Let The Building Begin!

A Pakistani man looks at the washed away Coastal Highway hit by powerful Cyclone Yemyin at Aghor Tuesday, June 26, 2007. Yemyin lashed Pakistan's southern coast, killing at least 14 people, leaving dozens more missing and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. Yemyin barreled in three days after another violent storm killed at least 235 people in Karachi and sparsely-populated Baluchistan province.
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
Still bathed in the afterglow of its selection as the 2008 Olympic host, Beijing turned its attention Saturday to the massive task of preparing for the world's biggest sports extravaganza.

Chinese Olympic official He Zhenliang promised his colleagues on the International Olympic Committee that China's capital would be ready.

"We are fully aware of the heavy task and responsibilities that lie ahead," he said. "In seven years time, Beijing will make you proud of the decision you took."

The challenge facing Beijing is daunting. Less than half its planned 32 Olympic venues are built. Traffic clogs its roads and its air is polluted.

"Too much hard work, I'm beginning to realize that!" Beijing bid official Wang Wei said, only half-jokingly.

But Chinese pledges to spend billions of dollars on roads, subways, pollution control and stadiums helped sell Beijing to IOC members. They awarded the Games to the world's most populous nation for the first time, sparking delirious celebrations on the streets of Beijing.

In a letter to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, Chinese President Jiang Zemin thanked the committee for "its trust in and support of China."

"The Chinese government and people will go all out to support Beijing ... to carry forward the Olympic spirit, promote world peace and enhance friendship," Jiang wrote.

Delighted Chinese tourists converged Saturday by the busload to snap souvenir photos outside the trade center in Moscow where Samaranch declared: "The games of the 29th Olympiad in 2008 are awarded to the city of Beijing."

"China's Really Cool" read one banner held up by the crowd of about 100 cheering tourists who said they came to Moscow for the vote. They made V for victory signs and waved red Chinese flags.

"The decision of the IOC and the joy into which this plunged the people of Beijing and the whole of China will be in our memories forever," said He, the top Chinese Olympic official.

Critics of Chinese human rights abuses accused the IOC of having rewarded a repressive regime. But IOC members clearly believed Chinese arguments that the Games would boost the nation's economic reforms and opening to the world, spurring rights improvements.

"People talk about human rights. But what about the right of 1.2 billion Chinese to hold the Games?" said Zhou Yuan, chief editor of China Sports magazine.

Beijing's Games will be centered on an "Olympic Green" to be built in the north of the city. Now mostly fields, Beijing says the site will have an Olympic village with 17,600 beds, state-of-the-art sports facilities, press centers and lush woods in 2008.

Beijing's selection for 2008 helped salve its pain at losing the 2000 Olympics to Sydney, Australia, by just two votes in 1993. Memories of the Chinese government's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square just four years earlier contributed to that loss.

"Eight years ago, the Chinese felt so rejected. This time we really reachd out for approval," said Timothy Fok, a Hong Kong Olympic official. "It's going to be a terrific Games."

By JOHN LEICESTER
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