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  SARS fears gone, Beijing marks Olympic anniversary
(YU YILEI, China Daily staff)

Smiles have returned to Beijingers' faces.

Stepping out of the shadow of SARS, Beijing residents - whose life was disrupted by the disease for nearly two months - were out in full force to celebrate the second anniversary of the city's successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics.

Two years ago yesterday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in Moscow that Beijing would host the Games, sending China's capital into raptures.

The revelry Beijing's citizens displayed yesterday in Longtan Park was reminiscent of the wild night when Beijing was awarded the Games.

Some people took the opportunity to dance, others sang and many played table tennis or taiji (shadow boxing). Young and old, all soaked up the atmosphere.

"I have many reasons to be happy because today is a great moment," said Guo Changjian, a retired worker who was displaying his excellent skills in kicking shuttlecock - a traditional Chinese game.

"We have just got rid of SARS, and two years ago we won the right to host the Olympic Games."

Beside Guo was a group of the city's supremos and central government officials, who visited the park early in the morning to join the celebrations.

Liu Qi, president of the Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games, was clearly impressed by the scene.

"You see, Beijing is a city full of passion," he said.

"Beijing will always be a city of great dynamism, energy and opportunity."

Liu said although the city was contained by SARS for a while, the citizens' Olympic passion never dissipated.

"I am glad that so many people got out of their homes today to embrace the city and to celebrate the Olympic moment," he said.

"The goal of holding such a celebration is to improve people's health and to bring people back together."

China's sporting stars like Olympic table tennis champion Deng Yaping, who now works for the Olympic organizing committee, and figure skating world champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo also joined in.

Elsewhere in the city, numerous activities like concerts, a road-running race and exhibitions were held throughout the day.

(HK Edition 07/14/2003 page1)


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