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  Mayor Xia: The best is yet to come   



QINGDAO: The ongoing test event for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Sailing events is running more smoothly than expected, according to various sources so far, but Qingdao is able to do better in another test event next August and more importantly for the Games in two years time, Qingdao Mayor Xia Geng, told China Daily yesterday, in Qingdao, in East China's Shandong Province.

"The best is still ahead," the mayor said with confidence.

The 2006 Qingdao International Sailing Regatta, from August 18-31 , is drawing attention from all over the world, as it is a test event not only for Qingdaobut for Beijing, in holding a successful Olympics in 2008.

To date all the competitions set for the regatta are progressing smoothly and the battle is heating up for sailors to further move down the scoreboard.

Those who witnessed preparations for the 2004 Athens Games, say that Qingdao is well ahead. "Never before has an Olympic Organizing Committee been so far advanced in preparing the venue, and we can already see that this will be a magnificent competition," David Kellett, ISAF Vice-President for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, said at the opening ceremony.

"This venue in Qingdao is unsurpassed, compared to any sailing venues in past Olympic host cities. Essentially, Qingdao could hold the Olympics tomorrow," said David Tillett, Jury Chairman of the regatta, also Chairman of the Jury at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Mayor Xia expressed that he was satisfied with the preparation work.

"We are grateful for the credit we have received on our work, especially when we are representing China in making a good start to the Olympics in 2008," said the mayor.

"For any country in the world it is almost a miracle to have turned a polluted deserted dockyard into this beautiful sailing venue today within two years, when we were not only confronted with the mammoth dockyard relocation, but also a major environmental cleanup of the harbor's filthy waters that had been badly polluted."

As to the formula for a successful regatta, the mayor has cited three major characteristics during the construction process of the venue.

"We have dedicated the 2008 Olympics to the spirit of sunshine, green and conservation."

The mayor further explained that the sunshine principle has been seen throughout all the fair and transparent bidding projects for the venue's construction, with careful research and examinations involved in the centre's design.

According to the mayor, Qingdao Olympic Sailing Centre is especially excels in its layout design. "I have been to many cities that have held Olympics or other world-renowned sailing events, and I think Qingdao's venue is the best. For example, athletes have easy access to the launching ramp instead of having to travel a long way like in Athens."

The "green" concept has been embodied in the latest high-tech seawater filtering, as well as the use of wind and solar power for heating systems and street lights.

The 3.28 billion yuan (US$410 million) input into the venue, including half for dockyard relocation, is collected through marketing .

"It is costing taxpayers nothing. Moreover, most of the venue's facilities have been defrayed to private investors who have formed a consortium to develop the marina and the adjacent sites. For example the athletes' sub-village is going to be used as a five-star hotel after the 2008 Games."

"We are confident post-Olympic plans will pay off," the mayor continued.

Responding to some problems emerging in the past few days, Xia said the organizing committee would do a better job in areas of security, venue logistics and selection of volunteers in the future.

"We have thousands of people offering to help even though we only need 600 volunteers. However we are still short of maritime helpers, who are required to have excellent English speaking skills, sailing knowledge and most importantly, don't get seasick," the mayor smiled.

In holding the Games, the mayor is thrilled that the overall quality of citizens in Qingdao has improved in recent years.

"Qingdao people are not only representing Qingdao but the whole nation in greeting international sailing guests," the mayor said, "the locals are getting closer to modern civilization."

The mayor said the Olympic fame had brought Qingdao's people many other benefits, including a higher employment rate, financial income, tourism, infrastructure development and transportation.

"In the past three years local tourism income has grown at an average annual rate of 20 per cent, and at least one fourth is the result of being a partner host city for the 2008 Beijing Olympics."

By 2008, China Airline are opening five new direct flights from Qingdao to London, Munich, Moscow, Vancouver and Rome respectively.

"Due to the Olympics, Qingdao is becoming more beautiful, civilized and international, and we welcome people from all over the world in 2008 to visit Qingdao and watch the sailing events. I believe Qingdao will leave an unforgettable impression on everyone."





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