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Beijing's huge efforts hard to please all Print

Original Text from Xinhua

To Australian journalist Garry Linnell, covering the Olympics in Beijing is "a lot of fun". Dining "strange" food at noisy local restaurants, playing ping pong with the Chinese in park and even jogging at the Tian'anmen Square in the morning rush hour.

Foreign journalists try a balancing act to photograph the new Qianmen Street in Beijing July 31, 2008. [Xinhua]

"I sweated a lot and people were staring at me, thinking I'm a crazy foreign guy," Linnell said, joyfully recalling his half-hour adventure on Thursday and laughing.

A veteran sports reporter, Linnell, who works for Australia's News Limited, arrived in Beijing half a month before the Games, leaving himself enough time to see the city and scrutinize the host's preparations.

Tian'anmen Square is a must visiting place and Linnell has been there three times. "I interviewed local people and asked how they felt about the Olympics. I am glad that I could move around with no restrictions."

As thousands of journalists pouring into Beijing, the host is making every effort to make the often critical group satisfied. From well-equipped media villages to the grandiose Main Press Center (MPC) and International Broadcasting Center (IBC), all life and work necessities seem to have been taken into consideration.

To many foreign reporters, the most noticeable phenomenon in Beijing is the huge number of volunteers who seem to be everywhere.

"I am impressed by the amount of people working here," said Linnell, who also covered the 1992 Games in Barcelona and the 2000 Games in Sydney. "There are even two volunteers in front of the toilet room (in MPC)."

The Aussie said the volunteers are friendly and very helpful. In order to make it to an early TV interview, Linnell told volunteers at the transportation desk at the media village that he needs a Taxi at 5:00 o'clock in the morning. When he walked out of the building at 4:50 am, a Taxi awaited for him at the gate.

Brazilian reporter Rio do Janoiro shared Linnell's compliments to the volunteers. "They are so attentive and ready to help."

Janoiro said it's a pity some of the volunteers don't speak English. "But if they don't understand, they call other people for help. I once had four to five volunteers around me trying to help. It's so cool."

According to the Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG), there are about 100,000 Olympic volunteers in Beijing and the six co-host cities.

In addition to the huge number of personnel, Beijing's efforts in providing first-class living and working environment are also "impressive".

Linnell used "extraordinary" to describe the brand new North Star media village, which provides 6,000 rooms to accredited Olympic journalists. "It's only 15 minutes away by bus from the MPC. The bed is big enough and the pillow is comfortable...."

In the Huiyuan media village which is two kilometers east to the MPC and IBC, about 2,000 volunteers and staff are working on shift and fitness center, clinic, bank, post office and free laundry are open to all journalists.

Stuart Vallace, staff of the Australian TV Channel 7, said he was very happy with the free laundry. "I spent 30 US dollars on laundry in Turin (Winter Games) for a bag of clothes. Here is free. It's nice."

In the Main Press Center, free snacks, fruits and coffee were served to all journalists twice everyday and the organizers even provide free massage service, hoping to help ease reporters' pain on the neck, shoulder and back.

Despite all the efforts, complaints still came, ranging from food, internet, air or temperature.

Koji Kawasaki, a staff with the Events, Media and Public Relations Department of the Japanese Olympic Committee, said the food in the media village and the MPC is "not so good". "There are not so many kinds of food...Bedsides, the price is a little bit expensive."

Sun Weijia, director of the BOCOG Media Operations Department, said the prices, which were approved by the IOC, are in accordance to the Olympic traditions and also according to the agreement signed by BOCOG.

"We provide food at different levels of prices. There are also low-priced food available," Sun said. The official catering service provider for 2008 Summer Games is the US-based Aramark Coporation, whose cooperation with the IOC dates back to the 1968 Mexico City Summer Games.

In contrast to the critics, many reporters chose to shrug the complaints off and focused on their work.

"I can visit all the Brazilian websites. Till now, I have no problem visiting the websites I need for work," Janoiro said. "It's difficult to satisfy everyone. I can see that the BOCOG is doing things and they are working so good. It's not necessary to complain about everything."

Australia's Linnell said he noticed Beijing's efforts in fixing problems.

Linnell said he could see the "nervousness" of the organizers in the start, as all reporters were asked to drink the water in the bottle and turn on the laptop when passing through the security check points.

"It was frustrating. But now the security check is getting a lot easier," he said, adding that he thought it showed the organizers "prepare to learn and listen."

As an Australian, Linnell said his "unbiased" opinion is that 2000 Sydney Olympics is the greatest Olympic Games ever. As for the upcoming Beijing Games, "I think most people think it'll be magnificent," Linnell smiled.

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