China Gears Up for Games

Construction to improve Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games has already begun

By: Jonathan Siskin

BEIJING Clients who visit China’s capital in coming months will find a city that is moving full speed ahead on a mammoth effort to improve its infrastructure in time to host the 2008 Olympics. Construction has already started on sports venues and related facilities at the main Olympic site a 3,000-acre parcel named Olympic Green, in the northern part of the city. Over the next five years, the city’s Olympic organizing committee, Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), has also promised to make major improvements in Beijing’s environment and the lives of its almost 14 million residents. Beijing has long been plagued by air and water pollution, and the city’s bid for the games included a promise that they would become a catalyst for environmental improvements and sustainable growth. The committee’s Web site says that the equivalent of $12 billion will be invested in clean-up projects before 2008. In addition, the city is promising that its emissions reduction program will be extended, most of its buses and taxis will start using natural gas, five new subway lines and 14 more wastewater treatment plants will be built, and all of its urban garbage will be disposed of safely. In addition, the committee has promised to plant more than 57,000 acres of trees, bringing the city’s green coverage to 50 percent of its total area. Public transport is another major focus. If everything proceeds as scheduled, Beijing will have more than 435 miles of expressway, triple the 134 miles it currently has; and an 87-mile light rail and subway system will link central Beijing to Olympic Green. As 5 million foreign visitors and 120 million Chinese are expected to attend the Games, hotel development is a concern. In Beijing, there are now approximately 450 hotels, with 84,000 rooms; plans are to increase this inventory to 800 hotels and 130,000 rooms by the 2008 games. Olympics visitors will also be housed in apartments and guesthouses throughout the city. Language skills have also been an area of focus. While many of those involved in the tourist industry speak English, most residents are not fluent. It is not unusual to ask a hotel concierge to write out directions in Chinese to ensure your taxi driver knows where you want to go. The municipal government is encouraging people in certain professions, such as taxi drivers, police officers and community workers, to learn English. China National Tourist Office, Los Angeles: 818-545-7507, LA@CNTO.ORG,