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Olympic venues popular during festival
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The main Olympic venues of Bird's Nest and Water Cube remained their charm to tourists during the first four days of the Chinese lunar new year holiday, the city's tourism authority said Thursday.

Approximately 80,000 people visited the two sites, officially known as the National Stadium and the the National Aquatic Center, respectively, between Monday to Thursday, the first four days of the week-long holiday.

The Bird's Nest opened to the public from Oct.1. The stadium attracted 60,000 tourists on its opening day, and an average of 20,000 to 30,000 visitors every day since then.

Other Olympic sites and the National Center for the Performing arts of China, formerly known as the National Grand Theater that opened in December last year, were also popular tourist attractions during the holiday.

During the four days, Beijing's 19 main scenic spots received about 840,000 visitors, earning 19.17 million yuan (2.8 million U.S. dollars), up 6.7 percent as against the same period last year, according to statistics offered by the holiday tourism management team.

In addition, nearly 1.93 million holiday-makers participated in various cultural events and festival entertainment activities such as the traditional temple fairs, skiing, and fruit-picking in rural orchards, contributing nearly 52.7 million yuan in total revenue.

Beijing arranged more than 30 temple fairs for the Spring Festival this year, featuring different themes like traditional lamps, exotic, tea and traditional Chinese cultures, in addition to performances, snacks and souvenirs.

In the Temple of Heaven, 239 performers dressed in ancient costumes imitated a grand royal ceremony to entertain tourists.

While visitors to the Summer Palace were able to have fun at a bustling commercial street decorated to resemble the way of life in the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911).

Beijing's public transit authority said the number of incoming passengers aboard the city's sightseeing buses kept rising over the past days.

"Each route transported more than 1,000 people a day, ten times of the normal passenger flow. About 95 percent of them were tourists coming from other parts of China," said Zheng Xueqiu, director of the tour buses.

Cinemas, indoor sports and shopping were also popular entertainment alternatives for local residents who prefer to avoid clamorous crowds in parks or tourist destinations.

(Xinhua News Agency January 30, 2009)

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