The Road to Beijing, Part I

BEIJING, China (KHNL) -- In little more than 100 days, the eyes of the world will focus on Beijing, China, home of the XXIX Summer Olympic Games.

It's a city that has been celebrated and condemned over the centuries.  But today, it is a city ready to prove it's deserving of hosting the games.

Formerly known as Peking, Beiping, Dadu, and Yanjing during different periods of Chinese history, Beijing today stands proud as the capital city of the people's Republic of China.

Located in northern China, it covers an area roughly he same size as all of the Hawaiian islands, but has a population of 14 million people.

Beijing's long and illustrious history started some 500,000 years ago. It has endured invasions, fires, and the rise and fall of powerful dynasties. And each time it's emerged, as a stronger and more vibrant city.

"It's amazing. So big and so friendly," said tourist Kelly Instrum.  "I though it would be more of a closed communist society, but they are very open and they all want the U.S. dollar."

"The people are so open and free and friendly," said Jessica Zepke, another tourist.  "They help you get around; it's just an amazing place".

From the Forbidden City, to its Imperial Gardens and palaces, to the Great Wall, Beijing offers a treasure trove of historical sites.

But it's the new look of this city that defines it's present, and future role as a global and economic powerhouse.

"A week here is like a month. I live out in the country and every time I come into the city I am amazed by how fast things are changing," said Russell Leu, a Chinese expatriate who lives in Hawaii. "It used to be donkey carts and bad roads, but now there are new cars and new roadways. They bring in a huge workforce and build around the clock and it seems they can build a whole new freeway overnight."

And now with the Summer Olympics to take center stage right here in little more than 100 days, athletes prepare for personal glory, while a country prepares to offer a new snapshot for the world to remember.