A devastating earthquake is the latest in a series of disasters and controversies that have turned what China had hoped would be an Olympic year of celebration into one of turmoil and tragedy. With tens of thousands of people either dead or missing, Monday's quake in the south-west of the country has plunged China into mourning less than 90 days before the Games.
China said on Tuesday that protesters were out to hijack the Olympic Games as the torch relay embarked on a world tour that is certain to ignite demonstrations. Pro-Tibet activists, human rights campaigners and groups seeking to end the crisis in Darfur say they plan protests during the relay, which is scheduled to last 130 days and cover 137 000km.
A marathon contest longer and more complex than any race at the Olympic Games is unfolding behind the windowless facade of Digital Beijing. This secretive, slate-black tower complex that looks like a row of computer chips stands close by the two most famous Olympic venues -- the National Aquatics Centre, known as the Water Cube, and the National Stadium, or Bird's Nest.
China was facing a major international crisis linked to the Olympics on Thursday amid mounting pressure over its role in Darfur after United States filmmaker Steven Spielberg severed his links to the Games. So far neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Olympic organising committee has responded to the decision by Spielberg.
Beijing Olympic organisers said on Monday they backed a ban on political protests by athletes attending this year's Games, amid an uproar over an effort to silence British athletes. Following widespread anger, the British Olympic Association backed down on Sunday on its plan to prevent British competitors from commenting on ''politically sensitive issues''.
The hardest part is yet to come for Beijing Olympic organisers, heading into 2008 with all plans in place but potential pitfalls aplenty in the run-up to the event in August. Traffic congestion, closely linked to air quality, food security, media freedom and human rights as well as boycott calls are issues likely to flare up again over the coming months.
Beijing Olympics organisers apologised on Wednesday after suspending ticket sales following a booking system meltdown, their first major blunder in preparations for next year's Games. About 1,8-million event tickets were supposed to go on sale on Tuesday on a first-come-first-served basis for people living in China.
Beijing banned more than one million cars from its roads on Friday in a test run to improve air quality for the Olympics, easing gridlock but failing to lift a curtain of smog from the capital. More than 6Â 500 traffic police were on duty across the city to ensure car owners observed the ban, while an extra two million more trips were expected to be taken on subways and buses during the day.
Beijing Olympic organisers said on Thursday they were confident that athletes would compete in clean air next year despite revelations that events could be postponed because of pollution. ''We are well aware of the challenges but we are confident that air quality will be good for the Olympics,'' Beijing Olympic organising committee spokesperson Sun Weide said.