China risks missing an opportunity to address its grimmest problems as Beijing goes all out to host the Olympics, a former senior Communist Party official has warned. Bao Tong , a senior aide to purged party chief Zhao Ziyang , also said those hoping for a shift towards a more open China would be disappointed because the government had tightened its grip on dissenting voices to push for a 'splendid coming-out party'. 'The Communist Party is gambling on hosting a successful Olympic Games, and I think they will succeed because they are very determined,' Mr Bao said. 'But this is a very stupid choice for the Chinese people, who have paid a tremendous price for the Games.' The sporting spectacular has long been treated as China's chance to show off its rising power to the world. To make sure athletes, tourists and world leaders are greeted by a new Beijing, the central government has spent tens of billions of dollars on infrastructure and facelift projects. 'The Chinese government can show off to the world how the Chinese people are supporting the government, and to the Chinese people how world leaders respect it. And they'll make their point without difficulty,' Mr Bao said. However, the fanfare would come at the cost of delaying efforts to tackle pressing problems, he said. 'I can't think of any government in the world that is treating the Olympic Games as the only agenda of its governance,' Mr Bao said. 'Over the past six to seven years, the Games have become the only thing the government cares about. 'But they [the leaders] have forgotten the things that the Chinese people need them to look after.' Mr Bao, 76, said economic challenges, for one, should not be overlooked. A global economic slowdown - especially in the United States - and soaring fuel prices and labour costs have spurred concerns over China's economic growth this year. 'There are at least 200 million people in China who still earn less than US$1 a day, and you [the government] are splurging all that money and mobilising everyone to hold a fancy Olympics,' he said. 'I have to say this is a wrong move. The government can earn praise from the world, but it is losing time to solve the problems that it needs to address. This is the biggest mistake [the government has made].' There has been hope that international scrutiny and pressure could help improve China's transparency and policies in areas such as human rights and religious freedom. But Mr Bao, who was jailed for seven years for his involvement in the 1989 democracy movement, said China's handling of the Tibet riots had proved that its iron-fisted approach on human rights had not changed. Mr Bao has been under strict government surveillance since he was released from jail in 1997. 'This year is a very unusual time for me as I can accept interviews relatively freely due to the government's pledge to allow free reporting in the run-up to the Games,' he said. 'I hope I am still allowed to meet reporters when the Games are over.'