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Beijing 2008 Olympic Games: China is prepared to smile for the cameras

With the 2008 Olympics less than a month away, China is making every effort to shed its austere image. Gordon Rayner reports from Beijing. Only 27 days to go until the opening ceremony of the Games Beijing 2008 Olympic and nothing, nothing is left to chance. In exchange for the Professional School, 380 Olympic hostesses have been drilled relentlessly in such skills complex as how to smile.

To pass the exam, you should always show between six and eight teeth and be able to use unblinking smile for 10 minutes at a time. Those who can not handle this must train for hours with a stick held between the teeth to enhance your facial muscles. On the other hand, 800,000 students are taught to clap and cheer in unison, and even the weather will be strictly controlled, using "cloud seeding" techniques to ensure rain before, but not during the Games.

Yet the great irony of the instinct of the Communist Party for control all aspects of behavior is that the Chinese citizens, of all people, do not need lessons on how to behave. Pay my first visit to China the week Last, my overall impression of the Chinese is that they are unfailingly charming, friendly and polite. They are also younger people who have found (even without the stick exercises) and have a childlike enthusiasm for the Games and affectionately for foreign tourists, making them natural ambassadors of China.

A walk through increased activity of Beijing, Chang 'an Jie (a 30-mile long avenue thick with hooting traffic and whistling policemen) made a point of stopping the People on the street to ask them what they expected to achieve Games. There were, of course, a time when the only people allowed to talk to Westerners have been prepared members of the Communist Party propaganda, but those days are gone, and I had no reason to doubt the motives of Ma Bin, a salesman for 32 years of age, for a coffee company, who said he expected foreign visitors to discover "that China is a beautiful place where you feel welcome," or Shigany Sang, 25, a law student, who said that tourists "would be surprised to find how cosmopolitan Beijing."

And there were some dissenting voices – one man told me about what he perceived as corruption in the awarding of contracts for the Olympics, and suggested many places Games would become white elephants. Oh, I can not give his name, because freedom of expression remains a distant dream in China, which blocks journalists bloggers and dissidents, allegedly torturing some of them, and used violence to crush independence demonstrations in Tibet. However, China is rapidly changing and change for the better. It is worth noting that the man who told me about alleged corruption had traveled extensively and lived abroad, even in Britain, but returned to China "because there are many opportunities here. Every country has problems, but this is a great place to live."

In fact, changes in China since Mao's death in 1976 have been so fast that any person who has never visited Beijing is likely to have misconceptions that are 10 or 20 years late. Beijing is full of smart business centers, where the richest citizens Audi and VW park (there are surprisingly few bicycles) to shop at Max Mara, Burberry Tiffany and a few steps preserved body of Mao in Tiananmen Square (the amount of purchases of clothing must have been less involved in their day). And China's economy will become the largest in the world, has raised the standard of living in their cities to levels unimagined.

Hi Xiao Long, a tour guide had just left of his youth, he said: "When I was a child very few people had a television, and if they did, would 10 or 12 families come around to him. Now everyone has three or four television series, people have cars and cell phones. People here are happy with their lives. "China is desperate to get this message, hence my visit as guest of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), but after 60 years of the regime Communist Chinese authorities are still better at monologue than dialogue, lending a surreal sometimes to our meetings.

In a visit to the new subway line serving the Olympic Park, which was presented with a 52-page booklet on how to use the subway, including instructions on what to do if you drop the bag in the line (do not jump off the platform for this, or an electric shock or contusion by trains can be made) and what to do in case of a poison gas attack (use tissue to cover your mouth, away from the source of gas quickly). The breach of the rules (which include "being well dressed ") will give rise to the" transferred to public security departments. "Perhaps foreign visitors would be better to walk after everything.

The Chinese also love statistics – I said the exact circumference of each of five rounds Beijing concentric The exact number of workstations in the press center at (971) the total mileage of the subway system of the city in 2015 (561 km), the improvement in carbon monoxide levels in the city since 1998 (39.4 percent) … anyway, you get the picture. I began to suspect the Chinese officials were bombarding us with numbers to avoid would be time for uncomfortable questions about Tibet, Sudan, the disastrous torch relay or touch anything on human rights.

In fact, the dome was going to ask questions on issues as thorny, deputy mayor of Beijing, the sharp-suited Gang Chen, remained in good spirits over repeated questions about how pro-Tibetan protesters be treated, but their response was not exactly straightforward. They would, he said, in accordance with Chinese laws. Any you want to show must have a permit (smiles ironic reference) and said: "You will see during the Games how we handle these situations." A response disturbing. However, it may come as a surprise that the question could be asked to everyone.

China is a country that does just four years, was so wary of the media that blocked almost all foreign Internet sites, however, was able to call the BBC and websites UK newspapers and even search sites articles about China's record on rights. Beijing, of course, wants the world to see the impressive Bird Nest Stadium and Water Cube funky in the Olympic Village, the masterpieces of the Games.

Unfortunately, visitors may have difficulty to find them through the relentless smog, which is so thick here that, on a bad day, it seems that cling to your face like a mask. Forget publicity photos of blue sky of the Olympic venues you might have seen when I visited the Bird's Nest was enveloped in a miasma and have appeared as a thin layer dirt coating of steel exoskeleton. The officials seem to be in denial about this, citing statistics to demonstrate how safe the air. They do not seem to realize that if the world sees this darkness with beams in their homes every day, potential tourists may choose to go elsewhere. And that would be real shame, because they would lose the opportunity of a country that deserves to be seen firsthand.

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