’ village as the “best ever”.

“I’ve never seen a village like this,” said Rogge, who competed in three Olympics in sailing and stays in the village during the Games.

Some 100,000 taxi drivers changed into smart new yellow shirts and striped ties Saturday, in one of Beijing’s latest efforts to spruce up the city’s look for the Olympics.

The uniforms, which cost about 500 yuan ($75), are believed to be partly subsidised by the government.

In the run-up to the Games, Beijing’s taxi drivers have also learnt English, have been banned from smoking in the cars and asked to keep the car seats untainted to make visitors feel at home.

An additional 7,000 automobiles are serving the Games, including about 900 media buses shuttling through the city connecting the two media villages, 42 media hotels, more than 30 competition venues in Beijing and the press centres.

Each day, Beijing middle school student Xiao Dong practises his urheen, a traditional two-stringed Chinese musical instrument.

“I wish to play some Chinese classical music for the Olympic guests,” he said.

His home about two kilometres from the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, two centrepiece Olympic competition venues, is one of the 598 Olympic families in Beijing that will provide home accommodations for the guests.

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