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China set for Asian Games extravaganza

other Updated: Nov 10, 2010 13:36 IST

AFP
Highlight Story

After six years of planning and billions of dollars in investment, Guangzhou was putting the final touches Wednesday to its preparations for the Asian Games.

While Beijing staged the Olympics and Shanghai the World Expo, it is now the turn of this booming southern metropolis to showcase itself to the world.

The Asian Games are the biggest multi-sports extravaganza after the Olympics and Guangzhou is hoping the November 12-27 spectacle will help transform it into one of Asia's elite cities.

"The Guangzhou Asian Games will help drive the development of Guangzhou and it will bring new opportunities and inject new vigour into China's economy," executive deputy secretary general of the Guangzhou Organising Committee Xu Ruisheng said.

"A successful and amazing Asian Games is a platform to show off Guangzhou's comprehensive strength and improve its international reputation."

China is also using the event as a springboard to the 2012 London Olympics, after its breakthrough in Beijing where it toppled the United States from the top of the medal table for the first time.

"We are using the Asian Games as a preparation for the 2012 Olympics, to discover our new stars and to fight for the most gold medals," Chinese Olympic Committee vice president Xiao Tian said.

The country's state media has been stirring up excitement with regular updates on Team China, a day-by-day countdown on China Central Television and coverage of the nationwide Asiad torch relay.

More than 10,000 athletes from 45 countries and regions will compete for 476 gold medals in Guangzhou, which sits in the Pearl River Delta, the hub of China's huge export-oriented "workshop of the world".

It will be the biggest Asiad ever with a television audience of billions, watching dozens of Olympic champions as well as many athletes with little hope of success.

China, Japan and South Korea are the traditional Asian sporting powerhouses. They will be compting with the likes of war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq, and minnows such as Bhutan and Timor-Leste.

Just as Beijing did before the 2008 Olympics, Guangzhou has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects -- a new rail station, a gleaming trade centre, subway lines, housing projects, highways and bridges.

Construction on 58 renovated sporting venues and 12 brand-new facilities were finished by the end of September, in stark contrast to the last-minute chaos in rival superpower India last month for the Commonwealth Games.

Security is a major focus of the event, with 27 million dollars spent beefing up the police presence and employing 800,000 security guards and volunteers to help patrol the Games.

Hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras are in place across the city, the China Daily said, including more than 12,000 in and around Games' venues.

More than 600 people have been arrested in the lead up, while more than one million vehicles and boats and three million people entering Guangzhou have been searched.

"Security is our top concern and our top responsibility for the success of the Games," said Gu Shiyang, vice secretary general of the Guangzhou Organising Committee.

"We are fully aware of the threats from outside the country and also the risks within the city or within the territory. We have made great efforts to make our city safe, to make our Games safe."

Authorities have implemented a number of strict measures to ensure the success of the Games, including traffic restrictions that aim to take half of the city's vehicles off the roads to improve air quality.