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Olympic households brace for foreign visitors
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Han Ruibing and her husband have been horning cooking skills for months, not for running a restaurant, but to entertain foreign visitors as part of an Olympic homestay program.

Han, an English teacher at the Beijing Union University, owns a two-bedroom apartment in which she is preparing to receive a foreign family during the Olympics after being selected as one of 598 families for the homestay program.

"I hope foreign visitors can get an authentic taste of Chinese culture during stay at my home, and know how the lives of ordinary Chinese people are," said Han.

Han's home is within a 10-minute walking distance from the National Stadium, the Olympics centerpiece venue that is better known as the "Bird's Nest" for its giant latticework structure of metal girders.

Han, who once studied in Australia for two years and lodged in a local family, said the similar experience she had before enables her to know the needs of foreign visitors.

"Chinese are hospitable. We will try our utmost to make the visitors feel at home here," she said.

Han said she plans to show her foreign guests around in the city as much as possible. "The Olympics is a window on China. As a Beijinger, I feel I have the obligation to promote my city and country," she said.

Beijing is expected to see an influx of over 500,000 foreign visitors and one million domestic tourists during the Aug. 8-24 Games. The homestay rooms are to supplement the city's 300,000 beds in 800 star-rated hotels, and officials said, as homestay rooms charge only 50 U.S. dollars to 80 dollars a night, supply may fall short of demand.

The 598 families selected also include households in "Siheyuan" -- traditional compounds with countyards.

"Maybe my home is not as good as hotel rooms when it comes to luxury, but foreign visitors can have a feel of old Beijing here and a profound undestanding of Chinese culture," said Zhu Baohua, an owner of a Siheyuan in Shichahai, a famous scenic area in downtown Beijing.

"I have prepared for more than a year and I'm sure foreign visitors will have a wonderful and memorable experience in Beijing," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2008)

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