The 2008 Olympics are about to begin in Beijing and excitement is running high among the hundreds of thousands of fans from inside China and around the world. Many visitors are taking advantage of free time between Olympic events to tour some of Beijing's historic sites. VOA's Scott Bobb talked to some of them and has this report.

It is a steamy morning at Beijing's imperial Summer Palace, a sprawling complex of ancient royal residences and gardens. Already visitors are teeming through its archways and paddling boats on its misty lake.

Xie Jing Lian, a retired calligrapher, stoops over a flagstone walk as he draws Chinese characters with a large wet brush. In elegant brushstrokes, he has written 'The Olympics have arrived' on the flagstones.

Lian says it is hard to get tickets to Olympic events and there are long lines but the games are good for China.

He says the games will help the Chinese economy and will also strengthen relations with other countries. Moreover, he says they will stimulate Chinese to work harder and help their country.

Wang Tian Xiu is a smartly dressed lady living in London who has come for the games. She says the authorities in preparing for the games made many improvements, such as new parks and public facilities. And she says the city is much cleaner than before. She acknowledges that a lot of money has been spent but says it is worth it.

"It's a good time for Chinese people to show off to the international world and just to show the people our country has grown big. We have the power to hold the event. We have the power to stand in the international industry. And it's so perfect. I'm very proud to be a Chinese," said Xiu.

In the heart of Beijing, Chu Xia has brought her daughter, Li zi yan, a ruddy-cheeked seven-year-old, to visit the imperial palace complex called the Forbidden City.

She says her daughter was born the year that China won the bid to host the Olympics. She promised then to bring her to the games and now, she says, my dream has come true.

A tall Lithuanian with a full red beard who calls himself Sekla acknowledges that the Olympics have brought international criticism on issues ranging from the environment to political repression and human rights. He notes that his country almost boycotted the games this year because of a crackdown on anti-China protests by independence-minded Tibetans in March.

"I am quite happy that it didn't come out of [like] this. Because our athletes come to show their results, They come here for sport. So I think in this event sport should be number one and then only after through sport put some political pressure or one or other government," said Sekla.

Canadian Dave Summers says it is understandable that political protest often accompanies the Olympics.

"The political side, it's always going to follow because it's such a large event in the world that people look to to get attention. And any large event like this will obviously be a platform for them to get their message across," said Summers. "So it doesn't surprise me there's a lot of different opinions coming out around the world."

Back at the Summer Palace, Xiu, from London, says the international community should understand that China is emerging from centuries of isolation.

"Every country has its problems at the beginning of the development of its economy. It can't be missed [denied], it's true," added Xiu. "But China is still a developing country at the moment. In the future we definitely can tackle this issue."

In an archway, a tall elderly gentleman named Peng Shi Yong is singing a traditional Chinese ballad.

He says he was a music teacher who was purged during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and sent far away.

He says back then he could not imagine that one day his country would host the Olympics. He says the focus of the Games should on the athletes many of whom have spent their lives preparing for this moment.