"Even though no competitions will be held in Suzhou, the Beijing Olympic Games will promote the city's innovations in science and technology, improve its ecology and enhance its quality of life," Yan Li, mayor of Suzhou, told China Daily in a recent interview before the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games.
Hosting the Olympics is a golden opportunity to promote economic and social development, raise China's standing in the international community and increase competitiveness, Yan said.
"Green, hi-tech and the people's Olympics" are the themes of the Beijing Games, Yan noted, which will lead to comprehensive development of the nation's economy, society and environment.
Suzhou held activities to support the Olympics including a one-year countdown ceremony, a long-distance running competition and Olympic torch relay.
The selection of torchbearers attracted widespread attention from the public, the mayor said. Large numbers of citizens applied to be torchbearers, reflecting their passion for the Games.
"The city will hold more activities to make more opportunities for its people to be involved in the Games." Yan said.
Local companies were also involved in the construction of Olympic stadiums and supplying machines as well as making the Olympic torch.
There will be 13 to 15 Suzhou athletes competing in the Games accompanied by five or six local coaches. "We are going all out to prepare for our athletes," the mayor said.
From 1979 to 2007, 14 Suzhou athletes won 62 championships in badminton, volleyball, weightlifting, taekwondo and judo.
Chinese President Hu Jintao wrote an inscription to Suzhou native Chen Yanqing congratulating her on a gold medal in weightlifting at the Athens Games.
"Our athletes winning championships is a big encouragement to citizens of Suzhou, promoting the development of the physical education," Yan said.
Suzhou was the first city of Jiangsu province to welcome the Olympic torch. "When the citizens knew Suzhou was a stop for the Olympic torch relay, they were very excited," Yan recalled.
Students of one middle school class wrote a letter expressing their wish to be torchbearers, as did some of the elderly in their 80s, the mayor noted.
"We are proud to have been one of the torch relay cities," Yan said, adding that it helped publicize Suzhou's scenery, economic development and vigor.
"We want to let the world know more about Suzhou, a city full of ancient and modern charms." Yan added.
"Respecting culture, harmony, innovation and devoted to future" characterize the spirit of Suzhou, Yan said.
"Suzhou fully supports the Beijing Olympic Games and is making all efforts to promote peaceful development," the mayor said.
Suzhou is often ranked ahead of other cities of its size because of its rapid development. "The most direct benefit to Suzhou's development came from implementing reform and opening up policies," Yan said.
Early in the 1980s, Suzhou had begun to develop township enterprises and formed its own way to economic development - the so-called "Sunan (southern Jiangsu) Pattern".
Beginning this century, the city made more intensive efforts to develop the private sector while promoting an internationalization strategy.
Its people now live a relatively comfortable life, ahead of other cities of the province, according to the Jiangsu provincial government.
(China Daily 08/07/2008 page29)