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Olympic Fans Get Taste of Chinese Culture at Popular Beijing Night Spots

Hundreds of thousands of visitors have come to Beijing for the three-week celebration of Olympic sports. Many of them are taking advantage of the visit to enjoy Chinese culture at the city's many attractions. One of these is the nightlife. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from the popular entertainment district, of Hou Hai.

Hou Hai is one of Beijing's best known night spots. Its cafes, restaurants and shops, lining a large lake, draw both residents and foreign visitors.

During the Olympics people have been coming every night to watch the events on widescreen televisions and to mingle with the crowds.

Local resident, Sun Jin En, comes here to meet girls. He says the Games have boosted morale among the Chinese.

"Everybody is so proud of that [the Olympics] because we dreamed it for 100 years and now we just got it," Sun said. "And most Beijing citizens are happy about that."

The Chinese government has reportedly spent $45 billion preparing for the Olympics. In addition to building world class sports venues, a great deal of the money has gone toward cleaning up the city, improving infrastructure and building more public gathering places.

Authorities say this is a legacy that will endure long after the Olympic torch is extinguished.

Laszlo Peteri, an Olympic wrestling referee from Hungary, says these Olympics have surpassed previous Games.

"From the time of the opening ceremony, the organizing, the competition, and the competitors, everything has been great, great," Peteri said.

Authorities reportedly have cleaned up the seedier trades sometimes associated with tourism, such as prostitution and drug peddling. And taxi drivers have been given lessons in courtesy and basic English phrases.

Another Olympic official from Hungary, Peter Bacsa, says he plans to come back, next time with his family.

"The whole atmosphere here, it's really different than [from] Europe and the U.S.A [United States]," Bacsa said. "It's really hard to say in words but you feel it - that it's a different culture, different people, different mentality."

An elderly Beijing couple, Liu Xi Yu and Leng Bing Xue, say they come here often. They like the lake for its peace and quiet but say they do not mind the crowds of foreigners here for the Games.

They say the foreigners are all very friendly and so of course they welcome them to Beijing.

Christina Heim is a young German who has spent a month traveling in China with two friends. She says this has been a major learning experience.

"The Olympics are very great because there come [they bring together] a lot of cultures together and a lot of nations," she said.

One of her friends, Teresa Schief, says China is different from her country in many ways.

"The food is very interesting here. It's different from German food. All people eat from the same plate," she noted. "And the animals [meat] for example, we ate a frog. In Germany you would never eat a frog."

Like many visitors, she says language sometimes poses problems. But these are more than overshadowed by the culture, she says, the music, art, cuisine, and the friendliness of the Chinese people.