"Temple fairs are for ordinary folk to enjoy," she said.
 
"Maybe they won't have a chance go to the real Games, so letting them experience the Olympics at the fair is a perfect combination."

Weather delay

On Wednesday, China's meteorological administration lifted a severe weather alert across the affected areas in central, southern and eastern China.

But the backlog of passengers that had built up during weather delays, did not ease straight away, as not all passengers could get the tickets they wanted.

In the southern province of Guangdong, where about 30 million workers from across China are employed in factories and sweatshops, as many as 12 million people decided to stay in their dormitories, bracing for a bleak New Year.

The weather has disrupted power supplies, causing millions to face a festival season with little or no access to electricity and water.

Furthermore, the severe storms hampered the delivery of foodstuffs and other products, which has in turn inflated their prices due to short supplies.

"Prices go up every Spring Festival, but it was never such a big jump in the past. Especially fruit and fireworks. They can't be delivered because of the snow," said Zhao, a 53-year-old office worker in Jinan.

The Year of the Rat, which begins on February 7 and ends on January 25, 2009, succeeds the Year of the Pig, in which China's economy grew by 11 per cent.

The Rat year, first in the Chinese zodiac, is supposed to be free of difficulty and worry, and full of opportunity and good fortune.

Those born in a Rat year are gifted with intelligence, ambition, fastidiousness and creativity.