Athletes, officials, spectators and tourists can pick up the Bible or just the New Testament for free during the Olympic Games next month.
Tens of thousands of copies of the Bible, the New Testament and booklets with just the four Gospels (according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) have been printed for the purpose, say officials of China's Christian society.
News of the printing of the Scriptures should put pay to rumors started by overseas agencies saying the Chinese authorities would not make the Bible available at the Games.
Rev Xu Xiaohong, an official of the Shanghai-based China Christian Council in charge of publishing, says 50,000 bilingual (Chinese and English) editions of the Gospel booklets had already been printed by June. They are on way to six cities hosting the Olympic events in the mainland.
As has been the practice at earlier Games, the Gospel booklets will be available mainly in churches and the Olympic Village in Beijing, and in Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin and Qinhuangdao, Xu says.
Places of worship for people of other religions too have been set up in the Olympic Village, Chen Guangyuan, president of the Islamic Association of China has said.
The cover of the Gospel booklet will have the Beijing Olympics logo. "This is especially significant (because) as far as I know, this is the first time an Olympics logo will be used on a religious booklet," Xu says. "The Olympic spirit and the spirit of living a 'purpose-driven life' that Christians believe in come together in the combination."
Nanjing-based Amity Printing Co, the country's major printer of the Bible, has printed the Gospel booklets. Its general manager Li Chunnong says 30,000 copies of the New Testament (Chinese-English bilingual edition) are being printed for free distribution during the Games.
The Beijing Christian Council has placed an order with Amity to reprint 10,000 copies of the bilingual Bible edition to be distributed in the Olympic Village, Li says.
Amity Printing is a joint venture of the country's Amity Foundation and the international United Bible Society.
"This is a major and exciting opportunity. We are privileged to be able to support the Church in China in the publishing of the Bible during the Olympics," says James Catford, chief executive of the Bible Society.
The society, however, has no plans to provide free copies of the Bible in hotels, according to Xu.
Churches in Beijing have been asked to provide people to man the Olympic Village chapel and hold services and prayers, says Liu Bainian, vice-president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association.