In Beijing, about two dozen people scuffled with police during a brief demonstration near Tiananmen Square.
The protesters claimed they lost their homes to make way for commercial development. Many people have been evicted to clear the area for renovations for the Olympics.
"China" and "change" are two words that would have seemed at odds more than a few years ago. In 1971, a simple table tennis match between U.S. and Chinese athletes captivated both countries. They called it "ping pong diplomacy."
Today, men and women play ping pong in parks across the city.
Wang Li Quan said he is excited for the world to get to know his country, but you won't see him attending any Olympic competitions. The Games are for young people, he says.
Look just beyond the plastered smiles of a welcoming nation and you'll see signs of the sacrifices made for the Games. Old neighborhoods have been demolished, in one case, to make way for a parking lot full of new cars for Olympic big wigs.
How many people have been inconvenienced depends on whom you ask.
The government says 14,901 residents were relocated to make way for Olympic venues. A human rights group puts the number at 1.5 million.
The government has ordered polluting industries to close and even pulled the plug on some nightclubs for fear of presenting a less than pristine image.
"I would say that you may find venues that you thought would be open and having shows, maybe they're closed or just not allowed to have shows," said concert organizer Jon Cambell.
"It's the idea of sacrifice for the greater good, which is to make China look fantastic during the Olympic period," said Ed Lehman, attorney.
Lehman is a graduate of Loyola Academy. He moved to Beijing two decades ago. He was among the first foreigners permitted to run a law firm in China.
Lehman says what may look harsh to Americans ensures a sense of stability there.
"If you can just understand 1.3 billion people, we've got 22 million people who weren't here 365 days ago. For us in Chicago to try to second guess how to run and work this government is insane and it's taken me 21 years to figure that out," Lehman said.
Is a city like Chicago ready for the self-sacrifice that comes with hosting the Games - be it in the form of cost overruns or congestion? It's one of many questions Mayor Daley will begin to explore when he arrives.
Japan takes first 2016 bid shot in Beijing
The athletic competition begins in little more than three days. But in Beijing, the behind-the-scenes competition to win the right to host the 2016 Olympics is already underway.
Tokyo hit first. Taking advantage of a slow news day in the build up to the beginning of the Olympics, Tokyo's bid team gave a few hundred reporters a snapshot of that city's plan for hosting the Games - in the heart of the city, on the grounds of the Imperial Palace and along Tokyo Bay.
"We will reuse venues from '64 but also have new venues at the waterfront for the next generation," said Ichiro Kono, Tokyo 2016 chairman.
Chicago's bid team was still arriving in Beijing. Instead of flashy photo ops, Mayor Daley is being counseled to take a more subtle approach, building one-on-one relationships with members of the International Olympic Committee.
"I've always felt it's a lot about the people involved in your bid and the trust and confidence they have. This is their franchise they're giving to you," said Charlie Battle, Chicago 2016 international advisor.