Tu Mingde first became involved in China's Olympic efforts in 1972. Now Tu is assistant to the president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), which is responsible for the city's preparations for next summer's Games. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu and Jonathan Ansfield about the countdown to 2008.
Are you happy with how Beijing's preparations are going?
This year is a crucial time for us. On the whole, construction work for the Games is going smoothly. Most projects will be completed by the end of this year.
Previous host cities have spent too much money. How's Beijing faring?
The [International Olympic Committee] gives some money, and we've also approached the market [to seek sponsors]. The cost of hosting the Games will be around $1.65 billion. We were worried about whether we'd be able to get that amount, but now we feel at ease. Marketing profits have overtaken this figure. In any case, if there were to be a deficit, the government would bear it.
To prepare for the Games, the government has liberalized regulations for foreign reporters. How big a change is this?
We'll have a good attitude and we won't care too much if there are some reports that are not so positive. In the past we were afraid of talking to journalists, but now we want to make friends with the media. If they know us better, they will do better reporting.
Do you think the old, restrictive regulations will be reinstated after the Olympics?
I don't think so. Once the door is opened, it will not close again.
How are the Olympic preparations changing the way residents think and behave?
We're starting education through television. The number of people throwing garbage on public streets is already decreasing. We'll also stress civilized behavior among the fans, teaching them to cheer for both sides.
The building construction, renovation and environmental-protection projects have been a staggering effort. Are the Olympics responsible for these huge changes?
It's like a family buying new furniture because it's about to host some guests for a party. Maybe they were going to do it a few years in the future. But because of their guests, they do it now.