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The Olympics in China: a moment for pride – and world scrutiny

Chinese officials are treating the Games as proud confirmation of their country's emergence as a global force to be reckoned with.

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Getting Ready: The mascot Fuwa cavorts outside Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground Stadium.

Andy Wong/AP

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The Beijing authorities are obsessed with the 2008 Olympic Games – which don't begin until August. You cannot turn your head in this city without one of the five "Fuwa" Olympic mascots smiling at you from a billboard, open a newspaper without reading an Olympics-related story, or turn on the television without seeing a proud promotional clip of Olympic venues. But the Games are a double-edged sword, offering China a chance to show off its prowess – and focusing critical attention on its failings, reports staff writer Peter Ford.

What does China get out of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games?

An unprecedented opportunity to shine in the international spotlight for an intense three weeks. The Chinese government is treating the Games as a symbolic end to 150 years of humiliation by outside powers and a confirmation of its status as a global power to be reckoned with. Immensely proud of their 5,000-year-plus civilization, the Chinese also hope to show the rest of the world another side of their country than its economic miracle.

Successful Games would be a powerful antidote to the sort of negative press China has been suffering for the past nine months or so, which has drawn attention to poor food quality and other product safety regulations. And whether they are successful or not, the Games have already provided a strong boost to Beijing's economy.

And when the Games are over, officials are desperately hoping (though they won't say publicly) that China will have sneaked past the United States to top the gold medal tally. In Athens four years ago, Chinese athletes won 32 golds to America's 35.

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