Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 18:22 UK

Leaving Beijing as the Games arrive

By Daniel Griffiths
BBC News, Beijing

Mr Wu
Mr Wu says he would rather stay to see the Olympics

In a makeshift camp of large green tents in downtown Beijing, migrant workers are preparing to leave the city they helped to build.

Their temporary home is on the edge of a new park they have been laying out.

But now the job is done and they have got to go.

"We've already bought our train tickets," Mr Chen said. "It's going to take about 19 hours, but we should be home for supper tomorrow evening."

In a couple of days, their tents will be taken down.

Mr Chen says there used to be 100 people in the camp, but now they are the last few left. Not everyone, though, wants to go.

"I don't want to go home," said Mr Wu, busy preparing lunch for his workmates at the new park. "I want to see the Olympics."

"Back home I won't be able to get a job, and if I don't work I won't make any money," he added.

Told to leave

The authorities are putting the finishing touches to the capital's multi-billion dollar facelift ahead of the Olympics.

Over the past few years, large areas of the city have been demolished and replaced by new roads, subways, skyscrapers and parks.

Construction site in Beijing
Migrant workers have played a key role in readying Beijing for the Games

But now they have ordered building sites to shut and factories to close, in order to reduce air pollution in Beijing.

The migrant workers have been told to leave in an effort to smarten up the city, and millions are on the move.

At one of Beijing's main railway stations, there are hordes of people. They came to Beijing from across China in search of a better life, but now they have to leave just as the Games roll into town.

"We're going back in support of China's Olympics," Mr Wang said. "My boss told me to take a short holiday, so I'm off home but I'll be back once they're over."

Many of the other migrant workers tell the same story. Nothing is being allowed to tarnish Beijing's image, and they have got no choice but to leave.

"Because of the Olympics we're not allowed to work," said Mr Cui. "We can't stay so we've got to go home. I've only been here a month. When we first came here the boss said we wouldn't have to leave."

Transforming the city

But not all migrant workers are leaving, because there is still a lot of work to do before the Olympics begin, to make the city look perfect for the Games.

All round the capital, roadsides have been turned into instant gardens of blooming flowers and trees, tended by gardeners like Jia Cenghua.

"When we came this was just bare earth," Mr Jia said. "But we're making it beautiful for the Olympics, watering the plants and looking after the gardens."

The authorities want the world to see a shiny, modern capital for the Olympics.

That means no migrant workers - but the reality is that Beijing still needs them, especially now, just days before the Games begin.


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