Beijingers cautioned about behavior during 2008 Summer Games

Clean up your act.

That was the message 1,600 people received Wednesday at a pep rally addressed by Liu Qi, head of the organizing committee for the Beijing Olympics.

The long-awaited Olympics open in just over a year - Aug. 8, 2008 - and Liu's speech signals the games are fast approaching. With two weeks to go before countdown clocks reach 365 days, Chinese officials are stepping up an ongoing campaign to get Beijingers to be better behaved.

"Everybody should cultivate good habits from now on," Liu said at a rally sponsored by the Beijing municipal government. Officials said the rally at the Beijing Convention Center - in the north of the city near many new Olympic venues - drew people from "all walks of life."

Nurses and soldiers sat alongside people dressed in costumes representing some of China's 55 minority groups.

"Everybody should follow and protect public order, no matter if you are driving or walking," Liu said. "Clean words, clean environment and clean air. Clean up bad habits such as spitting, throwing rubbish and so on."

About 550,000 foreigners are expected for the Olympics, joined by 22,000 journalists. Highly sensitive to the image China will transmit during the Games, officials have been admonishing citizens for months to stop spitting, stop swearing, improve driving and line up neatly.

The message was accompanied by patriotic songs, waving flags with Liu speaking from a rostrum filled with 100 officials.

"There will be 4 billion eyes on China," Liu said, referring to the expected worldwide TV audience. "We should build a good image and show our civilization to the world."

He also urged the Chinese to be good sports. The home nation is widely expected to top the medal table in 2008, overtaking the United States.

"Everyone should be a good fan when watching the matches," he said. "We must be a friendly and professional audience."