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Olympics a week away, Beijing's pulse speeds up
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The pulse of China's capital is speeding up with the city's hosting of the Olympic Games only seven days away.

The Olympic torch arrived in Tianjin, about 137 km away from its final destination on Friday. By coincidence, it was 100 years ago at an inter-college games in Tianjin that Zhang Boling, then a famed education expert, first argued China should form a sports delegation to attend the Olympic Games.

After his speech, the local magazine Tianjin Youth put out an article posing several questions: "When can China send an athlete to attend the Olympics? When can China send a sport delegation to the Olympics? When can China host an Olympic Games?"

They have all been answered now.

The torch will take another seven days to reach the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest," but passengers from Tianjin can arrive in the capital in 30 minutes.

The Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, the world's fastest with passenger trains running at 350 km per hour, started operation on Friday. It cuts the 70-minute journey between the Olympic host city and co-host by more than half.

The service shuttles spectators, athletes, media people and other passengers to and from Tianjin which is holding 12 Olympic football matches from Aug. 6 to Aug. 15.

In Beijing, more and more athletes were pouring into the city to prepare.

At Beijing Chaoyang Gymnasium, badminton players from Switzerland, Guatemala and Mexico were training on Friday. The first Olympic athletes came here on July 28.

On Friday morning, the first 54 members of the Republic of Korea (ROK) delegation arrived in Beijing. The country will send 389 people, its largest Olympic delegation, to Beijing.

By Thursday evening, about 2,500 people from 141 delegations had moved into the Olympic Village.

Last-minute preparations were also speeding up. The renewal project of the Fengtai Sports Center Softball Field to hold the Olympic softball events finished on Friday. More than 500 volunteers were in place to serve their duties in the stadium.

Drivers of about 67,000 taxis in Beijing wore their new uniform, a yellow shirt and blue trousers, for the first time on Friday.

"They say our taxi drivers are the face of Beijing. We should leave visitors a good first impression," said driver Jin Shunhai.

For the Olympics, the drivers have made more efforts than changing shirts. Many took part in training courses in English, knowledge about the Beijing Olympics and foreign etiquette. Some had to quit smoking, at least in cabs.

On the same day, about 25,000 security personnel started working on thousands of Beijing buses and at bus stations to remove possible safety risks during the Games.

The security personnel, comprising mechanics, management and support personnel of the Beijing Public Transport Holdings Ltd., were deployed at every bus station and on every bus.

"I only check the suspicious passengers according to my experiences because of the large flow of people," said Wang, a conductor and safety supervisor of the No. 9 bus and identified by her red armband printed with "Beijing Bus Security Check."

The city's subway system adopted its strict security policy a day earlier.

Zhang Qin was working with her colleague for the security check at the Tiananmen East Station of subway Line 1. On Friday morning, the 21-year-old followed a passenger all the way to the exit to persuade him to have his bag checked.

"Some people might not understand why the security check was so tight. We have to explain to them," she said. "I hope the Olympics will run peacefully."

As many noticed, the invitations have been sent, venues were ready and the host was experiencing an accelerated pulse with the mixture of excitement and strain.

(Xinhua News Agency July 30, 2008)

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