| BEIJING, July 21
BEIJING, July 21 (Reuters Life!) - The "Bird's Nest"
national stadium is the pride of Beijing and one of the iconic
structures of China's 2008 Olympic Games, but the men and women
who built it may never see it coming to life.
As the opening ceremony of the Games approaches, the army
of migrant workers who worked on the city's 31 Olympic projects
are packing their bags and heading back to their rural homes as
part of a city clean-up campaign that starts in earnest this
"Once the work is finished I will leave, I will plant the
beds here, then in Tiananmen and then I will go home," said He
Jingling, a worker from Henan province who came to Beijing to
plant flowers in areas of Beijing that are expected to be
filled with tourists and world athletes during the Olympics.
Beijing's pre-Olympic clean-up involves halting
construction in the city, shutting factories and limiting the
number of cars on the road to help combat chronic pollution,
which is one of the biggest headaches for the Games'
It is also accompanied by a security crackdown.
As the work stops, many of the estimated four million
people, who descended on Beijing to toil long hours for a wage
slightly better than what they would make at home, are leaving.
Already, migrant workers are queuing at bus and railway
stations to go home or to other prosperous cities in the hope
of finding work.
There is no official law stating migrants have to leave
once the job is complete, but many lack the proper paperwork to
Identity card checks have already been stepped up and a
100,000 strong police force has set up security checks both
inside and outside the city, leaving unregistered migrants
fearful of the authorities.
Wang Xingyue is one of the luckier ones -- his Olympic
construction contract runs out after the Games end, giving him
a chance to witness the event.
"I will stay until our work is finished, when the Olympics
end I will go," he said.
Qin Weizhang and his wife, from Shandong, were leaving
Beijing for Inner Mongolia, where they heard of work
opportunities after their Olympic construction contract ended.
He said he would miss the opportunity to see the Olympics
in his own country, but work came first.
"We do not have the time. I want to see the Olympics but I
have to earn money," he added.
Zhang Zhanxin, an associate professor at China's main
government think-tank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
said migrant workers are often discriminated against by
city-dwellers who look down on them and make them feel
Human rights groups also say migrant workers are vulnerable
to exploitation in the workplace and often lack basic health
care and protection.
"People in the countryside are relatively poor and so their
children only finish primary or middle school. So basically,
people from rural areas are less educated and city-dwellers
call them uncultured," Zhang said.
"People from the countryside also rarely come to the big
cities and because they are unaccustomed to city rules and
habits they are looked down on."
(Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Ben Blanchard)