Organizers of the 2008 Olympic Games said on Monday that preparations for next year's Olympics are progressing smoothly but challenges remain in areas like air pollution and citizens' civility.
"On the whole, preparations for the Beijing Olympics are smoothly progressing in accordance with plans," Wang Wei, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics (BOCOG), told a press conference held to mark Wednesday's start to the one-year countdown to the Games.
With the Chinese capital shrouded in thick smog on Monday, Wang said that air quality in the city has improved a lot.
Citing World Health Organization indicators, Wang said good quality air days had increased from 100 in 1998 to 241 in 2006, and serious air pollution days had decreased from 141 to 24.
Wang also said that special measures would be taken to ensure good air quality in next August.
"Good air quality and blue sky are not only important for the Olympic Games," he said. "What matters more to us is not the image (of the country), but the health of the athletes and local citizens."
A series of regulations aimed at ensuring media freedom in reporting the 2008 Games took effect early this year, which put Beijing under intense scrutiny of international press.
Jiang Xiaoyu, also a BOCOG executive vice president, said that BOCOG welcomes reporters to objectively, fairly and comprehensively report on Beijing's Olympic preparatory work.
"We have already heard some different voices, and we are mentally prepared for such voices to get louder and even sharper," said Jiang.
"We welcome constructive criticism on our faults and defects, but we resolutely oppose the politicization of Olympic affairs, for this does not accord with the Olympic spirit and Olympic Charter," he added.
Compared to problems like pollution and traffic congestions, the Olympic organizers seem to be more worried about so-called "software construction".
"The biggest challenge (in the year to come) is how to make sure our service level and the civility of our people matches the holding of an excellent Olympics," said Jiang.
(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2007)