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  • On the Scene -- IOC Rejects Criticism of China Reforms, BOCOG Still Can’t Answer Protest Questions


    BOCOG vice-president Wang Wei said "people enjoy more freedom" as a result of the Beijing Olympics. (ATR)
    IOC Rejects Criticisms of China

    Asked by a reporter if the IOC is embarrassed about China’s "manifest failure" to meet pledges over human rights issues and media freedoms, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies says the country has taken "enormous steps forward" since Beijing was awarded the Games in 2001.

    "We are very proud of the fact that these Games are progressing with spectacular sport and spectacular sports venues," she told reporters.

    "Operationally, they are running very smoothly.

    "The IOC’s remit is to bring sport and the Olympic values to this country. That’s what is happening. This is an event first and foremost for the athletes and the athletes are giving us extremely positive feedback about having these Games here."

    Davies was quizzed several times about the IOC’s position on China’s policies and reforms in a lively news conference.

    In the build-up to the Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge has sidestepped the opportunity to make any political statements about China’s human rights issues, preferring to concentrate on promoting sport and Olympic ideals.

    BOCOG’s executive vice-president Wang Wei says he faced many questions about the opening up and reform of China during Beijing’s bid.

    "China is developing quickly. People enjoy more freedom and people’s welfare has improved a lot. Everybody can see that," he says.

    "We welcome people coming to China to celebrate the Olympic Games with us. Of course we also welcome suggestions, constructive advice from all the people.

    "I think the whole country can see how China is progressing."

    Wang later came under fire for failing to deliver information promised on the number of protest permits approved and rejected.

    On Wednesday, BOCOG’s security director said he would provide details about the applications to protest in the three specially designated protest parks in Beijing. But Liu Shaowu did not appear before media Thursday.

    So far, it appears nobody has been approved to demonstrate in the protest zones, which are located far away from the Olympic venues.

    Wang says BOCOG is "striving to provide good service for the media", but now claims the parks are the responsibility of the public security authorities.

    "Our director of security did check but so far we have not received this information. When we have it we will let you know," he says.

    Croatians Rowers in Bus Smash

    Two Chinese citizens died and a Croatian rowing coach was injured in a crash between a van and bus near the Beijing Olympic rowing venue Wednesday.

    The Croatian Olympic Committee said the coach Dragutin Milinkovic was treated for cuts and bruises at a Beijing hospital. A Canadian anti-doping official also injured in the crash was treated and released.

    Australian rowing team doctor Greg Lovell was slightly injured in the smash which happened about 1km from the Shunyi rowing and canoe facility Wednesday. The van carrying four passengers reportedly smashed into the bus. Six people were traveling in the bus, including two Croatian athletes.

    Croatian rowers Mario Vekic and Ante Kusurin, a double sculls team, were not injured and there was no impact on their training schedule after the accident, BOCOG said.

    Wang told reporters that the van was at fault and violated traffic rules.

    Green Award for Olympic Village

    The U.S gives an award to Beijing’s Olympic Village for its environmentally friendly design and efficient energy use.

    US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson presented the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Award to Chen Zhili, mayor of the Olympic Village.

    Paulson said the venue is an example of US-China cooperation on energy and environmental issues. The US Department of Energy provided technical assistance during the construction phase of the project.

    "China's leaders know that the development of green buildings is a critical need, and
    IOC President Jacques Rogge visited the Agence France-Presse office during his visit of the Main Press Center. (Getty Images)
    the Olympic Village can serve as a model for this development," Paulson was quoted by U.S. media.

    The Olympic Village’s residential high-rise blocks housing 16,000 Olympic athletes and officials are said to be 50 percent more energy efficient than most buildings in Beijing, using solar panels for energy and recycling wastewater for heating and cooling.

    Live Sites a Big Draw

    Ruan Lanyu, of the Beijing municipal bureau of culture, says the 24 ‘live’ sites around Beijing have attracted about 410,000 since the Games opened Aug. 8. Ruan was at the live site at Ditan Park that drew as many as 21,000 visitors that night, including those from Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and the U.S.

    "It was full of celebrations and cheering. I was very moved by the scene," Ruan told reporters.

    Tiananmen Square will be the scene of some major cultural celebrations Aug. 15 to 24, BOCOG announces. Traditional folk music and dance competitions are among the events planned.

    Beijing by the Numbers

    BOCOG says 27 competition events were staged in 30 venues Aug. 13. Some 6,500 VIPs attended sports events. On Thursday, athletes compete for 17 gold medals in 23 competitions.

    Where’s Jacques?

    IOC President Jacques Rogge toured the Main Press Center Thursday before taking in rowing action at the Shunyi rowing and canoe park.

    Weather Report

    Heavy showers hit Beijing Thursday and humidity levels drop. In Qingdao, venue for sailing, light winds are forecast. Hong Kong is clear and hot for the equestrian events and Shanghai is hot and humid.

    Written by Mark Bisson in Beijing.

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