Beneath Guangzhou's Asian Games euphoria lies the agony of a widow and others in Guolang village in Panyu district. The villagers on Panyu's Xiaoguwei Island have been battling over land grabbed for infrastructure including the city's university town and the Asian Games' cycling stadium. Their seven-year plight represents part of the cost, in terms of people's lives affected, behind the 16-day event to promote the rising international metropolis. The Games' Organising Committee recently revealed that the city had shelled out 122.6 billion yuan (HK$142.1 billion) in preparation for the 16th Asian Games, which opened on Friday - roughly five times what South Africa spent on the World Cup in June and July. Of the 122.6 billion yuan allocated, 7.3 billion yuan was to be spent on the actual operation of the Asian Games and Para-Asian Games and another 6.3 billion yuan on venue construction and the renovation of 58 existing facilities. The rest was spent on an urban facelift and upgrading of infrastructure, including 54.7 billion yuan to expand the subway system to five lines, 18.5 billion yuan to build more roads and bridges, treat air pollution and sewage and reduce traffic jams, and 19 billion yuan to dress up residential buildings along main streets. Guolang, along with five other villages on the island, has been flattened to make room for the 33 billion yuan Guangzhou Higher Education Mega-centre project, which combines 10 universities on one campus covering 43 square kilometres and now also houses the velodrome. While hundreds of thousands of other residents who have been relocated for the sake of the Games have reached compensation settlements, these villagers who have lost their land to the project have been protesting since December 2003 to no avail. Using her motorcycle as a de facto taxi service on the mega-campus to earn about 1,300 yuan a month, a 48-year-old widow, who refused to be identified, supports two children - a 21-year-old daughter who is still in school and a 19-year-old son who is mentally retarded. While his mother goes to work, the son often wanders about near the state-of-the-art velodrome built for the Games, located 100 metres from the village's ancestral hall. Villagers said they had demanded compensation, and wanted new homes built on the land seized for the two projects - land to which their ancestors from Fenyang, Shanxi, had migrated more than 600 years ago. The hope was that the government could somehow accommodate them, but the temporary settlements they continued to occupy on that land were repeatedly torn down. From 2005 to 2008, about 150 Guolang villagers survived by temporarily growing tomatoes, beans and cabbage while fighting for fairer compensation. At that point, the bulldozers moved in, and the velodrome was built. The widow lost her husband to liver cancer in 2006. She said he died trying to defend their home. 'My husband was mistaken for a petition leader and was detained a few times. He was diagnosed with cancer after his second release,' she said. 'We were so occupied with the eviction that he had little time to take care of his condition.' On October 18, when Guangzhou's top leaders set aside a day to listen to petitioners' complaints in an apparent attempt to ease social tension, Guolang villagers took their petition letter and met deputy mayor Chen Guo, who acknowledged the villagers' plight, according to Guo Weiquan. 'Chen said he came across our petition in 2003 and thought the Panyu government had already solved our problem,' said Guo, 50, whose wife died of oesophageal cancer last year. 'He told us to wait and officials would follow up our case with us.' After seven years of waiting for officials to rebuild their homes, waiting a little while longer seems not to bother them. Hope springs eternal.