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2008 Olympics
2008 Olympics
UPDATED: August 24, 2007 NO.34 AUG.23, 2007
An Olympic Rehearsal
One year away from the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is testing its facilities, volunteer service, air quality and transportation

Hou Liling, a third-year student from the Beijing Institute of Science and Technology, didn't even know there was a sport called hockey a few months ago. Yet for one week starting from August 8, she stood in the strongest sunshine of the year for eight hours in a row beside the hockey pitch at the 2007 International Hockey Tournament. As one of the nearly 700 volunteers at the tournament, Hou's job was to provide guidance and to help the audience whenever it was needed. Despite the long working hours, the 19-year-old told the Xinhua News Agency she felt her summer vacation could not be more meaningful.

"Even Jacques Rogge gave a thumbs up for my service when he opened the four-nation hockey tournament," said Hou.

The 2007 International Hockey Tournament, which Hou is so proud to be part of, is one of the 42 Olympic test events under the name "Good Luck Beijing," which will take place between July 2007 and June 2008. The test events, that almost cover the whole range of Olympic sports, are intended to test Beijing's Olympic preparation in every possible aspect to ensure the city can do all it takes to make the greatest sports pageant a real success.

Of the total 42 games, 39 are scheduled to be held in Beijing, with the rest in the co-host cities of Hong Kong (equestrian), Qingdao (sailing), Shenyang and Qinhuangdao (football).

Compared with the Athens Olympic Games, where there was a rush to finish the Olympic buildings, venue construction in Beijing met concerns of a different nature from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In August 2004 the IOC Coordination Commission advised Beijing to push back the completion of venue construction from the planned date of December 2006, citing expensive maintenance and limited use of the venues before the Games.

Yet as the curtains have been eventually lifted on most Olympic venues during the test events, they have not only been ready but also remarkable in the eyes of many athletes.

"It is an absolutely fantastic stadium-I give it 9.5 out of 10 and I hope we can use it after the Olympics," said Arjen Meijer, the International Hockey Federation's Commu-nications Manager, commenting on the Olympic Sports Center Hockey Field to AFP. "Beijing really did a good job here."

"The water is very clean and the venue is the best I have ever seen," said Russian single sculls rower Denis Pribyl at the Shunyi Olympic rowing venue, as reported by AFP.

"The Good Luck Beijing sports events are not only a rehearsal for athletes and organizers, but also for volunteers," Wu Jun, Personnel Manager for the hockey tournament, told Xinhua. "The pressure to deliver a professional service in such an international event can be intense for these young people."

"I have to be highly alert every second through the match," said a college sophomore surnamed Zhao, caddie for the men's hockey, adding that he was at yelled by a player for throwing the ball "a little bit late."

Besides the 100,000 volunteers, Beijing residents have been invited to take an Olympic test on their enthusiasm for the Games, which holds the key to successful preparation.

The Beijing Municipal Government issued a decree that between August 17 and 20, 1.3 million of the city's 3 million vehicles will be ordered off the streets each day, depending on whether license plates end in an odd or even number. Besides improving air quality and easing traffic congestion for the six "Good Luck Beijing" games, this will allow the authorities to measure how much of the city's air pollution originates from vehicle emissions. The results will lead to new measures on cleaning up Beijing's air over the year leading up to the 2008 Olympics, said Wang Hui, Deputy Director of the Media and Communications Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, at a press conference on August 10.

German Volleyball Federation coach Markus Diechmann, in Beijing to watch the beach volleyball event, told AFP that he was captivated by the atmosphere in the capital.

"When you arrive at the airport, it is as if the Olympics are already underway. The level of excitement is so high," he said.

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