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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 09:54 GMT
Beijing braced for its Olympic test
By Sir Matthew Pinsent
Inside Sport in Beijing

Beijing's 'Birdsnest' stadium is nearing completion
Inside Sport Beijing Special, BBC ONE, Wednesday 20 February, 2250-2330 GMT
Saying that Beijing is changing has become a bit of a cliche, but when it comes to the Olympics and the final few months of preparation, it's true for every host city.

In 1992, Barcelona took it to the last few hours, and there were gardeners planting flowers at the roadside as we trundled our Team GB bags into the Olympic village.

In Sydney, the papers were full of articles about how much the cityscape had changed out towards the west, and in Athens the concrete seemed to be fresh on everything Olympic.

In Beijing, I somehow think the final few weeks will be different.

The city now has a new mood of openness and friendliness that on four previous trips I had not experienced.

The venues are almost all gleaming in the winter sunshine, austere and empty, awaiting the deluge that is less than six months away.

But look closely and even the ones that are finished need the final touches that will take them from good to world class.

The architecture from afar is awe-inspiring - the little details up close are, at the moment, a letdown.

In fairness though, what infiltrates the soul of anyone here is just how much the Chinese want to have a great Games.

Sir Matthew Pinsent filming with the BBC Inside Sport team in Beijing
As BBC journalists, we have more latitude and freedom in China than ever before, but will the same rules be in existence in another year?

From the officials toeing the party line, through the volunteers throwing themselves with abandon into the Olympic mantra of 'you're not allowed in there', to the everyday Beijinger, everyone wants the Games to go without a hitch.

I can't see the venues, the transport or the timetable ever being an issue here, because essentially all of them boil down to money and manpower, two commodities which the Olympic efforts here in China have not been starved of.

In London, there are almost daily articles and comment columns on Olympic costs, and it has become a running joke that the Olympics will follow the same trajectory as the seemingly doomed Dome.

Here, people simply don't make those kind of comments even in jest.

We've done interview after interview where the carbon copy mantra is played yet again - "Beijing is ready and the Games will be a success".

Under the communist agenda, however, I still believe there is a genuine popular support for the Games. Like so many places in the world, there is a nationalistic pride in hosting the event, and the locals want to project Beijing in the best light.

What I think will be the acid test of the Beijing Games will be how the legacy plays out.

As BBC journalists, we have more latitude and freedom in China than ever before, but will the same rules be in existence in another year?

The pollution issue seems to have been largely solved by a monumental effort on behalf of the Games - moving factories, cutting construction dust and, for the Games themselves, taking almost half the cars off the road.

But will the effect be lasting? Will the blue skies seen across the world this summer be around in August 2009?

Finally, and most personally, there is the sporting legacy.

China will top the medals table in their own Games for the first time. Having only joined the Olympic movement properly three decades ago, it's a stunning zeros to heroes performance.

To be honest, I think that the Chinese sporting dominance will be felt years after the flame is extinguished in the Bird's Nest Stadium.

Sir Matthew Pinsent has been reporting from the Olympic host city for Inside Sport's Beijing Special on BBC1, Wednesday 20 February, 2250-2330 GMT. Inside Sport will return to its normal slot on Mondays at 2320 GMT from 25 February.

INSIDE SPORT ON THE BBC

MONDAY 12 MAY
2330 BST, BBC ONE

SEE ALSO
Beijing's Olympic venues
10 Dec 07 |  Olympics & Olympic sport


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