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Monday, July 14, 2008
Updated: August 5, 4:28 PM ET
REPORTING FROM ... THE BEIJING BUREAU


How would you like to go to school outside the Olympic Village?

Your Olympics update, 24 days before the Opening Ceremonies.

Sunday marked both the seven-year anniversary of China winning the Olympic bid and the grand opening of the Beijing Jingcheng Olympic Education Museum. Situated inside the walls of Beijing Jingcheng Experimental Primary School near the Olympic Village, it's China's first "Olympics education" museum and proof that someone, in fact, is thinking of the children. The museum's stated goal is to foster international goodwill while teaching kids the true meaning of "Olympic spirit." If that sounds wishy-washy and idealistic, fine. But if children can't believe in idealism, what hope is there for the rest of us? "The world's getting smaller and smaller, so everyone should know more about other countries," said vice principal Song Weimeng. "That's why we have badges and torches from many countries to show the kids. From this, they will get a better understanding of friendship, fairness and respect. This is the main concept behind our program." About 600 people—500 kids, Song estimates—attended the museum's opening, where they saw replicas of Olympic torches and mascots and visited the bookstore, culture hall and photo gallery. "Museum" is misleading: the place is a quadrangle, more like a carnival-games area at Six Flags, with memorabilia stores and Olympic displays encircling a small plaza. Some of the displays—like a paper-cutting of the Chinese characters for "One World, One Dream"—were made by Jingcheng's students. "It shows how innovative the students are," said Yang Zhiyu, 13, about to enter 8th grade. "This is a very good opportunity for people to understand the Olympic Games better and get more involved, since all the students have class at a school that's very close to the Olympics." The museum isn't without its shortcomings: after two years of planning, the rooms aren't all filled, and some exhibitions—like "Olympic Champions"—have yet to go up. But that didn't seem to bother 12-year-old Li Jiepu—or "Bobby", as his schooling is split between Beijing and New York—who called the exposition "both entertaining and educational." "It's a pretty new idea to bring a museum, especially an Olympics museum, to a school," he said. "Seeing an Olympic museum here brings us a lot closer to the Olympics."

Even if it doesn't, with quotes like that from its students, the school may have a bright post-Olympics future as a PR boot camp.

ALSO ON THE PODIUM …

Torch relay update: Just passed Changchun, capital of Jilin Province in the northeast. Next up: Songyuan, a city of four rivers, also "an oil city, a grain store, a meat store, a sea of forests and a fish producer," according to ChinaPlanner.com.