- 2 Aug 08, 11:16 AM
A few months ago I was concerned that not having worked here before might turn out to be a disadvantage for me, but I have begun to change my view. When I got off the plane at Beijing airport I did so with a fresh pair of eyes.
I haven't travelled here with any prejudices brought on by bad experiences from previous trips. I don't have any memories of suffocating pollution. I am simply going to live the Olympic experience, and, I have to say, so far my impressions have been almost a hundred per cent positive.
I had heard so many scare stories before I came to Beijing. I'm sure you've heard many of them yourselves.
I'm not foolish enough to kid myself that everything is rosy in the Chinese garden, but I think it's important to give credit where credit is due, and judging from my first 24 hours in the capital I believe that there's every chance that these could be a really memorable Games.
I just want to highlight a couple of things that have stood out for me so far. First, the people.
There is no hiding the Chinese enthusiasm for these Olympics. This is a nation brimming with pride that the world's greatest sporting spectacle is finally going to be staged on home soil. And if my experience is anything to go by then the Chinese are going to make a very positive contribution to these Olympics.
The Olympic volunteers are incredible. Nothing seems to be too much trouble.
I have hardly had to open a door since I've been here. Around every corner is another person ready to offer a helping hand.
Everybody is smiling, and I get the feeling that these are not fake emotions. There is a genuine excitement building in this city as the opening ceremony approaches.
If it's difficult not to be impressed by the people then it's impossible not to be awestruck when you first see the venues. They are simply spectacular.
It's not until you stand next to the Bird's Nest Stadium when it's lit up at night that you can really appreciate its full splendour.
Unlike previous Olympic venues at this stage before the Games begin there's nobody running around Beijing frantically finishing off the final coat of paint. Everything is ready.
The competitors are going to like what they see when they get here.
I know this all sounds very optimistic, and of course there's a chance that I could be proved wrong in the days to come. But right now I have some very positive vibes about these Games in terms of sport and the quality of the spectator experience.
Even the pollution appears to have lessened. As I write this I am looking out onto a clear blue sky.
These are going to be a very political Games, and it's hard to anticipate the level of protests. I am making no predictions about that.
When the history of the 2008 Olympics is written maybe the theme will be more political than sporting. That remains the big unknown.
Either way the Chinese appear to be well prepared to put on a party for which my expectations have risen considerably since I arrived here.
So far the only Mandarin words that I have managed to master are those for "thank you".
I have a feeling that I am going to be using them many hundreds of times over the next three weeks.
This blog entry is a bit of a novelty. Positive talk about the Beijing Olympics. Who would have thought it!
All I will say is that I have been determined to travel to China with an open mind.
China is going to be subject to scrutiny like never before. We are all going to learn a great deal about the country in the next three weeks.
It would be wrong to draw any final conclusions before the Olympic flag is in the unsteady grasp of Boris Johnson at the closing ceremony, but first impressions count for much, and, so far, Beijing, has, for me, been a very pleasant surprise.
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