Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Not only billions of dollars spent in infrastructure and restyling entire city areas for the Olympics. One year from the 2008 Olympics, public awareness campaigns are underway to limit (at least for the duration of the Games) pollution and traffic congestion and offer an image of the efficiency and courtesy worthy of an international metropolis in conformity with its status as a world economic power.
During the 17 days of the competition, the centre of the city will be off limits to most cars and all sources of pollution will be stopped even in the outlying provinces. Public officials assure that they are perfecting meteorological checks to guarantee good weather for the opening ceremony.
There is great attention to detail: public awareness campaigns have already begun, against bad habits such as spitting in public, littering the streets, “jumping” queues and using bad language. The 11 day of each month is designated “queuing day" to encourage people to wait in orderly lines. Olympic officials appear obsessed with stamping out spitting. Beijing Civilisation Office recently revealed that incidence of spitting had dropped from 8.4% in 2005 to 4.9% this year. No explanation was given on how the figures were calculated.
Residents, (especially those who come into contact with tourist such as policemen and taxi drivers) are encouraged to learn a few English phrases. The authorities have also begun a drive to paint the exteriors of buildings and walls which face the streets.
Beijing is also replacing the tiny red taxis with spacious station wagons. But many taxi driers come from the suburbs and as such eat, sleep and smoke in their cabs, filling them with bad odours. Thus the city council launched a fine of a two day stop for bad smelling taxis. The taxi drivers will also be forced to wash their hair and be clean and not to ask for tips.
In Beijing the selling and distribution of foreign papers and books is forbidden, and they can only be found in luxury hotels, used by foreigners. Not even Beijing International airport can they be found. The Olympics has brought with it the opportunity for foreign press to be sold perhaps just in the city and airport, to meet the needs of the tourists. Meanwhile however, China has increased its censorship of the press, forbidding the media to even speak of contaminated food and firing various editors for “unpleasant” articles.
Zhang Faqiang, vice president for the Chinese Olympic committee explains that “The Olympic Games is not simply a matter of competitive sports - it is also a question of raising the civic quality of the people”.