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Olivier Morin,Afp/Getty Images
Torchbearers Liu Fang, left, a student, and Colin Giles, right, of Nokia, exchange the flame as they take part in the Olympic torch relay on the Great Wall.

It's all about pride.

And unity.

And harmony.

And 8-08-2008 at 8:08 p.m. (in China) is a good time and date because eight is the most meaningful among numbers in Chinese culture.

Eight is symbolic of prosperity. And it is the time the Olympics start today.

Local Chinese residents are proud of their country and excited about the Games. Bill Jiang, former president of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology, said the world gets to take a look into China and see 30 years of change, a country with a "new face."

The days of the mystical, hidden face will be over as the veil is pulled away to reveal a new Chinese image to the world, he said.

"The Games will show that we are a normal but brilliant people," said Steve Ha of the Asian Association of Utah. "Finally, the last bit of the Iron Curtain is opened."

As the curtain is opened, he said, the Chinese people will get to share the beauty of their culture and their land.

Getting prepared to share themselves took a lot of work, a job the people took enthusiastically, according to Sui Zhang of the Asian Association of Utah. Since Beijing was awarded the Olympics, taxi drivers were taught to speak English and restaurant menus were translated to English to accommodate visitors, she said.

"We hope the world will be happy," with Chinese hospitality, Zhang said.

Beijing residents cleaned the city, ushering in an era of voluntarism, according to Asian community advocate Hao Zho. Now they are ready for the Games, ready to "wow" the world.

And apparently the world is ready for the Chinese. All the events in Beijing are sold out, according to the organizing committee.

Not all tickets were sold to foreigners. China has a new economic force, a prosperous middle class, which helped fill the seats, Ha said.

Having the Olympics in Beijing hasn't been easy. Criticisms about human rights issues and lack of open media have been leveled against the Chinese government, as well as the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Zhang said the Tibetan uprising was used by some to magnify China's human rights violations. However, she said, the Olympics are neither the time nor the place for political issues. She said the Chinese people love harmony and peace.

Terry Chen agrees.

"The Olympic Spirit is about Chinese," Chen said.

Chen, president of the Utah Organization of Chinese Americans, said it is not time for politics but unity.

Besides, Chen said, China is still growing politically and can't change with a snap of the fingers.

But they've come a long way, according to Bo Lu. The past 20 years have been the best for China.

The people the newspaper interviewed are celebrating the Olympics in their own way. Some are barbecuing, some having a celebration buffet. Lu will bring bagels to the office. Zhang is wearing her Olympic shirt and has all the events she wants to watch mapped out, including some that require taking a day off.

But all were proud.

Proud of their accomplishments as a country.

Proud of their accomplishments as a people.

Proud to let the world in.

Proud to be Chinese.


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