Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 4 News List

`Level of civilization' a concern ahead of Olympics

AFP , BEIJING

With the Olympic Games exactly two years away, Beijing residents yesterday expressed excitement and pride, although they remained worried over a host of problems such as pollution and bad traffic.

While feeling extremely proud of their country being the host of the world's biggest sports event, residents said they were anxious about how the country would be able to resolve these issues.

"Hosting the Olympics is a great thing, but I don't think we're completely ready for it yet," 71-year-old Zhang Jianhua said outside a local park under a typically gray, hazy sky.

"Air pollution is very bad and traffic congestion is very inconvenient to people. We have to strengthen supervision on environmental protection, sanitation and the level of civilization," Zhang said.

Another Beijing resident, Zhang Yu, aged in her 40s, agreed.

"I'm excited, of course, but how can we improve things in terms of population growth, sanitation, water usage, law and order and the quality of the people -- that's the question," Zhang said.

The level of civilization and the quality of the people are references to habits such as spitting and pushing in queues, which the government has previously highlighted as areas of concern.

Zhang said she had little faith in the city's ability to clean up its pollution and improve traffic congestion permanently by 2008 because some current government policies were contradicting that goal.

Zhang said the large-scale demolition of in-town residential areas to make way for upmarket shopping centers and office towers meant more people had to travel long distances to work.

"When they are moving everybody out of town, people have little choice but to drive to work," she said.

After China won the Olympic bid, it promised to make Beijing an "ecological city" with "green hills, clear water, grass-covered ground and blue sky," but the capital remains one of the worst polluted cities in the world.

Ordinary Beijing people said they could only put their hopes on the government to improve their city.

"We have been looking forward to the event for so many years, I'm sure the government has the ability to fix it," another 61-year-old resident said.

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