AS Sydney and Beijing limber up for the final round in the battle to host the 2000 Summer Olympics, this newspaper is cheering for the Chinese capital. It will be good for China and good for Hongkong. Sport, tourism and business will benefit from the influx of visitors and the excitement of holding the Games. And since Hongkong will be a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic by the time the Games take place, most Hongkong people will regard it as a matter of patriotism, as well as economic self-interest, to support their own people's bid to stage one of the great international events. But at this point our enthusiasm - and that of many people in Hongkong - is clouded by a doubt that China really has earned such international glory and by concern that it may not live up to the standards the world expects from an Olympic host. If China is to win the Olympics, it will have to satisfy the world that these worries are unfounded. If sport and politics were not inextricably mixed, there would be no problem. But the recently rescinded international ban on sporting links with South Africa and the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the invasion of Afghanistan show how politicised sport has become. China's critics bring up an earlier instance of political manipulation to help mount a case against holding the Olympics in Beijing. Like Hitler's abuse of the 1936 Olympics to put across a positive image of Nazi Germany, they say, China could use the Games to obscure its human rights record. This newspaper argues instead for a positive approach. China should be supported in its bid, for the Games are an opportunity to further the process of opening it up to the world. The hope must be that it will come to understand why the world demands of it higher standards on human rights, why the United Nations Secretary-General, Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, said this week the international community must take action when states prove unworthy of their role as guarantors of their people's rights. The hope must be that China will come to see that improvements in its treatment of political and religious dissidents must be more than cosmetic - that it will come to terms with the world on these issues. These are not pious hopes: China would realise that it is on its best behaviour for the next seven years and that any serious abuse of human rights would risk an international boycott. The experience would concentrate China's mind on why the world which supported it enough to give it the Olympics still demands a better record. These factors aside, the Beijing Games would focus world attention on East Asia to the benefit of the whole region. China would spare no effort to make the Games a thrilling sporting contest and an exciting spectacle. The staging of the Games in Beijing would be confirmation that China had taken its place in the world and a symbol of the 21st century as the century of the Asia-Pacific region. The International Olympic Committee will make its choice of a host city 100 days from now. Let it be Beijing.