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Beijing Games' high-tech to benefit all
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-15 11:51

In a world now so overshadowed by the looming threat of terrorism, China has put security as a priority on its agenda for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Visitors walk on an aerial map of China's capital including the Olympic venues at Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Centre. [Reuters]

Safety expert Ma Xin said the country is working hard to establish a security system for the game with the help of cutting-edge technology. He said the minister of public security will act as commander to guarantee security.

A face-recognition system will be widely used to identify participants and support staff, said Ma, who is employed by the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee as safety expert.

"If faces are not found in the central system, a warning signal will be sent to the headquarters automatically and we will take measures at once," said Ma.

He also said technical efforts and precautions should be made to ensure biological security and nuclear safety in laboratories.

Ma was relieved by a security rating from the International Olympics Committee (IOC), which dubbed Beijing among the "most secure Olympics host cities," with a crime rate that is continuously dropping.

"But any laxation cannot be allowed in ensuring a secure Olympics because of deterioration of the international security situation," said Ma.

Ma said advanced technology should also be adopted to forecast and prevent disasters such as storms, floods, earthquakes and fires. Fast-response schemes with the backing of cutting-edge relief technology should be prepared for the Olympics period.

High-tech ambition

To remove Ma's concerns and also help participants of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games breathe fresh air, eat healthy food, travel smoothly, and compete well, Chinese scientists are working hard.

Du Zhanyuan, planning official with the Ministry of Science and Technology, said 1.3 billion yuan (US$157 million) of government funds and 1.8 billion yuan (US$217 million) from companies has been channelled into 449 science and technology projects preparing for the Olympics.

A top-level consulting team of 400-odd senior scientists and engineers will focus on these projects.

Some achievements have been made since the government announced its action plan for a high-tech Olympics in 2001.

Leading engineers and experts in China have been engaged in a joint quest for key technological breakthroughs to give Beijing's urban pollution and traffic jams a complete overhaul in the lead-up to the Games.

Representatives from participating companies talk to visitors during an international exhibition on stadium and sports and leisure infrastructure supplies and services, early this year in Beijing. [newsphoto/file]

Focus has been put on solutions for minimizing the effects of sandstorms, drainage, water conservation, clean energy supplies, intelligent public transport networks and management, and up-to-date digital applications to offer Internet access, virtual mock sports training sessions and anti-drug checks.

Athletes, visitors and residents in Beijing will be the biggest beneficiaries of the technological drive, said Du.

Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanhua said technology renovation will be the key force behind preparations for the 2008 Olympics and the launch of the action plan will help produce up-to-date solutions to any major problems.

"We are going to stage a wonderful event in the summer of 2008 and sophisticated technology is expected to meet the challenges," said Xu.

To help reduce risks , the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested that Chinese organizers learn from international experience, especially from the Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics.

"China should not only use proven solutions but also follow the main evolution of technologies," said Philippe Verveer, director of the IOC Department of Technology. He said technology was present everywhere behind the scenes during the Olympic Games as well as in the seven years of preparation leading up to the event.

He said technology covers a large range of areas like timing, information systems, telecommunications and energy as well as video and audio systems for security.

Experts said the focus should be on long-term approaches.

"I think the key is that these technologies should serve the Olympics, but not just for the Games," Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar with the School of Public Management at Tsinghua University told China Daily.

He expected these technologies, which should help realize China's goal of becoming a well-off society, to be more than simply one-off novelties.

"The Olympics can provide a great platform for innovation, so we should have a long-sighted vision," said Zhang, also head of the Beijing Office of the US-based non-government environmental organization, Environmentaldefence.

More accurate forecast

As part of the high-tech plan, a small satellite is expected to be launched in May next year to monitor Beijing's venue construction, environment and traffic conditions through 2009.

The satellite will be the fifth of the International Disaster Relief Network, which will have seven in total, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

With an investment of 190 million yuan (US$23 million), the project will be supervised by Xu's ministry and the Beijing Municipal Commission of Science and Technology.

After being launched, the 100-kilogram satellite will orbit 600 kilometres above the Earth.

It will work for five years in space and will orbit the Earth once every 100 minutes.

"The satellite will scan the Earth's surface through remote sensing techniques and the resolution ratio of remote sensing photos will be four metres," Wang Zhiyong, an expert of the project, said.

The satellite will provide direct and scientific proof for the government to make decisions and supervise issues related to environmental protection, urban construction, disasters and traffic conditions, Wang said.

"Furthermore, the construction of Olympic venues will be under control through the use of the satellite," he said.

Qingdao, a host city of the Games' sailing events, is also preparing to guarantee the event with high-tech services.

The coastal city in East China's Shandong Province is building a new comprehensive digital meteorological system, to raise its weather service to a world-leading level.

Relying on powerful computers and a digital radar, the system will perform remote measurements and remote sensing automatically and continuously, which will significantly improve the monitoring content and improve forecast accuracy for sailing and other events.

The system will include a new weather radar, 32 automatic weather stations and a marine weather station.

As a scenic coastal city, Qingdao has long relied on a manually-operated weather service and suffered a low accuracy rate.

Smarter transport

By using advanced information technology, Beijing has initiated an intelligent transport systems project in the hope of relieving traffic congestion before the Olympics.

Meng Xianlong, deputy director of the Control Centre of the Beijing Traffic Administration Bureau, said that although the present control system in Beijing is the most advanced in China, there is still room for improvement. For instance, traffic lights at intersections will be replaced by a signal-light control system that works according to actual circumstances on the road.

Beijing is mobilizing think-tanks around the country to give a final evaluation of the Beijing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Project, which they hope will relieve the traffic snarls that have blighted the capital for years.

The project - approved by Xu's ministry as a key scientific research item in the country's 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) - combined the efforts of leading scientists nationwide. International specialists who were honed during previous Games in Sydney and Atlanta were also involved, according to the ministry.

The central government allocated 560 million yuan (US$68 million) for national ITS research, and Beijing served as a pilot city in the project.

Analyzing intelligent traffic control systems, parking systems, public transport systems and information service networks for passengers, the project is expected to significantly improve the capital's traffic management.

With its advanced technology, Beijing has an ambitious road plan. It will build a fast road system without intersections, encompassing the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth ring roads and 15 feeder lines. Another 15 arteries will stretch out from the central area to link the fast roads.

Experts emphasize that, to complete this road system, construction on four major systems must be accelerated. These are the roads, priority public transport lines, transit stops and public traffic control systems.

Gao Yang, a senior engineer with the Transport Planning Institute under the Beijing Municipal City Planning and Design Institute, said the 300-kilometre quasi-high-speed public transport network would cover almost all urban districts in the Beijing area.

By 2006, Beijing's metro lines will extend from the current 53 kilometres to 138 kilometres. Beijing is inviting experts from around the world to suggest revisions and improvements to its current metro plans.

"Only after high-tech technology is used for our traffic system can Beijing's traffic pressure ease off," said Gao.

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