Hosts geared up for glory

On Thursday 30 July, just a week from the kickoff of the Olympic football tournament, the Olympic torch relay reached Qinhuangdao, one of the five football venues. The women's campaign begins there with a match between Japan and New Zealand on 6 August.

Amongst the torch bearers was Wang Fengxia, formerly a renowned footballer of the Hebei Provincial women's team, who has lived in this football-mad coastal city since her retirement.

Amongst the rapturous applause of the spectators, Wang jogged on happily, clearly moved by the festival scenes. "Carrying the Olympic torch reignited my football dream," she said. "I am now really looking forward to the football matches in our home city."

This is the perfect stage for the Olympic Games
China legend Sun Wen on the football stadium in her city of Shanghai

Sun Wen, a legend of the women's game, is now working as a FIFA technical official at the Shanghai venue. "," she told "I expect it to be a successful event."

Great expectations
The staging of the 29th Olympic Games is seen by Chinese across the world as "a century's dream" brought to reality, and their emotional attachment to the event is evident everywhere.

Even state vice-president Xi Jinping took time out to watch his beloved women's football team in Qinhuangdao on 15 July. The Steel Roses presented him with a signed ball and jersey, which he received with obvious delight.

With so much to live up to, captain Li Jie believed the team will be at their peak when they open up against Sweden on 6 August in Tianjin. "We are in the final phase of our preparation, and we will enter the Olympic tournament in top form."

Although the women's team are everyone's favourites to pick up a football medal, spirits are also high in the men's camp. The Chinese U-23s have chalked up three wins and a draw in the build-up to the Olympic campaign, including a 1-0 victory over the Australian Olympic side.

After rounding off the preparatory work with a goalless draw against Serbia on 29 July, executive coach Yin Tiesheng said the team will focus on finishing skills in the remaining days. "Goal-scoring remains a problem for our team, as we squander too many chances," said the coach, who is working alongside Serbian tactician Ratomir Dujkovic. "I hope we can find our goal-scoring touch by the time the Games begin."

Olympic rush
With the Olympic Games just around the corner, the world's most populous country is at fever pitch. Not surprisingly, garnering tickets for the global showpiece has become something to brag about for the successful fans.

To get their hands on one of the treasured tickets, earnest fans were standing in long queues for hours in the searing heat of Shanghai, where 12 football matches will be staged from 7-22 August. Understandably, the star-studded Argentina and Côte d'Ivoire sides, based in the city, have added to the allure for local fans.

There were even more desperate scenes in Beijing, where sports fans camped in front of the ticket office two days ahead of the opening of sales. Ultimately, nearly a quarter of a million tickets were sold within three days!