Olympic Village welcomes athletes

2008-07-28 03:34:00 GMT       2008-07-28 11:34:00 (Beijing Time)       China Daily

Liu Xiang (L), China's world champion 110 metre hurdler, laughs with NBA basketball player Yao Ming (C) and other teammates during the official opening ceremony for the Olympic village in Beijing July 27, 2008.[Agencies]

Host China raised its national flag at the Olympic Village in Beijing as it was officially declared open Sunday morning.

Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee (BOCOG), handed over the key to village mayor Chen Zhili, before its red doors were opened and a group of children ran out to welcome the guests.

"We now welcome athletes from around the world to the Games," Chen said. "We will try to meet the needs of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds. We hope they will like the facilities and services (in the village), and achieve desirable results at the Games."

The village, near the National Stadium (Bird's Nest), comprises 42 apartment buildings and can house 16,000 athletes and officials.

A family living in Beijing for four generations welcomed the guests. "We are a family of four generations (living in the capital), and we are very excited to welcome guests from all over the world on behalf of all Beijing residents," said Liu Xinfeng, a member of the family.

"We hope the guests feel the warmth of our services, and we wish good luck to all them for the Games," he said.

The Olympic Village is divided into three sections: the international area, residential area and operations area. It has a main restaurant, which can serve up to 5,000 people, a fire station, teahouses, coffee shops, barbershop, post office, library, clinic and other shops.

The 42 village buildings were built following energy-saving technologies, and using recycled water, environmentally friendly construction materials and solar-powered lights. Some of the apartments have already been sold as up-scale houses.

A variety of dishes and enclosures for prayers and entertainment are part of BOCOG's efforts to provide a comfortable stay for the athletes and officials.

Additional facilities like the chance of learning Chinese and watching Chinese cultural programs are expected to add color to athletes' and officials' experience.

"The village is modern and nicely fitted," said Glenda Korporaal, a senior writer with The Australian newspaper.

The Chinese delegation was the first to check into the village yesterday, with about 300 athletes, coaches and officials, including NBA star Yao Ming and champion hurdler Liu Xiang, being present at the flag-raising ceremony.

They sounded confident of their chances. "Coming to the village makes me feel the real pulse of the Games," world champion gymnast Cheng Fei said.

"We are proud that our national flag has been raised at the Olympic Village on home soil," Chen Wenbin, coach of the Chinese men's weightlifting team, said. "We will go for more golds."

China won five weightlifting golds - three by women and two by men - at the 2004 Athens Games. In Beijing, weightlifter Chen Xiexia, women's 48 kg category, could be the first gold winner for the host team.

Deng Yaping, spokeswoman and deputy director of the Olympic Village department and former Olympic ping-pong champion, said on Friday that some delegation members of 46 countries and regions had already moved into the village since its preliminary opening on July 20.

The village will be closed on Aug 27, and reopened as the Paralympic Village on Aug 30. The final curtain on the village will come down on Sept 20.

In Qingdao, vice-mayor Zang Aimin yesterday announced the opening of the "Qingdao Olympic village" in the presence of about 40 athletes and coaches from 15 countries and regions.

In Hong Kong, which will host the equestrian events, Elsie Leung, Olympic Village deputy mayor, declared open the Hong Kong "village" on Saturday.

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