As the Chinese capital plays host to the 29th summer Olympics, eight Beijingers tell Al Jazeera what the games means to them.
|Fu Rui, Coffee shop owner|
Born: Jilin (northwest China)
“I feel very proud of China for holding the Olympics because it’s a sign that the country has developed. It’s something to be proud of.
I’m just a bit worried that Beijing’s not ready in terms of ensuring safety, say, or the economy. Can we really afford it? Are we spending too much? While I believe the country’s economy will continue to grow I’m just a bit worried about individual businesspeople like me – will we be hurt?
The Olympics has changed so many things in Beijing. For a start it has made us much more aware of protecting the environment. But it’s also bought some inconveniences. For example, although I understand we need extra security measures to ensure safety, it’s made it much more difficult for me to hire staff because it’s harder for non-Beijingers to get a temporary residential permit.
I haven’t bought a ticket for the games yet. But I want to go and see the shooting events because there won’t be that many people going to see it and so the Chinese team needs more people to cheer them on.”
|Mr Li, Rickshaw driver|
“The Olympics is a sign that our country has become richer and stronger and that we are now part of the international community.
I am very proud of my country because we are proving that we can hold such a big international event like this.
I will definitely watch it on television.
I am excited about lots of events such as football, volleyball, tennis, diving and swimming!”
|Lama Cuo, Tibetan handicraft store owner|
Born: Sichuan province (ethnic Tibetan)
“The Olympics is a good thing for China. It is helping us learn to be more civilised and to take care of the environment.
All the foreign visitors coming here will have a positive influence on local people as different cultures interact.
The games don’t mean anything special to me. It’s a very normal thing.
The meaning of the Olympics is all about sport and entertainment.
Each athlete has a chance to do their best for their country.”
|Liu Bin, Tattoo artist|
“There’s good and bad about the Olympics. The traffic restrictions on odd and even license plates are annoying because I have a car, so it makes it inconvenient for me.
Of course we are all excited about the games. I haven’t bought a ticket because I think you can watch it better on television.
All Chinese feel it’s an honour for us to hold the Olympics. But it doesn’t mean anything special to me except for the fact that a lot of foreigners will come here and we can earn more money.
They don’t bargain and they can’t return goods they buy from us because they don’t stay in Beijing long.
It’s not just me, a lot of shopkeepers will feel like this.
One person came to my shop to have the five fuwa [Olympics mascots] tattooed on their back. I mean, who would want this on their body!? It’s so silly!”
|Ma Wen, Retired army cook|
Age: “almost 80”
“I raise both my hands to welcome the Olympics.
For me the Olympics means sport and I am really excited about seeing top class athletes from all over the world come here and compete.
For me, that’s a big joy to see. We are so happy. We’ve been waiting 100 years for this.
I am going to watch the games at home because I’m too old to travel to the venues.
Of all the events I’m really excited about the boxing matches.”
|Liu Yue He, Waiter|
Born: Hebei province (north China)
“It’s an honour for China to hold the Olympic games.
And as a Chinese person I am really proud of my country.
I think the extra security measures in place are important and they make us and our customers feel safer.
The games can help our economy and it’s also a good opportunity to introduce Chinese culture to foreigners.”
Yong Xiao Dong, Security guard
Born: Heilongjiang province (Northeast China)
“It’s a big honour for China to be holding the Olympics. We are all very happy because this is the first time that we have hosted the games.
And it gets more and more exciting as the day approaches for the games to start.
The reason I am in Beijing is because of the Olympics. Even though my salary here is not that high I came and got this job because I wanted to see Beijing during the Olympics.
I believe the Olympics represent peace. This is my opinion and it may not be the same as other people’s in China but I think Chinese are peace-loving.
And I think it’s a great opportunity for the world to get to know China better.”
|Wendy Zha, Real estate negotiator|
Born: Hunan province (central China)
“In the beginning I thought that it’s great that we’re holding the Olympics so that we can let world know more about China.
But as the Olympics gets closer and closer I just feel that it’s not very convenient for our daily life and work. For example, because of the Olympics, so many things in the shops have become more expensive.
Also the surface of the city has been changed to look neat and tidy, but actually underneath the surface nothing has changed at all.
The Olympics is a major international event. If I see Chinese athletes win a medal I’m going to be really excited. But in my opinion the Olympics don’t represent anything special to me.
Of course it’s important diplomatically, it represents the Chinese government’s international strength, and this is an important political achievement.”
All interviews and photos by Dinah Gardner in Beijing