"I can say responsibly, we are ready. Guangzhou is ready," Mayor Wan Qingliang recently said. "We will have the best organization and management, the best venues and facilities, the best city environment, the best service and the most welcoming atmosphere for our guests from all over."
For host China, it's yet another opportunity to showcase the country's rising global influence, following on the successes of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo that wrapped up last month. Beijing's experience running those well-funded, well-organized mega events stands in stark contrast to the recent Commonwealth Games in neighboring Indiawhich was so plagued with problems it almost didn't get off the ground.
The Guangzhou Asian Games are a "grand event ... a platform to show the tremendous achievements of China's economic and social development," is the official line from the organizing committee.
Athletes and visitors to Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton, will find a city of urban bustle that has been freshly scrubbed and spruced up for the event. Authorities repaved roadways, built new subway lines and installed lush flower beds along sidewalks and overpasses.
The government even painted and put imitation Spanish-style roofs on dreary apartment blocks, particularly those lining the highway connecting the airport to the city. Locals called the project "putting on new clothes and a hat," though some grumbled it was a waste of money and wasn't really very attractive.
In a move reminiscent of rules for the Beijing Olympics, half of the private cars in the city of 10 million have already been ordered off roads to improve traffic conditions and air quality. Residents will be able to take public transportation for free, though security checks have led to massive backups at subway stations.
Athletes and officials will be staying at a sparkling new "Asian Games Town" about 40 minutes outside the city center. The sprawling complex is also home to the dramatic and flowing Asian Games Town Gymnasium, which will host gymnastics events.
Details of the opening and closing ceremonies are secret, though the games torch will be lit at 9:42 p.m. on Nov. 12 in a new half-stadium built on an island in the Pearl River. Guests will arrive by boat, while security will be provided in part by anti-explosives vehicles that can operate underwater and frogmen trained to dive 100 feet (30 meters) without any equipment.