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Qingdao sets sail in fresh breeze of expansion
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"We are ready - capable and confident that we will hold the best Olympic sailing competition," Xia Geng, mayor of Qingdao, told China Daily.

Xia also serves as chairman of the Sailing Committee (Qingdao) of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

Yacht berths at the sailing center on the coast of Qingdao, Shandong Province, are now quiet, awaiting their time.

"It is a rare time for Qingdao," Xia said. "We have been exerting all-out effort since 2003 to prepare for the gala. We have built a world-class sailing center, forged a strong service team, held two test events and received overall praise on venue construction, city operation, event organization, safety and volunteer services."

Qingdao invested 3.2 billion yuan in the 45-hectare sailing center, completing construction of all its facilities in January. The sailing center reflects the 2008 Olympics core values - green, hi-tech and people oriented - setting the pace in environmental protection, science and technology for future events.

Five years of preparation and two test events have reaped greater results than even planners expected, laying a solid foundation for a successful Olympics sailing competition.

"Olympics preparation work has promoted the city's development and in return its progress enhances preparation work for the Games. Qingdao has entered a new stage," Xia noted.

Qingdao embraced the chance to organize and host the sailing portion of the world's most important sporting event in part to attract more people from around the globe so they can have a better understanding of the city, he added.

The Olympics has given great impetus to Qingdao's economic development - the aggregate capital invested since 2003 exceeds US$17 billion, while the total value of imports and exports surpassed $100 billion and 56 Fortune 500 firms have arrived in the city.

Gross income from tourism broke through the 40 billion yuan mark last year, generated by the spending of 30 million tourists.

Shipping container throughput at the city's port in 2007 was 9.46 million 20-foot container equivalent units, while passenger numbers at its airport reached 7.87 million.

Olympics preparation has also benefitted the livelihoods of Qingdao residents. Construction of related projects created 100,000 jobs and 46,000 homes for low-wage workers.

At the same time the city's heated floor space surpassed 30 million sq m.

Qingdao also implemented plans for greatly reducing air, noise and water pollution. Environmentally responsible technology was used in building the sailing center.

As well, food and medicine safety has been strengthened.

Overall civic progress has been a benefit of the Olympian surge, raising residents' awareness of the Games. Smiling faces of volunteers are now a trademark of the sailing city.

"There are less than 200 days to go for the Games. Everything is going smoothly," Xia said. "We are looking forward to the Olympics gala and I hope Qingdao can draw more and more attention from the world."

(China Daily March 5, 2008)

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