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  • Countdown Beijing: Olympic Spirits Return to China


    Final torchbearer Yan Hongjun in Ningbo. (BOCOG)  
    Torch Relay Returns in Ningbo

    A journey across a five km bridge, one of the longest in the world marked the resumption of the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay Thursday in southern China.

    The relay in the port city of Ningbo was to have been held Monday, but that’s when the government declared three days of mourning for earthquake victims.

    The route apparently will be shifted ahead three days until mid-June, when the Olympic flame was to reach Sichuan Province. That three-day leg is now to be postponed until August 3 to 5.

    The change, announced today in Beijing, allows Sichuan province more time to recover from the quake. And the new timing of the Sichuan will give the event a high level of press coverage. Coming three days before opening ceremony, the media of the world will already be massing in Beijing.

    World Sports Press Meets in Beijing

    The earthquake aftermath was a common theme in remarks by BOCOG leaders at the opening ceremony for annual congress of AIPS, the International Sports Press Association.
    A moment of silence at the open of the AIPS Congress in Beijing. (ATR)  

    The meeting, first ever for AIPS in China, opened with a moment of silence for the earthquake victims.

    The quake was an inescapable part of every speech Thursday to the AIPS delegates.

    "The Chinese people will overcome all difficulties and stage Olympic Games with distinguishing features," BOCOG vice president Chen Zhili said.

    Vice mayor for Beijing and BOCOG executive vice president Liu Jingmin expressed his thanks to the media of the world for its coverage of the disaster.

    Kevan Gosper, IOC member in Australia, says the IOC "registers deep concern" for those affected by the disaster.

    AIPS President Gianni Merlo presented a $20,000 donation from the association to Zhang Heifang, president of the Chinese Sports Press Association, for use by the China Red Cross for earthquake relief.

    More than 300 delegates and observers, from 105 nations, are attending the AIPS Congress. The meeting is believed to be the largest held in the 81 year history of the group.

    The three day meeting ends Saturday.
    Tsukahara of Japan (r) leads Robbie Baskin of Australia in one of the 100m heats on day one of the Good Luck Beijing 2008 China Athletics Open. (Getty Images)  

    Bird's Nest Hosts China Open Athletics Meet

    One of the final test events of the Beijing Olympics is underway at the Bird’s Nest Stadium, the China Open. The athletics meet pits China’s best against rivals from other Asian nations and Australia.

    Hurdler Liu Xiang easily won his first heat Thursday night. He is considered a top prospect to defend his 110m Olympic championship in Beijing.

    Dalai Lama Supports Tibet Torch Relay

    The Dalai Lama says he supports an Olympic torch transit through Tibet.

    "Definitely," he said, in response to a reporter's query during a visit to London on May 21.

    Some free Tibet groups have called for the Tibet journey to be cancelled, fearing that Beijing will crack down on potential protestors or critics ahead of the June trip.

    The Dalai Lama says that he would be happy to go to the Olympic Games if Beijing invites him and if his hosts seem open to a solution on the Tibet issue.

    The day after the Dalai Lama's comment, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated its usual comments about the Tibetan spiritual leader.

    "But as far as we're concerned, if the Dalai really wants to do something positive for the motherland and for the Olympics, he must take concrete actions, really stop activities to split the motherland, stop plotting and whipping up violence, and stop activities to damage the Olympics," said spokesman Qin Gang at a regular press conference.

    The Tibetan government has called on international anti-China protest actions to pause until at least the end of May, out of respect to earthquake victims.

    An Olympic-themed protest action began in earnest on May 21, as the so-called Tibetan Olympics begin. Some 21 Tibetans – not necessarily athletes – are competing in four sports in venues around Dharamsala.

    "Tibetan Olympics is not being held to counter the Beijing Olympics. It is an initiative to let Tibetans join in the celebration of the spirit of the biggest international sports event," reads a statement by event organizers.

    A logo including the Olympic rings features on the website

    Written by Ed Hula in Beijing

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