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In search of a little fun amid the Games

Tourists complain that security concerns have subdued Beijing's nightlife

A tourist approaches the National Stadium, the Bird's Nest, on a rainy day in Beijing.

Jiang Shenglian/ ChinaFotoPress/ NEWSCOM

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Halfway through his sixth Summer Olympics in 20 years ­– Seoul in 1988 got him hooked – sports fan Denny Nivens counts off the perks at the Beijing Games. World-class stadiums. Amazing sight seeing. Plenty of spare tickets on sale.

What’s missing? “They left fun out of the equation. They don’t factor in that people want to go out,” says Mr. Nivens, a satellite engineer from Hermosa Beach, Calif.

For seven years, Beijing has geared up for the greatest sporting show on earth. But the Olympics are much more than the sum of the races run and medals won. Many foreign spectators are wondering what happened to the carnival atmosphere of previous games, such as Athens in 2004 or Sydney in 2000, when host cities swelled with local and foreign revelers out for an endless summer night.

Beijing has put great stock in aesthetic makeovers, new infrastructure, and civilian awareness campaigns to impress its foreign guests. Taxi drivers have studied English, cars have been taken off the road to reduce traffic, and everywhere in the city are reminders of the games and their slogan, "One World, One Dream."

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