BEIJING - Avoid drinking tap water during the 2008 Beijing Olympics - unless you're living in the Olympic Village.

That was the advice from a high-ranking Beijing official yesterday, explaining the city's attempt to "guarantee water safety" for the Olympics. He acknowledged the billions spent to clean and modernize the Chinese capital haven't been enough to provide potable tap water.

"The quality of the water provided by the water plants is safe enough," said Bi Xiaogang, vice director general of the Beijing Water Management Bureau.

"The water is contaminated during the secondary supply process, in the transfer of water. Therefore it is not safe to drink from the tap," Bi said. "We are still working on upgrading the secondary facilities. But in the Olympic Village, we will provide safe drinking water from the tap."

The lack of potable tap water, chronic traffic jams and filthy air are major problems facing Beijing officials as they try to give the Chinese capital a complete face-lift with about 500,000 foreign visitors expected for the 17-day Olympics.

Upgrading infrastructure is part of a two-pronged effort to get ready for the Olympics. The other involves a campaign to improve human behavior: teaching people to line up, coaxing taxi drivers to be more polite and getting everyone to curtail the habit of spitting.

As much as $160 billion is being spent to ready Beijing for the Olympics.