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Organizers Pleased with Successful Tournament
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Beijing Olympic organizers have reason to be happy after hosting a "successful" World Softball Championships, which concluded yesterday.

The 10-day, 16-team tournament was billed as a test event for the 2008 Olympic Games, and was the first of its kind held in the city. An international regatta, a test event for the 2008 sailing competition, was held in East China's coastal city Qingdao last month.

"Now I can proudly say that this is an absolutely successful World Championships," said Yang Shu'an, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).

"Like a window, the Beijing Games was presented to the world through this tournament."

The tournament was held in a purpose-built stadium, the first Olympic venue in Beijing to be put into use. More than 900 athletes, coaches, judges and officials travelled to the city to get their first taste of the 2008 atmosphere. And it also attracted more than 158,000 spectators, a stunning figure for a minority sport in China.

The 9,700-seat stadium, completed just two months before the championships, won unanimous praise.

"This is definitely a world-class venue," said Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation (ISF). "We are very satisfied with the venue. There are a few things we want to change but they're very minor."

Porter is probably the best witness of how the stadium was built from scratch into an Olympic-standard venue in a short time.

"There has been quite a lot of progress since July when we visited the construction site. I am amazed how it happened in just a few months. Everything is unbelievable here.

"I think this is probably our best venue."

The athletes were also thrilled by playing in venue.

"The stadium is fantastic," said Jennie Finch, star member of the gold-winning US team. "I got goose bumps every time I played here."

However, the organizers hoped it was not only the venue but also their organizational ability that impressed.

"Organizing a championships to the Olympic standard is a severe test to our young and inexperienced team and I am glad that they did a really good job," Yang said.

What pleased him most was that almost every aspect of organization went smoothly, and there weren't any major problem during the tournament.

Yang said BOCOG and the International Olympic Committee will form separate evaluation groups later to mark the event.

Despite the success, the organizers will take on board every little mistake.

"We are not afraid of discovering problems here because that will help us to stage a better Games in 2008," Yang said.

Porter said the area designation is one of the shortcomings and the organizers can work out better access for different people.

And some accidents happened - the glass behind the batter box was broken by a wild pitch, causing a ten-minute interruption of the game between the US and China on September 1.

(China Daily September 6, 2006)

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