China has spent an estimated $35-40bn on improved infrastructure for the games, including several new arenas, underground train lines and the world's largest airport terminal.

 

Unlike previous games, Olympic organisers have been praised for keeping preparations to schedule and to budget.

 

On Wednesday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Beijing organisers were on track to stage a "great games".

 

Troubled Torch


March 24: Human rights protesters breach security to try to disrupt the torch-lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece

 

March 30: Tibet activists try to stop flame entering Athens stadium for handover to Chinese officials

 

April 6: Thousands of pro-Tibet protesters line relay route through London, scuffles break out with police and 35 are arrested

 

April 7: Flame extinguished at least twice during Paris relay, forcing the torch-carrier on to a bus to escape protesters

 

April 9: San Francisco abruptly changes torch route fearing clashes between pro-Tibet protesters and pro-China counter-protesters

 

April 17: New Delhi deploys 15,000 police and security guards during radically shortened relay through Indian capital. Dozens of Tibetan exiles arrested

April 19: Two thousand police protect Bangkok relay as crowd of about 200 China supporters taunt scores of pro-Tibet demonstrators

April 23: Australian leg of the Olympic torch relay ends without interruption, although several protesters were arrested amid a tight security operation in the capital, Canberra

 

April 26: Four people injured in Japanese city of Nagano when protesters opposed to Beijing's rule in Tibet clashed with Chinese supporters

 

April 27: Scuffles break out at torch relay in Seoul, South Korea, between Chinese students and Korean protesters demonstrating against China's human rights record

 

April 28: Thousands of supporters watch an incident-free torch relay in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang

In a statement, the IOC said it had noted that Beijing was "fine-tuning its operations and we are satisfied by the assurances that we have received across a number of areas of games preparations, ranging from media service levels to environmental contingency plans for improved air quality".

 

But while the preparations in Beijing have been going smoothly, the run-up to the Olympics has been overshadowed by the torch relay's troubled journey around the world.

 

On Wednesday in an editorial published in the state-run People's Daily newspaper, the authorities vowed that protesters would not distract Beijing from holding a "high level Olympic games with distinguishing characteristics".

 

"Although a few people with ulterior motives have tried to interfere with and vilify the Beijing Olympics ... this can never alter the determination of the 1.3 billion Chinese to successfully hold the games for the world," the commentary said.

 

Away from the Olympic sites, the rest of the Chinese capital is in the midst of a final rush to get ready for the international spotlight brought by the games.

 

Construction sites are being pushed to complete by August, and attempts are being made to limit the city's pollution by cutting the output from factories in the surrounding areas.

 

City officials have also say they will remove up to one million cars from the capital's streets during the games to reduce pollution.

 

None the less, environmental groups say the attempts to create what officials have labelled a "green Olympics" should have a longer impact.

 

"There should also be an environmental legacy after the Olympics," Yang Ailun, China spokeswoman for environmental group Greenpeace, told Al Jazeera.

 

Pollution remains a big worry for
athletes and Olympic officials [AFP]
"After breathing clean air for two weeks during the Olympics, people will start to ask why can't we have that every day."

 

In recent weeks, security has been noticeably stepped-up in Beijing with regular security drills after the government claimed to have foiled several "terrorist" plots to target the games.

 

Al Jazeera's Beijing correspondent, Tony Cheng, says sceptics have suggested the crackdown may be aimed at the city’s migrant workers, and anyone who dares organise protests in the final days before the games.