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Qingdao Regatta Warm-Up for 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition
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Dazzling fireworks lit up the night sky above coastal city Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province as a cool breeze whirled through the city's streets on Sunday evening. BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad) President and Beijing Party chief Liu Qi was in attendance at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center -- the venue of the 2008 Olympic sailing competition -- to officially launch the opening ceremony of "Good Luck Beijing --2006 Qingdao International Regatta."

The regatta plays host to a massive and star-studded fleet, with both World and Olympic Champions topping the list of over 464 sailors from 41 countries. Starting from August 21, these competitors belonging to world's Olympic elite will take to the water at the ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Grade 2 Qingdao International Regatta.

Organized by the Chinese Yachting Association together with the Qingdao municipal government, the regatta is the first test for the 2008 Olympic Games preparations and is regarded as a major international Olympic-class regatta, giving Qingdao a chance to accumulate experience in hosting large international sporting events and helping the city better prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, ISAF Vice President David Kellett spoke highly of his Chinese counterparts for their great efforts in hosting the regatta, "This is an important moment in the history of sailing and great honor to see such impressive gathering of Olympic and world champions here in China for the regatta. I'm very impressed by Qingdao's preparation for the Olympic sailing regatta and I can already say it will be a magnificent facility. It's also a great opportunity to experience sailing in the same water as we will do in 2008 Olympic regatta." 

Over 300 journalists from 80 media organs including 30 foreign media outlets such as Associated Press, AFP and Reuters have come to Qingdao to cover the regatta. The regatta will feature all eleven of the Olympic sailing events from nine classes including the RS:X(M), RS:X(W), Laser, Laser  Radial, Finn, 470(M), 470(W), Star, Tornado, 49er and Yngling classes. Some of the sailboats gathered at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center on August 20 and officials busied themselves with the examination of the sailboats and the adaptation of the venue environment. On the afternoon of August 21, the formal competition will kick off with the start of the RS:X(M), 49er, Laser, Laser Radial, 470, Yngling and Finn events. The regatta will run till August 31.

In order to ensure the smooth running of the event, three operation centers including a city operation center, a games operation center and a security center have been set up under the supervision of the organizing committee. 1,205 volunteers have been recruited to provide service to athletes and journalist in Qingdao.

Fusan bay
Qingdao City
Marina in olymic sailing center
Athlete center
Foreign journalists working in media area
Security check

Lying on the southern bank of the Shandong Peninsula, Qingdao integrates modern cityscapes with old European-styled architectures and provides a stunning backdrop, melding lofty mountain slopes with the blue sparkle of a sea, scattered with red reefs. It is not only a popular destination for visitors from around China and the world but also a major economic center in Northeast Asia, being one of the largest ports in China and providing the headquarters for many of China's leading companies. As Beijing's co-hosting city for the 2008 Olympic Games, Qingdao's international profile is expected to continue to rise in coming years.

Strolling in this famous seaside city, the 2008 Beijing Olympic emblem is hanging everywhere along with sailing-boat images. The posters and banners carry such slogans as "Meeting in Beijing and Sailing in Qingdao", "Sailing with heart, sailing to success," and thus greet people from all over the world.

"Qingdao is making every effort to enhance its image as a 'Sailing City' and the regatta bears the task to let the world know Qingdao," said Qingdao Mayor Xia Geng at a press conference the day before the opening ceremony.

"It's a big challenge for Qingdao to host the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition since Qingdao has never held large scale international regattas in the past and is undergoing a shortage of experienced technicians in this field. Besides, Qingdao citizens still have inadequate knowledge on the regatta and modern sailing sports," admitted Mayor Xia Geng, "Therefore the process of preparing for the 2008 Olympics Games will also involve popularizing sailing knowledge among local residents."

Qingdao has carried out many activities to popularize sailing sports, including promoting sailing sports knowledge among primary and middle schools and several sailing summer camps have been held. Some officials and coaches from European sailing clubs or federations have been invited to give instructions and help young people get familiar with sailing and train in the sport.

In order to encourage more young people to join the sport, Qingdao has set up the Qingdao Women Yngling Team. The team has taken part in some competitions domestically and in France, recording great progress in the process. They will also take part in the 2008 regatta and sailing competition. Students from China's Oceanic University have set up a 49er team, also taking part in this year's regatta.

According to Sun Lijie, secretary-general of the Sailing Committee (Qingdao) of Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, known as the Sailing Sub-committee of BOCOG (SSCQD), the 45-hectare Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center is located at the former Beihai Shipyards by Qingdao's Fushan Bay. With an investment of 3.28 billion yuan, the environment-friendly venue comprises both land and water projects with all works on the venue expected to be completed in next June. Over 5 million yuan have been used to clear the silt in 180,000-sq meter water areas in the past three years. These efforts have paid off with the water now very clear and fish of different sizes and varieties living in this water area.

Qingdao has also taken into full consideration the post-Olympic use of the venue, when designing it. After the Olympic Sailing Competition, the venue will become a national sailing sports school as well as a water sports training center. The whole Olympic Sailing Center will be open to the public, becoming a place of recreation and a tourist resort.

"Three years ago, I was very nervous when thinking of hosting such a big international regatta, but now I am very confident that Qingdao is capable of hosting a successful regatta thanks to the joint efforts of Qingdao citizens and support from all over the country," said Xia Geng.

Athlete center
Sailing center
Volunteers in sailing center
Foreign athletes
Tight security
Qingdao olympic sailing center
Qingdao olympic sailing center
Qingdao olympic sailing center

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Qian, August 21, 2006)

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