China on Sunday formally opened the Olympic Village which will house about 16,000 athletes and officials during the mega sporting event next month with the host country's delegation first to check in at the heavily- guarded complex.
The key to the Village was handed over to its Mayor Chen Zhilli, a ruling Communist Party of China official, at a ceremony at the 66-hectare sprawling complex located close to the Beijing Olympics showpiece venues, the Birds Nest stadium and the aquatic venue Water Cube.
"We now welcome athletes from around the world to come to the Games," Chen, who is the Vice-President of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) said.
China, which has announced the largest-ever Olympic delegation of 1,099 members, including 639 athletes, was the first to check in by raising its national flag at the village.
Athens Olympics 110 metres hurdles champion Liu Xiang and basketball star Yao Ming were among the 100 plus athletes who witnessed the ceremony.
"As athletes from the host country, I hope you will present the peaceful, civilized and open stance of China," Chen was quoted as telling the Chinese delegation by official Xinhua news agency.
The village is divided into international area, residential area and operation area, with a main restaurant that can feed 5,000 people, its own fire station, teahouses, coffee shops, a barber shop, post office, shops, library and a clinic.
China, a declared atheist nation which maintains tight controls over religion, has made provision for adherents of all major religions to practice their faiths at the Village, which has space for religious masses.
A multi-faith centre with 66 staff and volunteers has opened in the Village where services of the worlds major religions, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism could be held.