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  • Countdown Beijing: China Blocks Everest Climbs Ahead of Olympic Torch Relay


    Weather at Mt. Everest will determine the date of the torch ascent to the summit. (Getty Images)  
    Mt. Everest Closes Ahead of Torch Relay 

    As preparations move ahead for the Olympic Torch Relay to climb Mt. Everest, China is refusing to issue permits for climbers on its side of the mountain until after May 10. A letter to mountaineering companies mentions "heavy climbing activities" as the reason, not the torch relay.

    An exact date for the ascent of the flame to the top of the world’s tallest mountain is not set, as the climb will be subject to weather conditions. While torch relay organizers appear to be aiming for May ascent, they have a three-month window to bring the flame to the summit.

    When the Olympic flame arrives in China on March 30, one of the back-up lanterns will be carried to the mountain for the initial ascent. Once conditions are optimal, the climb to the 29,035-foot summit will begin. At the same time, the domestic torch relay underway will be suspended to avoid two relay legs taking place at the same time.

    After the relay reaches the top of Mt. Qomolangma, as it is known in China, the flame will travel to Lhasa, where it will rejoin the relay as it passes through Tibet in mid-June.

    Reports on the climbing ban for the Chinese side of the mountain suggest that the move is meant to keep protestors away from the path of what will be a highlight of the torch relay in one of the politically sensitive regions of China. The government says that Tibet is a historic part of China, but opponents say Tibet was an independent land for centuries until the Chinese government took control in 1951.

    China Snaps Again At Human Rights Campaigners

    China has lambasted critics of its human rights record, accusing them of double standards and vowing that their grievances will not affect the Beijing Games.
    The U.S. State Department report says that it still rates China’s human rights record as "poor". (Getty Images)  

    "We are strongly opposed to the practices of clinging to a Cold War mentality, drawing lines along ideology, creating confrontations, practicing double standards and interfering in China's internal affairs in the name of human rights," said foreign minister Yang Jiechi.

    He made the comments at a media conference on the sidelines of China's parliamentary session on March 12, just a day after the U.S. State Department released a report accusing China of widespread human rights violations.

    "The government's human rights record remained poor," reads the China section of the U.S. State Department 2007 Report on Human Rights Practices.

    In a press conference, a representative of the State Department deflected questions on any link between Games preparations and the human rights violations. The spokesman reiterated that the situation in the country is generally poor.

    But China was not among the "most systematic human rights violators" named by the State Department, a distinction that was noted on the list last year.

    Yang says critics are trying to politicize the Games but believes they are doomed to failure.

    "It is not the international community that is politicizing the Olympic Games," he told journalists.

    "It is a small number of individuals and forces who are anti-China and very biased against China," he said.

    But Yang says China is open to criticism and welcomes suggestions on how to ensure the success of the Olympics - on the condition they are offered in a spirit of goodwill.

    Beijing Briefs....

    The fate of China's biggest star at the Olympics, basketballer Yao Ming, is to be left in the hands of doctors, according to state-run media. A senior Chinese sports official says the decision on whether Yao will take to the court for his country at the Games, ultimately rests with him and his doctors.

    "We respect our athletes and doctors' advice and will safeguard the athletes' health," according to a statement from Cui Dalin, deputy director of the State General Administration of Sport, in Xinhua.

    Yao, who plays in the U.S. pro league, underwent surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his left foot, yet is determined to represent China at the Games.

    Designers of the National Stadium are the winner of the 2008 award in architecture from the Design Museum in London. "The architecture of the Beijing National Stadium defines the contemporary stadium in a way that has not been seen since the 1972 Olympics in Munich. It
    More than 280km of roads will be roped off in a bid to ease traffic, said Beijing vice mayor Liu Jingmin this week. The success of separating Olympic traffic from general traffic has been proven at both the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games, he said. (Getty Images)  
    embodies the emergence of China as a modern state and crowns the achievements of the remarkable careers of Herzog and de Meuron," the judges' panel wrote of the award-winning design.

    Hollywood actor George Clooney says he regularly talks to TOP sponsor Omega about his concerns with China's foreign policy. "I have talked with Omega (about China) for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega," he tells BBC Sport. "I have and will continue to ask China to use its considerable leverage with the government of Sudan," the Omega spokesman adds. Clooney is a public critic of China's alliance with Sudan and says he, along with Olympians Joey Cheek and Tegla Loroupe, have met with Chinese government representatives about the issue.

    The chief executive of Omega parent Swiss Timing says his company does not get involved with politics but that they are proud to work with someone with the "high ethical views" of George Clooney.

    Beijing Games organizers have removed a Flash game from the official Olympic website after a U.S.-based designer alleged it is a ripoff. New Yorker Cadin Batrack published a game called Snow Day in 2006 which he says was republished after minor changes as "Fuwa Fights the Winter Clouds". In his blog, he also alleges several other games on the BOCOG site are pirated.

    Some 74 percent of the population is "excited or very excited" about China hosting its first Games, according to a newly released poll conducted for public relations and advertising company Ogilvy in China and Milward Brown ACSR. Only two percent of Beijing residents report that they plan to leave the city during the Aug. 8 – 24 Games. This is lower than the Athens Games in 2004, which suffered in the area of local attendance due mainly to fears of overcrowding and a security scare campaign ahead of the event. The poll started in January and involved Chinese residents in locations along the routes of the Torch Relay, which will commence at the end of March.

    Written by Anthony Stavrinos

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