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stonecold316
04-11-2008, 01:52 AM
Eight months to fo, Beijing Olympics na.

stonecold316

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:46 AM
China starts Olympic year with bash, fireworks
01/01/2008 | 01:15 AM
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BEIJING – China kick started its Olympic year with a New Year party Monday with the country's biggest medal hope on hand to watch fireworks, singing and dancing at a countdown party.

The party, put on by the organizers of the Summer Olympics, saw Beijingers flock in the cold to the Millennium Monument, capping a year in which frenzied construction of ultramodern Olympic venues and other projects changed the face of Beijing.

A cheer went out from the crowd for Liu Xiang. As the Beijing Games get closer, public expectations have grown on Liu to repeat his gold-medal winning performance in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics Games.

All but one Olympic project, the ambitious 91,000-seat National Stadium scheduled to be finished by March, has been completed, officials said recently.

Scores of laborers worked around the clock to ensure timely completion of the projects – from archery ranges, to a swimming venue that is covered by a translucent, blue-toned skin, to gymnasium halls, dotted mostly around the north of the city.

Also at hand at the Millennium Monument, a circular raised stone edifice in west Beijing, was movie star Jackie Chan.

From January 1, there will be 220 days until the start of the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

A source of immense national pride in China, Beijing is spending an estimated $40 billion (€27 billion) to modernize for the Olympics. Attended by US President George W. Bush and an estimated 500,000 to 800,000 foreign visitors, Beijing will be under the world's gaze as never before.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said in a live television address broadcast Monday that he hopes the Olympics will be a platform for "promoting understanding and friendly cooperation between the people of China and the world."

The Games have also provided an impetus to a full-scale redesign of Beijing, with ultramodern buildings changing its centuries-old look. American soprano Kathleen Battle and Chinese Pianist Lang Lang played at the newly opened futuristic egg-shaped National Center for the Performing Arts on Monday evening, right next to Tiananmen Square – long symbolizing the center of power in the Communist state.

In winning the Olympics in 2001 China promised it would allow greater media freedoms, improve human rights, and clean up its environment.

But air pollution is still a worry for Beijing. The International Olympic Committee has said it might reschedule events if smog levels are too high.

Jammed traffic and the possibility of protests by critics of the communist regime are also concerns.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International, as well as media advocacy groups and others, want the IOC to go further and promote human rights in China in line with what they believe is the spirit of the Olympic Charter.

Statements in the past few months have criticized the lack of human rights and press freedoms in Beijing, which is also under fire for a perceived lack of action on pushing the Sudan government to do more to end the crisis in Darfur.

A series of arrests of dissidents this year, continued clampdown on free speech, as well as forced evictions of residents living on Olympic sites, have increased accusations China is not doing enough to come through with its promises.

More than 7 million tickets will be sold for the Beijing Olympics.

A series of test events over the last four months in Beijing mostly went off without a hitch. Successful test events were also held at Olympic venues outside Beijing, with an equestrian competition in Hong Kong and sailing in Qingdao on China's eastern coast. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:49 AM
Chinese distance star Sun Yingjie set to return from doping ban
01/02/2008 | 05:20 PM
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BEIJING – A Chinese long-distance runner who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs has registered for a marathon this weekend in what would be her first race after a two-year suspension, a race official said Wednesday.

Sun Yingjie, who won bronze in the 10,000 meters at the 2003 Paris World Championships, failed a urine test for the testosterone derivative androsterone at the Chinese National Games in 2005. Her two-year ban was upheld despite a civil court's ruling that another athlete spiked her drink with the drug.

She has registered for the Xiamen International Marathon on Saturday in southern China, said an official in the race's competition department, surnamed Chen, who refused to give her full name. Chen said she didn't know if Sun planned to race.

A recent report by the government's Xinhua News Agency quoted coach Tao Shaoming as saying Sun was looking forward to her first race but her conditioning level was not good enough to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.

The Chinese government has launched a crackdown on doping in the country, which is a source of illegal steroids sold worldwide. In November, China opened its first anti-doping agency and a state-of-the-art laboratory.

