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Beijing faces traffic challenge
( 2003-10-19 09:13) (Xinhua)

Traffic would be a major challenge for Beijing to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committe(IOC) members said Saturday.

Peter Tallberg, Chairman of the IOC Athlete's Commision, expressed his concerns on the road congestion in Beijing when being asked what the 2008 Olympic host city should pay special attention to.

"One problem which we all realize now in Beijing would be traffic, so that's one of the big problems for you," the ex- Olympic Dutch sailor told Xinhua.

Tallberg is paying a visit to Changsha, together with six other IOC members, at the invitation of the Fifth Chinese City Games Organizing Committee. He has been to Beijing many times on business although it's his first time to visit the central Chinese city.

The IOC member since 1976, however, also expressed optimism on the Beijing organizing committee's capability and suggested that traffic control would be of help.

Though many new roads have been built or streets been widened over recent years especially after Beijing won the 2008 Olympics, Beijingers are also buying more cars. By August this year, there had been a total of two million automobiles registered in Beijing, of which some 800,000 are private cars, according to the Beijing Municipal Traffic Commission.

As a result, traffic jam remains a big headache for the Chinese capital. In the rush hour, it takes three or four times longer to drive downtown.

Wu Ching-Kuo, IOC member from Chinese Taipei, echoed Tallberg's comment.

"The problem can't be settled only by road construction. Measures to control car-driving or some limitations are also needed," he said.

Wu, also a member of the coordination commission for the 2008 Olympic Games, takes charge of the engineering and construction section of the commission. Earlier this week, he attended a meeting in Beijing to evaluate its venue construction.

Cokmel Antonio Rodrigrez, the president of the Argentine Olympic Committee, stayed in Beijing for three days to advise on its preparation work for 2008 before flying to Changsha. He thought of the traffic problem as a common concern for international metropolis.

"On this matter, Beijing could draw on the successful experience of Sydney, which did a good job in traffic management for the 2000 Olympic Games," he said.

The Beijing Municipal Traffic Commission, headed by Zhao Wenzhi, has proposed a 10-point suggestion to tackle the city's worsening traffic situation.

According to Zhao's report presented to the Beijing Municipal People's Congress on late September, Beijing in the next few years may raise the charges for license plates of private cars, and also impose a so-called "road congestion fee" on private car owners.

The proposal met strong opposition and criticism from many private car owners, as well as some leading traffic experts including Professor Mao Baohua, vice-president of the School of Traffic and Transportation of the Beijing Jiaotong University.

The opposers asserted that the limitation measures would exert a very negative impact on the auto industry, which plays an important role in boosting the country's domestic demand.

China's Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) for National Economic and Social Development encourages Chinese families to buy private cars. Many Chinese provinces and regions have endorsed car-making as a "pillar industry" in the local economy.

*** Beijing makes sure no white elephants after Games

Beijing has done an excellent job in preparing the venues and facilities for the 2008 Olympic Games, said Wu, giving his full consent to the way that Beijing invite ownership tenders worldwide for the construction and operation for the stadia while he is visiting Changsha for the Chinese City Games, which kicks off on Saturday.

"I'd rather say that what the Beijing organizers are doing is a milestone in the Olympic history," said Wu.

"They ask the bidders rather than the government to finance, construct and operate the stadiums after the 2008 Games is over, which saves the government a lot of worries about the finance and the maintenance of the stadiums," he said. "And the most important thing is that the large stadiums won't become 'white elephants' after the Games."

Beijing has invited international and local companies to lodge ownership bids for Olympic venues and facilities, including the Olympic Village, National Swimming Center and the Wukesong Cultural and Sports Center. Tenders will be awarded by October. The winning companies will acquire a 30-year right to operate the stadiums.

In August, a consortium led by the China International Trust and Investment Corp won the ownership tender for the National Stadium, the main stadium for the Games as they will raise the funding for 42 per cent of the stadium's 3.5 billion-yuan (423 million US dollars) cost.

"The IOC has paid much attention to the post-Games utilization of the facilities when Beijing is preparing for the Games," Wu said. "And Beijing has jumped to a good start in this aspect."

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