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For China's Olympic guests, a not-so-warm welcome

Beijingers say added security rules could stifle the Games.

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Ready: Cheery volunteers will greet Olympic visitors, as will a host of new restrictions.

Andy Wong/AP

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"Beijing Welcomes the World."That slogan is everywhere nowadays in the Chinese capital. But as the Games draw near, the eight-tooth smile that Olympic hostesses have been taught is beginning to look a little strained.

Fearful of terrorist attacks and of embarrassing protests, the authorities are draping a security blanket over Beijing so thick that many residents fear it will stifle the Games.

"They are not taking any chances, whatever the impact on ordinary people, either local or foreign," says Gilbert van Kerckhove, a longtime Beijing resident who is advising the city on Olympic issues. "They are totally paranoid; there is no other word for it."

In preparation for the Olympics, long billed as China's coming-out party, the government has tightened visa rules to restrict the number of incoming foreigners, snarled international broadcasters' plans to televise the Games, cleared almost all Beijing's itinerant vendors off the streets, and closed down one of the city's most popular English-language magazines, among other steps apparently designed to ensure control of the event.

The gathering mood here has caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organizes the games.

"We have asked the Chinese to try to find the right balance between security and operations, and I have confidence that they will do so," said the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, earlier this month.

'More serious' visa regulations

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