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One year to go...

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Dave Gordon | 17:50 UK time, Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Beijing - As our plane begins its descent from bright blue sky thousands of feet in the air through the clouds into Beijing's Capital Airport, I’m excited at the prospect of my fourth visit to China and a chance to see what progress had been made since my last visit in February.

The aircraft makes that familiar bump as the wheels hit the runway – but to my disappointment, visibility on the ground is barely a few hundred metres; it is grey and dull. I get out of the airport into the polluted atmosphere that has unfortunately become all too familiar on previous visits.

The air quality is really poor and thoughts turn immediately to the athletes who may have to compete in these conditions. This will be a challenge for the Chinese authorities who have promised to improve the air quality in time for next summer.

In town for the one year to go celebrations, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge warns on television that if necessary endurance events will be postponed at next summer's Games.

The visibility and atmosphere are no better as I wake up on Monday morning. I am in Beijing with a small team planning what will be our biggest ever Olympic operation. It will be a very busy two weeks. We pop into BBC News’ Beijing bureau to get their take on what has been happening since we last met.

Many people are worried next year's Games could be affected by pollution

Then on to a meeting with the British Olympic Association. Chief Executive Simon Clegg is out here along with his deputy Mark England and the Director of Elite Performance Sir Clive Woodward. They are in Beijing along with their counterparts from all the other National Olympic Committees for a conference organised to coincide with a year to go.

We greet them, nervous as the sky blackens - you can barely see the main "Bird's Nest" Olympic Stadium which is only a few hundred metres away.

We get absolutely soaked to the skin in one of the more amazing storms any of us have ever seen. Beijing seems to be awash as we struggle to get back to our hotel and dry off. The visibility is as bad as ever.

No change Tuesday morning as we set off for a day of meetings with BOB - Beijing Olympic Broadcasting and BOCOG - the Beijing Organising Committee. The morning meeting with BOB goes well and we resolve some of the technical issues that have been worrying us.

It rains heavily at lunchtime and we’re depressed as our taxi battles through the rain to the BOCOG offices. We're immediately cheered up, however, as we arrive to see hundreds of young people practising what appears to be a display for Wednesday's celebrations to mark a year to go to the start of the Games.


It's a long but very productive meeting and halfway through we need to pull the blinds down. The sun has come out and the sky is clearer than we have seen it so far this visit. No sign of a blue sky; hazy but definitely brighter. That scene is repeated as the big anniversary arrives on Wednesday morning.

We drive 50 minutes north east out of the city to Shunyi where the heats of the World Junior Rowing championships are taking place.

Britain has eight boats competing and the team has to cope with hot, humid and sultry conditions under a sky which is best described as a hazy grey/blue. By the end of the morning heats, Britain's juniors have secured three wins and a very good second for the Men's 8; an overall performance which British Rowing's performance director David Tanner describes as "encouraging".

He acknowledges the very hot and humid conditions are a challenge but goes on to say that "air quality is not an issue at the moment" up in Shunyi. He praised the new rowing course as "outstanding"and the Chinese organisation at the event as "exceptional".

Off back to the city and the Olympic Hockey Centre on the edge of Olympic Green. Another splendid new facility with, to our delight as we arrive, large patches of blue sky above. No British teams are competing in the International tournament that is going on but the Men's Olympic champions Australia and huge crowds are streaming in.

The facilities in Beijing are being built to schedule

We’re unable to get close to Tiananmen Square which is the focus of the evening's celebrations so we settle for a good view in front of the television as China prepares to countdown to exactly a year to go. Eight is a lucky number in China, so the Games will start on 8/8/2008 at 8.00pm local time.

Not unexpectedly, the actual moment is accompanied by fireworks, singers and dancers in specially choreographed sequences in front of an invited audience of Chinese and IOC dignitaries. This is followed by several speeches. I and my colleagues feel disappointed that the square is not full of hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic, cheering Chinese; an opportunity missed perhaps for the Chinese public to display to a watching world their passion for sport and their enthusiasm for the Olympics.

The countdown has now started in earnest, not just for the Chinese but for us too. After all, we have to prepare for nearly 300 hours of television coverage on BBC ONE and TWO, with another 2500 hours on digital interactive and broadband, not to mention round the clock Radio Five Live coverage and a full service on A year sounds a long time in Olympic broadcasting but I promise you it is not!

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