As host of the 2008 Summer Games, China is eager to avoid the embarrassment of one of its athletes being caught doping. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:50 AM
Sprinter Gatlin vows to fight for Olympic comeback despite doping ban
01/02/2008 | 08:12 PM
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LOS ANGELES – Sprinter Justin Gatlin got his doping ban reduced, but not by enough to make him eligible to defend his Olympic 100-meter title this year.

An arbitration panel, in a ruling released Tuesday, reduced the 25-year-old sprinter's potential eight-year ban to four. With the ban set to expire May 24, 2010, it means Gatlin would be on the sidelines for the Beijing Olympics in August.

But the panel left open the possibility of a further reduction.

The panel ruled Gatlin committed a doping offense when he tested positive for excessive testosterone in April 2006, but the sprinter's first doping offense in 2001 troubled the group.

If that doping violation were erased, that would make Gatlin's 2006 case his first offense, clearing the way for a further reduced ban. First doping offenses often result in a two-year ban, which would make him eligible to run in May, a month before the US Olympic trials.

"I'm a fighter and I've been a fighter from the very beginning and I'm going to continue to fight," Gatlin told The Washington Post on Tuesday. "I know in my heart I haven't done anything wrong.

"I have been robbed. I have been cheated of an opportunity to finish my career."

Gatlin has six months to appeal.

The panel called the circumstances surrounding Gatlin's first offense "the real dilemma."

As a 19-year-old competitor at the world junior championships, Gatlin tested positive for amphetamines, part of a prescribed medication he was taking for attention deficit disorder. Gatlin stopped taking the medicine a few days before the competition, but it didn't clear his system, according to the case records. He received a two-year ban.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport's world governing body, later reinstated Gatlin after he had served only one year of the ban but never specifically said Gatlin had "no fault" in the case.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) characterized Gatlin's reinstatement as a reduction in the ban whereas Gatlin contended it vacated the finding of a doping offense.

The panel said Gatlin could go through an appeals process to seek a finding of no fault in the first case or ask the IAAF for a clarification on its earlier ruling.

"The actions of the IAAF clearly suggest at a minimum, a finding of 'no significant fault' in 2001," the panel said. "However, there is no evidence from which this panel may determine that a finding of 'no fault' under the current WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) standard was made or could be inferred."

"No significant fault" would leave Gatlin still somewhat responsible for the positive test, and it would remain a first offense. A "no fault" finding would erase the offense.

The 2001 findings came under different standards than those in effect now because the World Anti-Doping Code had yet to be established.

A family member who said he was speaking on Gatlin's behalf told The Associated Press "the fight is not over for us."

"We feel we were wrongly done," said the man who answered the phone at Gatlin's parents home but declined to give his name. "He has a disability. The family is going to sit down. We're going to decide where to go next."

Gatlin's attorney John Collins did not return messages.

The ruling means Gatlin must wait to regain his world record in the 100 meters. He shared the record of 9.77 seconds with Jamaica's Asafa Powell. Since then, Powell has improved the record, finishing in 9.74 seconds last September.

Gatlin, who held himself up as a role model for clean competition before his positive test, has said he doesn't know how steroids got into his system before the April 2006 test.

Gatlin accused a disgruntled massage therapist of rubbing a steroid cream on him to trigger the positive test, but the massage therapist repeatedly denied the allegations.

The panel rejected that defense and noted Gatlin also acknowledged receiving an injection of what was purported to be vitamin B-12 from an assistant coach before the Kansas meet.

"We have no higher priority than the commitment we have made to clean competition," US Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said. "If that means leaving behind when we go to the Games an athlete who has the talent and ability to break world records, but has also cheated, so be it. That's an easy choice to make."

The panel noted Gatlin's cooperation with a federal doping investigation.

"While Mr. Gatlin seems like a complete gentleman, and was genuinely and deeply upset during his testimony, the panel cannot eliminate the possibility that Mr. Gatlin intentionally took testosterone, or that he accepted it from a coach, even though he testified to the contrary," the ruling said.

USADA general counsel Bill Bock said Gatlin helped federal authorities "in investigating doping in sport, to extent of wearing wire in communications with his former coach," Trevor Graham. Bock also said Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid investigation, testified about Gatlin's assistance.

