A worker prepares Olympic decorations at the entrance of a park in Beijing July 12, 2008. The International Olympic Committee praised Beijing this week for setting a "gold standard for the future" in its preparations for the Games, which begin in less than a month. [Agencies]
Subway security guard Wang Lei gets up at 3:30 am and works a 12-hour day but said he hasn't ever been happier.
"Without the Olympics, I wouldn't have been here. I like Beijing. It is a fun place," he said, looking a bit shy.
Wang, 21, is from a small county in Shandong Province. After graduating from a college in his hometown, Wang was recruited by the Beijing subway operator as a security guard.
"I think it's once in a lifetime thing, to do something actually for the Olympics. My family is very proud of me," he said.
Less than a month before the Games, the city has an air of expectancy and like Wang, many people have come out, preparing to serve.
In the subway station where Wang works, new posters have been put up, one reading "Where the world comes to share". Another lists sponsors and partners of the Games. There's also a list of the new subway security regulations introduced last month.
Aboveground, screens at train stations show videos of previous Olympic events. Flags displaying the Olympic mascots -- the so-called five friendlies -- fly along main roads.
At Tian'anmen Square, blue-uniformed workers are cleaning the tiles and preparing to decorate the square.
At major crossroads, armed police officers are on alert, and they are assisted by community volunteers wearing red armbands identifying them as members of the Olympics safety patrol.
"It's too early to say the city is absolutely 'bombarded' with the Olympics, but it's hard not to notice all the signs," said Huang Ai'ling, a university student. She was in Beijing for a brief visit before taking the train back to her hometown in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province.
"Beijing will be a party land and probably the world's most interesting place when the Olympics opens," she said.
On Thursday night, the opening ceremony had its first full dress rehearsal at the National Stadium.
Businesses are also catching the spirit. The century-old Beijing roast duck restaurant chain Quanjude offers cold dishes in the shapes of the Bird's Nest and Water Cube, two Games venues.
In markets, Chinese national flags, Chinese dolls, whistles and Olympic franchise commodities have been put out on the shelves. Near the downtown Beihai area, shops have updated souvenirs with Olympic themes -- for example, chinaware is inscribed with "Go China, Go Olympics" along with the traditional dragon and phoenix signs.
To deliver a successful Games, top leaders were out giving prep talks this week, troops were drilled against terror attacks and the whole city sizzled in preparation.
Citywide, about 200 volunteer stands were set up in early July, providing directions and emergency and translation services.
Near the downtown Changchunjie Road, three volunteers smiled broadly and stood every time they were approached. They were asked questions like "How many people will get a chance to see the opening ceremony?" and "Where is a toilet?"
Xu Jinmu, a volunteer who was on duty for the first day, said: "I need a way to engage myself with the Olympics."