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Billions to Prepare Beijing for Games
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Beijing is pouring billions of yuan into construction and cleanup -- including clean air -- for the Olympic Games, the city's top finance official said yesterday.


With a little more than a year until the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the municipal government has described this year as "decisive" to its success in hosting the event.


From the mushrooming sports venues, a city-wide facelift, a battle for blue sky days and smooth transportation to encouraging Beijingers to learn English and curb bad habits like spitting, the city is taking this opportunity to create both tangible and intangible change.


Wu Shixiong, head of the Beijing finance bureau, said the bureau has allotted special funds to speed up construction of sports venues, improve transportation and ensure safety for the Games.


Zhang Gong, director of the Beijing municipal development and reform commission, said construction of all 31 Olympic venues and five related facilities had been started by the end of last month, with many sites scheduled for completion by the end of this year.


In the first half of this year, the city spent 1.38 billion yuan (US$183 million) to dismantle or renovate 22 "villages in the city" and 60 "corners of the city" -- shanty areas within the city.


The city will replace 6,530 signs with wrong English interpretations in eight districts of the city.


Another 810 million yuan has been earmarked to deal with air pollution. Money will go to boiler renovation and the retiring of old cabs and buses, according to Wu.


The city registered 110 blue sky days in the first six months of the year, less than half the goal of 245 blue sky days set for 2007.


"The increasing number of vehicles is bringing more pressure to transportation management and the improvement of air quality," said Zhang.


The city's income for the first six months of this year was a record 73.15 billion yuan, an increase of 27 percent compared with the first six months of 2006. Expenditures for the first six months totaled 65.02 billion yuan, a 37.8 percent increase from last year.


(China Daily July 26, 2007)

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