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Beijing pulls out all stops for success of Olympics
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Cutting emissions and curbing pollution are among the Beijing municipal government's agenda this year as part of preparations for the Olympic Games, the acting mayor said yesterday.

The city will complete preparations for the Games and provide top-level services, Guo Jinlong said.

"But the task of controlling pollution and traffic congestion is arduous," Guo said while delivering a government work report to about 770 deputies to the municipal people's congress that started its annual session yesterday morning.

In response, he said, Beijing will enact the "strictest standards" for pollutant emissions and curb pollution by heavy trucks that ply at night.

He promised that less coal will be burned in the city and cooperation with neighboring provinces and cities would be intensified to protect the environment.

The major goals set for 2008 in the government report include:

* Energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) to fall 5 percent.

* Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a gauge of air pollution, to fall 4 percent, and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a key measure of water pollution, to drop by 10 percent.

* "Blue sky" days - or days with fairly good air quality - to account for 70 percent of the total this year, or about 256 days, 10 days more than last year.

Guo also pledged to improve traffic and ensure the smooth running of sport venues.

He said the expansion of the Beijing Capital International Airport and the Beijing South Railway Station will be completed this year, in addition to the construction of a subway linking the airport to the downtown areas.

He also said that construction of the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, and other venues and facilities would be completed on schedule.

Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), who is also a deputy to the city's people's congress, said the goals are clear and practical.

"Hosting the Games and Paralympics is a great event for the country, the people and the Chinese nation," he said. "We must try our best to make it a success."

Jiang said holding the Olympics is not only an opportunity to showcase China to the world, but also a challenge to the city's management and services as millions of visitors will come to Beijing for the Games.

"In addition, about 21,600 registered reporters and more than 10,000 unregistered ones are coming, and they are going to cover every detail of Beijing," Jiang said.

BOCOG estimates that more than 1,000 cultural events would be held in Beijing during the Games, more than the 947 events during the Athens Games. "All these place high demands on the city's management and services," Jiang said.

In response to some concerns that Beijing's economy will decline after the Games, Zhang Gong, director of the municipal development and reform commission, said the government would strike a balance between investments before and after the Games, as investment is still the biggest factor driving economic growth.

Beijing plans economic growth of 9 percent per year in the next five years, with per capita GDP growing from the current $7,000 to $10,000 by 2012.

In the past five years, the city saw annual growth of 12 percent.

(China Daily January 21, 2008)

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