The countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games officially began in Beijing yesterday with the unveiling of a clock ticking off the seconds until the event gets under way. Measuring 14 metres high by 5.5 metres wide, the countdown clock stands at the entrance to the National Museum of China on Tiananmen Square. The timepiece displays the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds remaining until the launch of the Beijing Games on August 8, 2008. Liu Jingmin , vice-mayor and executive vice-president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, presided over a brief unveiling ceremony. Also present was Athens Olympic gold medallist shooter Wang Yifu . Organising committee vice-president Jiang Xiaoyu said the clock would serve as a new attraction to the city and symbolised the concept of a 'People's Olympics'. 'It will also serve as a window to showcase Beijing,' Mr Jiang said. 'The clock will witness the realisation of China's century-long Olympic dream and will give fresh impetus to preparations for the Olympic Games.' A second countdown clock was unveiled in the coastal city of Shandong , Qingdao province, which will host Olympic sailing events. The unveiling ceremony in Beijing was cut to about 10 minutes after calls from the municipal government for a more frugal approach to the Games. A large-scale ceremony in Tiananmen Square had been originally planned. The unveiling of the clock was originally scheduled for the end of the Athens Olympics, but was postponed for unspecified reasons. It is not known whether countdown clocks will be erected at other major sites around Beijing, such as the Great Wall and the Capital International Airport.