BY: Rahul Venkit
IT'S evident from the minute you land in Beijing airport's swanky new Terminal 3.
The Norman Foster-designed terminal - inspired by the dragon and said to be the largest airport building in the world - is one of several new structures that have changed the city's landscape in the build-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
Life hasn't been the same for Beijing's inhabitants in the last few years. The capital has been redesigned to dazzle the 500,000 foreigners coming for the sports gala.
The Chinese government has spent US$40 billion (S$54.5 billion) to modernise the city by building new skyscrapers, Olympic Games venues and improving the public transport system.
A transit network that had only two lines a few years ago now has eight built in time for the Games. This includes a new airport express that cuts an hourlong journey from Terminal 3 to central Beijing to 16 minutes.
Signs of Beijing's Olympic facelift are everywhere. Roads have been repaved, buildings have received fresh coats of paint, and neatly-trimmed bushes and blossoming flowers have been planted by the road.
Even the skies seem bluer after emergency steps to improve air quality were introduced. All construction work in Beijing has been halted, while highly-polluting factories located within a 150km radius from the city were ordered shut from July 20 for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics. And a million cars have been taken off the road during the Games.
A new Line 10 has started operations linking the subway to the main Olympic venues - the National Stadium and the National Aquatic Center, also known as the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube respectively.
Considered a feat of modern architecture, the finishing touches are being added to these venues, which are the pride and joy of the Chinese people.
A third of Beijing taxi drivers have received training in basic English, and they are told to brush their teeth after eating garlic and observe general decorum when ferrying foreign tourists.
To bolster security, some 750,000 armed forces from across China have descended upon Beijing. Pirated DVDs are now hard to find in the city, as are migrant workers and beggars.
Bars and restaurants close to Olympic venues such as Gongti - or the Workers Stadium - have been shut, while a 3am curfew will be imposed in party districts such as Sanlitun and Houhai in the east and north of the city.
Some 500,000 volunteers donning bright blueT-shirts can be found near Olympic venues and famous tourist districts such as Xidan, Wangfujing, Silk Market and Guomao.
Apart from being conversant in a multitude of languages such as English, French, German, Russian and Spanish, the volunteers can also administer first aid, give directions to lost travellers, and recommend places to visit, eat and shop. Part of their training included how to maintain a good posture while addressing visitors to the Olympics Games.
Major tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Lama Temple and Mao's Mausoleum have been spruced up in anticipation of the visitors. Access for the disabled has improved tremendously over the last year, not only in tourist places but also on footpaths, traffic junctions and public transport.
|More than 40 million potted flowers around Olympic venues and major tourist spots will greet visitors to the Games.
Infamous for their penchant for spitting in public and a general lack of civic sense, Chinese citizens have been urged to brush up on their etiquette. Beijing residents have been told not to pick their noses, yawn or scratch their
heads when talking to foreigners during the Games. The 11th of every month had also been observed as "queuing day" when people were persuaded not to barge onto buses and trains.
Apart from erecting bilingual signboards throughout the city, the authorities are keen to stamp out Chinglish or Chinese Pidgin English. Recently, hotels and restaurants in Beijing were presented with a guide suggesting standard English translations of traditional Chinese dishes in menus.
"Bean curd made by a pockmarked woman" is now known as mapo tofu, while "chicken without sexual life" and "husband and wife's lung slices" are now called steamed pullet and beef and ox tripe in chilli sauce respectively.
The Chinese word for the number 8 - "ba" - sounds like the word for wealth. So China will kick off the Olympic Games on Aug 8, 2008 at 8.08pm Beijing time.