Flame arrives in Beijing as doubt flickers around success of Games

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2008, 12:00am


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The Olympic flame arrived yesterday in Beijing, a city hoping for a smooth Games but concerned that issues such as security and air pollution could tarnish the event.

With the recent deadly riots in Tibet prompting international calls for a boycott of the August Games, Beijing residents said they were still confident the event would be a success.

'There is nothing we can do to change other people's opinion, the only thing we can do is to do our best in preparing for the Games so that everything can go smoothly,' IT engineer Wang Le said.

Beijing has been put under increasing pressure as international advocacy groups and some politicians call for boycotts of the summer Olympics in protest against its handling of protests in Tibet and human rights.

The mainland government has been fending off criticism by saying the Games should not be politicised.

'I don't really care how many medals Chinese athletes are going to win. I just hope the Games can be a platform for the rest of the world to see the real China, no matter if they see it in a positive or negative light,' Mr Wang said.

Political issues aside, some residents are concerned whether the event will live up to expectations because issues such as air pollution and public security still show no obvious signs of improving.

A teacher who would only give his surname Piao, said he was most concerned about the city's public security.

'I am still not convinced by the way they are handling the security issue. Authorities had said they would step up security measures a month ago, for example, by deploying more police officers and police dogs in the subway stations. But I still don't see any of those measures being realised,' Mr Piao said.

He added that he was disappointed by the government's failure to improve the city's air quality.

'Now the only time you see a blue sky is when the wind blows,' he said.

A taxi driver, who refused to be named, said the city's traffic had deteriorated this year despite the authorities' repeated pledges to improve the chronic congestion in the run-up to the Olympics.

'I simply avoided going to the city centre this morning - there were traffic barriers along Changan Avenue because of the torch's arrival,' he said.

There had been a lot more traffic controls imposed in Beijing this year but the number of private cars showed no sign of declining, he said.

'In the past they only blocked Changan Avenue when important events took place, now they block the roads to the airport too because a lot of foreign delegations are coming to Beijing.

'When such controls are in place, you basically cannot go anywhere. The traffic situation is much worse than last year,' he said.