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Last-minute prep for opening ceremonies

Bush arrives in Beijing for Summer Olympics
August 7, 2008 4:49:31 PM PDT
Just a few hours away from the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Beijing, an historic area of the city has just reopened after undergoing a massive facelift for the big event. The Chien Mun area was once home to teahouses. But it's been transformed into a commercial strip for stores like Nike and Starbucks.

Some residents who had to leave their homes to make way for the re-development are fighting the move.

Meanwhile, Chinese environmental officials say the air in Beijing is safe. Athletes have been concerned over the apparent pollution problem in the city. Olympic organizers say they have a backup plan if the air quality becomes unsafe for the events.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and President Bush are in China for the opening ceremonies.

The clock outside the mayor of Beijing's office shows what everyone already knows: the games are about to begin.

"They're very proud, you can feel it," Daley said.

Beijing's mayor told Chicago's chief executive that Chicago too can share in the urban renewal generated by hosting the Olympics.

Later, Daley and his Olympic bid chairman, Pat Ryan, are scheduled guests of honor at a reception hosted by former president George Bush. It's taking place at USA House, a picturesque place where the Americans can host members of the international Olympic family and potentially talk up Chicago's plan for 2016.

The mayor says it's a subtle sell whose effectiveness can't be calculated.

"It's hard to make that judgment. They know who you are. You're talking to them, but this is all about preparations for opening ceremonies," Daley said.

"Americans around the world are generally thought of as being fairly aggressive in their sales approach. We're consciously backing off a little bit," said Bob Ctvrtlik, International Olympic Committee member.

What's not subtle is the arrival of President Bush in Beijing. He resisted calls to boycott opening ceremonies and in the process helped Chicago by sending a message of support to the International Olympic Committee.

"I don't know if it would have been fatal, but I think it's such a positive statement. And other world leaders have followed him, which has been very important," Ryan said.

The mayor of Beijing shared a few secrets about what to expect during opening ceremonies. He said the history of Chinese civilization will be celebrated as well as looking forward to, in his words, China's 'harmonious' future.

Bush arrived at night on the final stop in his three-country tour of Asia. His visit comes amid an atmosphere of tension over Bush's high-profile declaration in Thailand that it was time for the growing world power to grant more freedom to its people.

Bush, first lady Laura Bush and their daughter Barbara came off Air Force One together, where they got a red-carpet greeting from Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and others, and then sped away in a motorcade.

Bush has said he wants to enjoy the Summer Olympics competition, but also will talk to President Hu Jintao about human rights and a host of other bilateral issues.

China's Foreign Ministry released a terse statement just before his arrival saying no one should interfere with China's internal affairs.

Bush plans to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday night and go to a series of sporting events through Monday, including U.S. basketball and baseball games against China. Although he exhorted Beijing to improve human rights in a major speech in Thailand before flying there, Bush, an avid sports fan and former part-owner of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers, has said he is intent on making his Olympics visit about sports, not politics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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