The first thing that strikes you after alighting at the Guangzhou International Airport is its enormity. The Games may have been awarded to the third largest city in China and one of the country's biggest business hubs, barely a two-hour drive from Hong Kong. However, the task that has been accomplished, and the place, built on the banks of the Pearl River, is done up so well that it can leave even global infrastructure magnates in awe. Hills have been blasted to pave way for tunnels, expressways are long and winding and one can glide at breakneck speed humming a favourite song.
Skyscrapers have sprung up everywhere and there is no sign of construction abating. But, true to their work culture, the Chinese have delivered each of the 53 competition and 17 training venues for a record 42 disciplines in time.
Even as the torch toured the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Zhenhai Tower, Statue of Five Goats, Museum of the West Han Dynasty, Mausoleum of the Nanyue King and Canton Tower among others on Wednesday, the 18-km journey symbolised the victory of the workers who built this wonderful yet complicated maze of structures that will keep the flame of the Asian Games burning for years.
The enormity is such that it can accommodate three cities the size of Delhi and yet leave room for more. But what catches the eye is the spotless look. The scenery along the 50km drive from the airport to the Games City keeps changing, but the cleanliness is unvarying. Tree-lined vistas give way to hilly terrain, followed by the Pearl River basin (the venue of the opening ceremony) and finally the skyscrapers, but the scenic beauty persists and it's commendable how the locals have kept it that way. The stage has been for the finest of Chinese athletes to compete with the best in Asia, and the citizens know they would not be disappointed this time either, for China has emerged as the world’s biggest sporting power.
Much before the Games torch - 'The Tide' - returned to Guangzhou on November 5 after completing the relay in Beijing, Harbin, Changchun, and 20 cities of Guangdong province, it has given rise to huge expectations.
But, China's hunger for medals, and building infrastructure, is insatiable. Sure, the Games would be a success. The only thing to watch is how big a stride the host country will take this time. The chasm is certain to grow wider.