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  • There's A Tank At The Front Door


    08/13/08

    (Beijing) Armoured personnel carriers bearing 40mm guns were stationed outside Olympic venues yesterday lending an air of unreality to day four of Olympic competition.

    Journalists arriving at the Main Press Centre to begin work were greeted by the sight of a tank outside the main entrance.

    Another was stationed at the rear of the building and between four and six others were spotted around the Olympic complex.

    The authorities have also increased security around the Olympic village, temporary home to about 10,000 international athletes, and at the two media villages in which visiting journalists are being housed.

    However, they are refusing to give a reason for tightening security.

    "I'm not the person to deploy all of these," Beijing Olympic committee executive vice-president Wang Wei said when asked why military vehicles had appeared at the entrances to the press building.

    "It is meant to be protection, to safeguard the security of athletes and everybody. I have been to different games.

    "I don't think this is a surprise in Beijing." Asked by veteran Olympic journalist Ed Hula if foreign reporters should be concerned about their safety, he replied: "I don't think there is a real threat for the media, especially yourself. You are safe."

    Earlier New Zealand's chef de mission Dave Currie said armed guards had been stationed at the entrances to the games village on Monday.

    "We noticed yesterday that the Swat team had arrived," he said. However, Currie said the security was still far less obtrusive military than at Athens four years ago.

    "I don't know if you recall ... at the back of the village they had a line of Exocet missiles."

    At the media villages, journalists have been required since arriving to take a sip of any drinks they are carrying and to pass themselves and their bags through x-ray machines before boarding buses for Olympic venues.

    But now they are also being required to submit to the same security procedures when returning to the villages.

    Some have even been asked to open their wallets for inspection.

    In other developments yesterday, Mr Wang admitted that a Chinese journalist had had a tape recorder confiscated after attending a press conference held by the US men's volleyball team.

    He said it had been taken by a Games "volunteer" who wanted to know what had been said and returned it shortly afterwards.

    He also confirmed that volunteers wearing yellow tee shirts were being used to fill seats left empty by sponsors and other ticket purchasers at Olympic venues.

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