Beijing Fighting to Win 2008 Olympics

In China today, a delegation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was casing Beijing, which desperately wants the summer games for 2008.

Winning the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games isn't everything for Beijing — it's the only thing.

China has spared no effort and no expense in its Olympic quest.

In preparation for this week's visit from 17 IOC delegates, the formerly drab, polluted capital has been almost magically transformed by a veritable army of students and workers — and even the army itself.

They've been scrubbing and whitewashing the city, as well as planting trees and flowers. They're even using green paint to brighten things up where necessary.

One of the reasons China wants the games so badly is to prove its legitimacy as a country.

"It makes them part of the real world," says China analyst Jim McGregor. "This is a country that's come out of years of political hibernation. And now it wants to be a player on the world stage. The Olympics is another form of that."

Criticism over Human Rights

But a dark cloud hangs over China's Olympic dreams: intense international criticism of the country's human rights record. It's the same issue that helped sink China's bid for the 2000 Olympic games.

Eight years ago, the Chinese were elated when they thought they had won the 2000 games. But the nation was shocked when they realized soon after that the games had gone to Sydney. It was the lingering international anger over the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.

Today, China is still being condemned for its human rights policies — for its harsh crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the persecution of religious groups and the widespread use of torture in China prisons.

One dissident even risked imprisonment by telling ABCNEWS his country doesn't deserve the games.

"China's terrible human rights record runs counter to the Olympic spirit," he says.

But Liu Jingmin, the deputy mayor of Beijing, disagrees.

"At stake here are the rights of 1.2 billion Chinese who want the Olympic Games," says Jingmin.

There's no question that most ordinary Chinese are excited about the prospect of an Olympic games in their country.

Security Concerns During IOC Visit

But Chinese officials are still very nervous. Security has been out in force to make sure no one with a grievance gets anywhere near the IOC committee visit this week.

In fact, the new surveillance system that China will be showing off to the Olympic committee, along with the commandos trained to combat terrorism, are already in place. They're prepared to stop any domestic unrest — the same unrest that might threaten China's chance of winning the games in the first place.