Torch back in China as official countdown begins
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After a troubled journey around the world, the Olympic torch returned to China in time for the start of 100-day official countdown. (Story: France2, K.Spencer)
Unlike run-ups to recent Olympics,
The city has spent $35-$40 billion on improved infrastructure, including a new airport terminal and subway lines, as well as $2.1 billion to cover the cost of running the Games.
"The 100 days ahead will bring mounting excitement and energy to
But over the past few months the city's smooth preparations have been overshadowed by the torch relay's troubled journey around the globe, with protesters targeting
Wednesday's festivities started off under a hazy sky with a run around the Olympic Green by 10,000
There will also be songs celebrating the Games.
And in officially atheist
"Of course we forgive the things that those who don't understand politics have done," Angela Teresa Ying said after attending a Mass for the Games at a
"Although a few people with ulterior motives have tried to interfere with and vilify the Beijing Olympics ... this can never alter the determination of the 1.3 billion Chinese to successfully hold the Games for the world," the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said in an editorial.
The city will be desperate to prevent a repeat of the one-year countdown, when Free Tibet activists scaled the Great Wall, smog smothered
"If allowed to continue, the reporting interference and hate campaigns targeting international media may poison the pre-Games atmosphere for foreign journalists," said Melinda Liu, President of the Foreign Correspondents Club of
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao denied the Chinese public harboured anti-Western sentiment.
"What they want is only impartial and fair media coverage. That is legitimate," Liu said.
Olympics chiefs have praised the city's preparations and its showpiece stadiums, the Bird's Nest and Water Cube, have drawn wide acclaim.
"The Beijing Organising Committee has put a tremendous amount of effort into putting on a great Games for the athletes," the IOC said in a statement.
"It is currently fine-tuning its operations and we are satisfied by the assurances that we have received across a number of areas of Games preparations, ranging from media service levels to environmental contingency plans for improved air quality."
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