London, July 19 : With just three weeks to go before the Olympics get underway in Beijing, China, there are growing concerns that the stifling security measures could kill the element of fun normally associated with the event.
According to a Financial Times report, the world's biggest sporting event is being shackled by a visa crackdown, heightened security checks, dire warnings of terrorist attack and curbs on Beijing nightlife.
So stringent have been the checks that some observers have already dubbed the 2008 Olympics as the "no-fun Games".
Michael Payne, the International Olympic Committee's head of marketing for the two decades to 2004, said that in meetings with top Beijing organisers he has stressed a single word of advice: smile.
"The biggest challenge they have to face now is ensuring that the security doesn't suffocate the festival. The Olympics are only special if there is a festival outside the venues," the paper quoted Payne, as saying.
The checkpoints are part of a security operation thrown up around the Games by leaders who fear they could be marred by protests, sabotage by "hostile forces" or terrorist attack.