International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said on Monday that he believed the Beijing Olympics, which get underway on Friday, would prove to be a milestone in China's transformation.
The Belgian, who, along with the IOC has come under fire from human rights groups ever since electing Beijing as hosts in 2001, said that it was already evident that changes had occurred for the better for China.
"I am equally confident that the Games will leave a great legacy for China," said Rogge, who was elected at the same IOC meeting in 2001 to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch.
"China is a nation in transition, with a great future, tremendous potential and some challenges. I believe history will view the 2008 Olympics as a significant milestone in China's remarkable transformation.
"Some of the changes are easy to see. The Bird's Nest (the main stadium) and the Water Cube (the swimming complex) are already architectural landmarks.
"Long after the Games end, these and other Olympic venues will encourage the youth of China to participate in sport. Spectators will be inspired to become athletes, and athletes will be inspired to achieve their best in world-class venues."
Rogge added that there were other benefits from the Games.
"The venues are just a small part of the construction legacy that will benefit China after the Games," he said.
"New airport terminals, new roads and highways, new parks, and a host of other projects that were initiated or accelerated because of the Games will improve the quality of life and contribute to China's economic development over the long term.
"Many of the infrastructure investments and other steps taken as a result of the Olympics will help China deal with environmental challenges."
Rogge, who will step down next year at the IOC session in Copenhagen, said he also hoped that the Games would help the Chinese come to terms with the devastating earthquake earlier this year which left close to 90,000 people dead.
"China's role as our Olympic host has opened a window to the world's most populous nation," said Rogge. "We have already seen the courage and determination of the Chinese people in another context.
"The world mourned the staggering loss of life from the earthquake in Sichuan province and marveled at the courageous response by the Chinese people.
"Starting this weekend and over the next 16 days, the world will have another reason to come together to share common emotions.
"All of us in the Olympic Family hope that the Beijing Games will help the healing process in China and deepen the world's knowledge of this remarkable country."
Rogge, who last year won a personal crusade for the creation of a Youth Games which will be hosted by Singapore, said that these Games would be a landmark in many respects.
"I said at the outset that I believe these Games will be historic. "They are already a landmark event for the Olympic Movement. "The mere fact that the Olympic Games are coming to China - home to nearly 20 percent of the world's population - is significant.
"A billion television viewers are expected to watch live coverage of the opening ceremony on Friday.
"The Beijing Games will significantly advance our goals of universality and fair play in several ways.
"We will see a record number of participating national teams - 205 and a record number of women athletes - about 45 percent of all the competitors.
"An unprecedented effort against doping, with more stringent testing then ever before and new steps to combat irregular betting, including closer co-operation with law enforcement."
Rogge said that whilst the Olympic movement had had its fair share of criticism throughout its history, they had shown they were a resilient body. "The changes that are occurring in China are a microcosm of the changes in the rest of the world.
"The Olympic movement has overcome countless obstacles since Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894, and we will have to continue to keep the Olympic dream alive for future generations.


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