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  • Weightlifting Venue Test, China Foreign Ministry Attacks Activists


    Vasiliki Kasapi of Greece makes a 142 kg lift at the Beijing tournament. (Getty Images)
    Renovated Gym in First Test

    The Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics Gymnasium hosted its first test event this week with the two-day Good Luck BeijingInternational Invitational Weightlifting Tournament on Jan. 22 and 23.The China Weightlifting Association sent more than half of the 40competitors, and won both of the womens’ gold medals.

    Renovations on the seven-year-old BUAA Gymnasium were completed in December; the venue will only host weightlifting. A technical delegate from the International Weightlifting Federation has visited the venue and pronounced it ready for the sport’s best.

    The wheelchair basketball test event wrapped up on Jan. 25 with a first place finish for both the men and women of Canada. International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven praised the facilities and volunteers at the National Indoor Stadium.

    China Blasts Activist Pressure

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry has defended its relations with the Sudanese government and its policies in Tibet, saying activists are wrong to seize on such issues ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

    Spokeswoman Jiang Yu lashed out at attempts to link the Olympics with Beijing's policies in war-ravaged Sudan, where China has oil investments and close ties with the government.

    “We hope relevant countries will recognize his nature and will not support his activities,” says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu of the Dalai Lama.
    “To link the Darfur issue with the Olympics is a move to politicize the Olympics. This is inconsistent with the Olympic spirit and principles and will bear no fruit," she told a news conference this week.

    Jiang said Chinese ties with the Sudanese government does not mean it is endorsing the conflict, adding that China is actively involved in the multilateral peacekeeping force in the capital.

    Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry has attacked the Dalai Lama after his comments on British television last week that Tibet supporters should protest peacefully during the Olympics, against Beijing's rule there.
    But the Chinese Foreign Ministry repeated China’s long-held position that the Dalai Lama is a separatist and a traitor.

    “He has explicitly shown in words and deeds that he's a political exile, long-engaged in separatist activities,” Jiang told the news conference.

    Anti-Pollution Masks a Possibility for U.S. Athletes

    The lead exercise physiologist for the United States Olympic Committee has reportedly recommended that US athletes wear masks from the time they arrive in Beijing for competition.

    Randy Wilber, a scientist based at the United States Olympic Training Center, has spent most of the past two years working with counterparts from other nations to devise ways for athletes to cope with Beijing air pollution.

    In what may be a controversial recommendation, The New York Times reports that Wilber is urging all athletes to wear specially designed masks over their noses and mouths from the minute they step foot in Beijing until they begin competing.

    Airborne dust is a common respiratory irritant in Beijing. (Getty Images)
    He is also encouraging them to train elsewhere and arrive in Beijing at the last possible moment and testing possible Olympians to see if they qualify for an IOC exemption to use an asthma inhaler.

    USOC spokesman Darryl Siebel says his committee knows that 2008 organizers have developed a plan to ensure good air quality and Beijing appreciates the importance of air quality to athletes.

    "As a National Olympic Committee, we have a responsibility to provide our athletes with the support they need to compete to the best of their ability. This includes preparing for situations that may or may not ultimately arise, including a dip in air quality. National Olympic committees around the world are doing the very same thing," Siebel tells Around the Rings.

    "Once we are on the ground at the Games, we will be able to determine whether or not it is necessary to implement any of these measures," he continues.

    Chinese officials claim the air in Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world, will not be an issue when China’s first Olympic Games start on August 8.

    They plan to limit vehicle use, close factories and do everything in their power to bring blue skies to Beijing.

    But scientists are skeptical about the air quality for these Games and experts from the world’s Olympic teams are preparing for the worst.

    Beijing Shuts Down Outdoor Ads

    More than 30,000 outdoor advertising sites that breach regulations have been cleared out by the Beijing government, according to Chinese media.

    The decision to clear the spaces has been part of preparations for the August Olympics.

    Last year the city government decided that the free-market approach to outdoor advertising has gone too far.

    They have banned advertising that apparently offends socialist values and threatens social harmony.

    This has meant that the forest of billboards and banners strung from overpasses and buildings advertising luxury housing, cars and other high-end consumer goods have simply disappeared over
    the last several weeks.

    Gone too, according to Australian broadsheet The Age, are billboards advertising housing developments with names such as Chateau Regency and Champagne Cove.

    They were deemed too provocative as the central Government tries to ensure a “harmonious society” in the lead-up to the Olympics, according to the Chinese media report.

    Beijing Briefs….

    Major League Baseball games are coming to China for the first time , with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres to play exhibition games on March 15-16 at the baseball venue for the 2008 Olympics.

    Belgian athletes at the Games will need to keep their political opinions private while inside the Olympic Village and sport venues, according to a code of conduct issued by the Belgian NOC. “Not a single participant in the Games will be allowed to give a political opinion at the Olympic venues (e.g.: competition sites and the Olympic village),” the committee says in a statement. The committee also ruled that Olympic athletes would be barred from wearing any distinctive insignia protesting China's human rights record. But the committee says athletes are free to talk about “issues that are personally relevant” outside the Olympic venues and during the six-month run-up to the games.

    The Beijing Red Cross Blood Center urgently needs blood to ensure stocks are adequate for the Olympic Games in August, especially from foreigners living in Beijing, according to its deputy director Shi Weiwei. Shi says about one million people, including about 20,000 athletes, coaches and officials, are expected in Beijing during the Games, so the city could face a shortage of rhesus (RH) blood. Only 0.3 percent of the people in Han-dominated China have RH-blood.

    Amnesty International's head in Germany has called on Germany’s government and NOC to place more pressure on China over human rights issues.

    “I expect the German government and more particularly the German Olympic Association to increase pressure on the Chinese government,” Amnesty General Secretary Barbara Lochbilder said.
    Lochbilder told the Hanover Neue Presse, that dialogue had to be continued on human rights issues.

    Beijing Airport has responded to a report on Forbes Magazine's website that rates it the second worst in the world in terms of delays. “At Beijing Capital International Airport, which is expanding in preparation for the Summer Olympics later this year, just 33 percent of its flights took off on time in 2007, putting it just behind Brasilia on our list of worst departures,” a report on, dated January 14, says. But Airport general manager Dong Zhiyi told China’ s official Xinhua news agency that “official statistics” show 86.28 per cent of its take-offs have been on schedule, much higher than Forbes's reported figures.

    With reporting from Anthony Stavrinos in Sydney.

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