Pity the already overburdened Beijing school kids who spend their youth cramming information into their cranium in the hope of winning a rare place in a respected university. Now they have an extra subject to come to terms with as the nation is being whipped into a frenzy in preparation for 2008: Olympic Knowledge. Primary schools have already added the subject to the curriculum and secondary schools in the capital will start the special classes after the Chinese New Year holiday. The extra classes are an effort to combat the fact that China lacks a grassroots sporting culture, officials said, so the young people must be taught about the significance of the games and the features of each sport before the international hoards descend on the city. The text books, needless to say, are also highly supportive of the Communist Party and the leaders' role in running the show, saying that the International Olympic Committee awarded Beijing the games in recognition of 'the truly great progress the country has made in recent years'. Laden with statistics, the fact the new subject is included in university entrance exams means students have to take it seriously. 'It's too much work, we can never find the time to study everything,' groaned 16-year-old Li Dongfang. He already studies till 10pm every night, including weekends, and complains that he is rarely allowed time to meet his friends or watch TV. In addition to the regular subjects and the newly added Olympic studies, Dongfang and his classmates must also master Communist Party theory, ranging from the thoughts of Marx and Mao - although their ideologies bear scant relevance to modern China - to Hu Jintao's latest abstruse comments on 'furthering the advancement of the Party'. The new educational programme is the latest initiative by the authorities to stir up enthusiasm among the masses for the games and the government's handling of them. It is impossible to forget about the upcoming party. Hoarding sites around the capital are bedecked with Olympic logos and the 'One World, One Dream' slogan, and radio and TV shows are full of games-related chatter. The pride of the nation is on the line, obsessed officials tell us. The capital's adults are going through a re-education process too, with the municipal government launching a host of projects aimed at knocking some manners into the laobaixing, or 'old 100 names', as the common people are called. Don't spit, don't swear and don't litter, the masses are told, and brush up on your sporting etiquette while you're at it. While it might be perfectly fine to whistle and shout at a basketball game, for instance, the same behaviour while an archer is lining up a target might result in an arrow rapidly heading your way. The programme is only enjoying limited success so far but as officials point out, unlike the hundreds of new skyscrapers in the sprawling capital city, the 'New Beijing' attitude cannot be built overnight. The city's taxi drivers, not noted for their sense of decorum, are high on the authority's hitlist. Through their companies they are been drip-fed tips on 'civilised behaviour' and have all been given text books to help them grasp the basics of English. 'Hotel, hotel, hotel,' one driver shouted at me last week, as he sucked on a Zhongnanhai cigarette and fiddled with his broken heater, although I had already told him I was going home. Not to be discouraged, it was his new word of the day and he was clearly enjoying using it. 'Hotel, hotel, hotel,' he roared again with a beaming smile. And then, just for good measure, 'airport'. Humble beginnings, maybe, but he swears he's intent on learning a word a day which will take his vocabulary to about the 1,000 mark by the time the big day dawns. 'I must do it. It is my national duty. China must have a great Olympics and I will play my small part,' he said. Secondary school children like Dongfang already have a good grasp of English and they are the ones being groomed for the 100,000-strong volunteer programme. He's hoping to be called up for that, but in the meantime he's groaning at all the extra study that has just been loaded on him. Like many other teens in the capital, he's pampered and plump and looks like he could use some physical exercise. 'I love playing sports, especially tennis, but it looks like now I'll be reading so much about the Olympics I won't have any time to play any sports,' he said.