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Olympic Pearl -- 'Green Island' (2)
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As one of the few Chinese mainland cities to be granted the honor of holding sporting games for the 2008 Olympics, everyone in Qingdao is getting ready for the sailing competition, Vice Mayor of Qingdao Zang Aimin told China.org.cn on Monday.

According to Zang who is also vice chairman of the Sailing Committee of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, the sailing facilities in Qingdao are the best in Asia and among the best in the world.

However, the city needs more experience in holding a large-scale regatta, especially one of international standard. "We are now getting ready for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. We hold great confidence in this," she stressed.

During the past three years, Qingdao has worked hard to deal with the challenges, including increasing publicity for the sailing sport and sending staff to study abroad.

"Qingdao didn't have one single venue for formal regatta events until just two years ago. The organization staff still needs to be trained in staging an international regatta and local residents must increase their knowledge about the sport of sailing," she said.

"In addition, we will have difficulties in August because in this month the wind speed, sea current, and tide range are adverse to holding an international regatta of high level. Despite this, our technicians will find appropriate solutions."

The International Olympic Sailing Center, built on the docks of a decaying shipyard that looks out onto the dark emerald-blue waters of Fushan Bay, was christened in June last year at the national windsurfing championships.

Although the Olympic village has not been finished, the 45 hectare (111 acre) site, which can berth up to 800 yachts and is surrounded by new luxury apartment high rises, sparkles with the best equipment money can buy.

The sleek glass buildings molded in the shape of sails, the media, athlete and logistics centers, along with an expansive breakwater complete with energy-saving windmills and shaded picnic tables will allow for thousands of spectators.

She told China.org.cn that a national sailing school and an Olympic museum have also been established and will be opened soon. "All the venues will be completed by the end of June 2007. Three years ago I was nervous, but I'm not nervous now."

Qingdao is a hilly coastal city facing the Yellow Sea on the east and south; a downward slope from south to north characterizes its topography. It is embraced by three major mountain ranges: the Daze Mountain, the Jiaonan Mountain, and the Xiaozhu Mountain. It has a northern temperate zone monsoon climate with the characteristics of a marine climate, such as moist air, abundant rainfall, and four distinctive seasons.

The city of 7 million, known in Chinese as "Green Island," has also had to take on board major security and emergency initiatives, enlisting 1,000 police and safety personnel and training 900 volunteers unfamiliar with the sport.

A major environmental cleanup of the harbor's filthy waters, which officials described as "badly polluted," was also undertaken.

All this has come with a hefty price tag for the city that until now has been better known for its beer, Tsingdao, and a German colonial past that bequeathed it a legacy of red-roofed Western-style homes and pine-bowered streets.

According to the vice mayor, the government has poured a total of 3.28 billion yuan (US$410 million) into the facilities that include the latest high-tech seawater filtering as well as the use of wind and solar energy for heating systems and street lights.

Despite the costs, most of which have been defrayed to private investors who formed a consortium to develop the marina and the adjacent sites, officials are confident that post-Olympic plans will pay off.

She said that the local traffic control department launched an activity aimed at solving problems that concerned most of the people, upgrading Qingdao's public transport service and creating a first-class traffic environment for the 2008 Regatta.

In the course of the activity the traffic control department worked out 12 safe driving promises for drivers and 5 ethics and courtesy training textbooks and selected 300 taxis as model taxis for welcoming the Olympics. The traffic department will upgrade over 400 buses, standardize the English and Chinese language on the bus depot boards, and install facilities to assist blind people. In addition, 7 more parking lots for over 1,500 city buses will be built this year and GPS systems will be installed on 1,800 buses.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Ke in Qingdao, May 2007)

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