By AUDRA ANG, Associated Press Writer

A three-day Toilet Summit international commode conference was held recently in Beijing. Some 150 scholars, toilet designers and environmentalists from 19 countries gathered to exchange ideas on topics such as the latest toilet technologies, lavatory management tips and the relationship between toilets and tourism development.

China, known for fetid public toilets that often are little more than open trenches, is eager to show off its advances while preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Delegates to the conference were taken on a tour of new and renovated public toilets in Beijing.

In addition, the event was packed with slide shows, lectures and question-and-answer sessions.

The convention is in its fourth year, with Singapore, Seoul and Taipei as previous hosts.Participants this year came from countries as far away as Finland, Japan and the United States.

Photos of showcase lavatories were also displayed at the conference, from a ladybug-shaped one in a public garden to another modeled after a grass hut in a wildlife park. Facilities with baby-changing stations, wheelchair ramps and gleaming white ceramic urinals were also featured.

"New public toilets are an important symbol to demonstrate the development of the city," said Liang Guangsheng, deputy director of Beijing's Municipal Administrative Committee.

In the past three years, Beijing has spent $29 million on building or renovating 747 restrooms at tourist spots, according to the city government.

"The toilets are sanitary, convenient and private," Yu Changjiang, director general of the city's tourism bureau said. The city also aims to make them suitable for users of all ages, for the disabled, and energy and water efficient.