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  • Countdown Beijing: China Says "Ulterior Motives" Behind Olympic Criticism


    "I shall point out that empty rhetoric and slogans will not help resolve the humanitarian issue in Darfur," says China Foreign Ministry spokesman Jianchao Liu.  
    China Cites Ulterior Motives for Darfur Criticism

    China sees something sinister behind criticism of its role in addressing the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and that it has no bearing on the Beijing Olympics.

    The reaction follows film industry heavyweight Steven Spielberg ending his role as artistic adviser for the Olympics. Spielberg cited human rights, and the situation in Darfur.

    But China believes there are “ulterior motives” for criticism from Spielberg and others.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Jianchao Liu says it is understandable if some people do not understand Chinese government policy on Darfur.

    “But I am afraid that some people may have ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept," Liu says.

    “China is also concerned about the humanitarian issues there, but we have been playing a positive and constructive role in promoting peace in Darfur.”

    Liu says China is working with the United Nations to resolve the crisis and providing aid to Sudan.

    Chinese officials have consistently rejected what they believe are attempts to “politicize” the August Olympics. Activist groups have publicly criticized its human rights performance both domestically and abroad.
    Fighting between government-backed militia and rebels in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced an estimated 2.5 million since 2003.

    China is believed to have special influence because it buys two-thirds of its oil exports from the Islamic regime and supplies it with weapons. It also has also shielded Khartoum from UN Security Council resolutions by threatening a veto.

    There has been increased lobbying of Beijing recently, with the U.S. Congress, a coalition of Nobel Peace Prize winners, politicians and Olympians making representations.

    Earlier this week, actress Mia Farrow joined other activists in delivering an open letter to Chinese President Jintao Hu at the Chinese Mission to the UN in New York.

    NZOC Repeats Denial on Gagging

    The New Zealand Olympic Committee has been forced to again deny that its athletes are being gagged at the Beijing Olympics. The move came after one of the nation’s MPs weighed into the row.

    Green Party politician Keith Locke says an NZOC contract, which must be signed by all New Zealand athletes participating in the Olympics, includes a clause preventing athletes from making statements about the Chinese political regime.

    He has described the document as an “affront to free speech” that is guaranteed by New Zealand's Bill of Rights, adding that Olympic officials in New Zealand are not entitled to take that away.

    “Our Olympic officials should not be imitating the Chinese regime by muzzling Kiwi athletes who might be disturbed by some of what they see in China,” he is quoted as saying in one domestic report.

    The NZOC earlier denied there had been any specific attempt address athlete behavior for Beijing because the athlete agreement is the same one used for the last eight years.

    But it has now moved to clear the air following Locke’s comments.

    The contract does not contain a so-called "gagging" clause and athletes are free to comment on the regime in China if they want to, spokesperson Ashley Abbot says.

    “If one of our athletes were asked their feelings on an important issue it would be absolutely their prerogative to answer as they see fit,” Abbott told New Zealand National Radio.

    Abbott says both officials and athletes are comfortable with the agreement.

    Meanwhile, on the issue of political statements during the Games, Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, describes his nation’s athletes as “well-educated, responsible adults”.

    He adds that they are capable of recognizing the world around them and speaking freely.
    Rudge says the issues of cultural norms and what is appropriate to say within a public forum has been communicated to athletes.

    “We certainly have no intention of, to use the phrase that was used in the British situation, ‘gagging’ our athletes,” Rudge told the Georgia Straight newspaper.

    Earlier this week, the British Olympic Association acknowledged its team agreement appears to overstep IOC rules barring any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” at an Olympic venue or area.

    Beijing Commercial Interest at a Peak

    Records are set to be broken on the sponsorship front at the Beijing Games, according to comments from a range of marketing and advertising sources.

    Long term IOC partners excluded, BOCOG has signed more than 50 Chinese and foreign companies as sponsors, partners or suppliers, with some firms paying up to $200 million for the highest level of sponsorship.

    Chinese and Olympics officials have been quick to capitalize on the commercial opportunities, according to Nathalie Bastianelli, head of Havas Sport China, part of the French marketing group Havas.

    “They were quick to negotiate the deals and they stopped accepting new partners months ago because they already had a full house,” she tells French media.

    Domestic sponsors include business giants like top oil companies Sinopec and CNPC, the Bank of China, and flag carrier Air China. <

    The real attraction is accessing a growing consumer market in a nation of more than 1.3 billion people that has consistently achieved double-digit economic growth over the last five years.

    Adidas is one of the international firms hoping to consolidate its presence of 3,500 outlets in 400 cities in China.

    Erika Korner, head of the sporting goods company's Olympic program, says sponsoring the Olympics in a country where the firm’s growth is highest, is an obvious move. table
    The new CCTV headquarters is scheduled for completion before the Games. (Getty Images)  

    China Central Television has already seen some of the lucrative rewards that come with the Olympics. It has attracted some $10.7 billion dollars in advertising revenue in bidding for available slots in 2008, an increase of 20 percent on last year.

    Air China reportedly paid $5 million for one of the top slots just after prime-time news during August, the month of the Games.

    Meanwhile, executives attending the Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition in Hong Kong this week say the Olympics will boost growth of their industry in China.

    “The Olympics are going to create a kick in the industry here,” Jay Mesinger, chief executive officer of the United States- based aircraft brokerage firm Corporate Jet Sales, Inc, tells Chinese media.

    “I have been in the industry for 34 years and understand investing in the future.”

    Yongfa Jin, general manager of Capital Jet, a company arranging Olympics-related business and private flights, says such flights will be allowed between July 1 and Sept. 30.

    Jin expects 300-odd business and private flights to and from Beijing Capital Airport.

    US-based jet manufacturer Cessna is exploring the Chinese mainland market, while Europe-based industry giant Airbus is also vying for market share, with 15 orders of its planes expected from the mainland and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.

    Beijing Briefs….
    Jockey Chan shows off his form. (HKTB)  

    Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan is promoting his hometown Olympic events in a slightly shorter film format. Chan suits up as a jockey for a new ad from the Hong Kong Tourism Board designed to lure international visitors to the city. The ad – filmed in part at the Olympic equestrian venue at the Hong Kong Jockey Club – touts the city's role in the 2008 Games and other elements of its culture, heritage and cuisine. The 30-second video, available in English and Mandarin, will appear in worldwide markets next month.

    A Chinese activist will stand trial for subversion after campaigning for human rights. For several years, Chunlin Yang, an unemployed factory worker from China's far northeast, has written petitions with themes that denounce government corruption and calls for democratic reform of the one-party state.

    Last year, he helped organize nearby villagers to sign a petition demanding return of disputed land. The document declared: “We don't want the Olympics, we want human rights”. His lawyer says Yang, 51, is to face trial this week and could be imprisoned for several years on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”. The charges are based on that petition as well as Yang's criticisms of the government made in essays on the Internet.

    With reporting from
    Anthony Stavrinos
    in Sydney.

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