"Mr. Gatlin should be commended for his decision to cooperate with authorities following his positive test," USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart said in a statement. "However, these efforts do not completely remove his responsibility for his second doping offense. Given his cooperation and the circumstances relating to Mr. Gatlin's first offense, the four-year penalty issued by the arbitration panel is a fair and just outcome." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:51 AM
Beijing to set up food safety monitoring center for Olympics
01/03/2008 | 07:06 PM
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BEIJING – China, which has been plagued by food safety problems, will set up a center to monitor food standards at the Summer Olympics, state media reported Thursday.

The Olympic Food Safety Command Center will tackle the task during the Aug. 8-24 Games and will deal with any food-related emergencies, Xinhua News Agency quoted Zhang Zhikuan, head of the Beijing Industry and Commerce Bureau, as saying.

Xinhua said food supplied for the Olympics will be checked against specific technical standards.

"Precautions must be taken to avert any trace of terrorist attacks on our food supply chain," Xinhua quoted Zhang as saying.

Problems in China's food supply are common, due to lax standards and improper use of chemicals, preservatives or drugs.

Such concerns were heightened last year after some Chinese food exports, such as seafood, were found to be contaminated with dangerous chemicals. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:52 AM
Beijing to clear beggars out of Tiananmen Square for Olympics
01/03/2008 | 07:16 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing has launched a campaign to remove beggars and unlicensed sellers from Tiananmen Square and a major street running through the center of the city in the run-up to the Olympic Games, state media reported Thursday.

Beggars and unlicensed peddlers will be fined and have their goods confiscated, Xinhua News Agency said.

The crackdown also will focus on Chang'an Avenue, the city's major east-west artery that cuts across the top of the square.

Tiananmen is a major tourist attraction and visitors are constantly accosted by beggars and people selling maps or fake goods such as watches.

Xinhua quoted Yu Hongyuan, deputy director with the Beijing city police, as saying the around-the-clock patrols were aimed at uprooting illegal activities and building a "harmonious, civilized and sound" environment for the Olympic Games.

Police already have started using sniffer dogs to detect fireworks and other explosive substances on Beijing's subway stations ahead of the Olympics, which start Augugst 8. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:54 AM
Tibetan exiles to march from India into Tibet to protest Beijing Olympics
01/04/2008 | 09:35 PM
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NEW DELHI – Hundreds of Tibetan exiles plan to march from India to Tibet to protest China's hosting of the Olympic Games, an exile group said Friday.

The protest is one of a series in India against the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, which the Tibetan exiles say comes despite China's continued attempts to subvert Tibetan Buddhist culture and strengthen Beijing's hold on the Himalayan region.

"The march to Tibet is an initiative by exiled Tibetans to strengthen Tibetan resistance by taking the struggle home," said Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

India has been a center for the Tibetan exiles since the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to there in 1959 after a failed uprising and set up his government in exile in the northern town of Dharmsala.

Rigzin said hundreds of members of his organization would depart from Dharmsala on March 10, the day Tibetans commemorate the uprising, and try and walk to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

He declined to give further details on the march, including the route they planned to take.

It was also unclear what sort of reception the marchers would receive from the Chinese authorities.

"The Chinese have said in the past that Tibetans are welcome to return home, so we are going to test that," Rigzin said.

The Tibetan Youth Congress, which takes a more radical line in its protests against China than the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government in Exile, said it had not consulted the Dalai Lama over the protests.

The group called on all Tibetans to use peaceful means to protest the Games and Chinese plans to have the Olympic torch carried through Tibet. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:56 AM
Chinese runner Sun Yingjie eyes Olympics after doping suspension
01/07/2008 | 05:12 PM
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BEIJING – Disgraced Chinese long-distance runner Sun Yingjie still hopes to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after recently returning from a two-year doping suspension, local media reported Monday.

Sun placed 10th at the Xiamen International Marathon on Saturday in southern China, her first race since failing a urine test for the testosterone derivative androsterone at the Chinese National Games in 2005. Previously she won the 10,000 meters bronze at the 2003 Paris World Championships.

She told the China Youth Daily that while ineligible for the marathon event at the Olympics because she has competed in only one of five qualifying races, she hoped to qualify for the 5,000 or 10,000 meters.

"I definitely will try my best to reach the qualifying standards," she was quoted as saying. "Now I need to slowly regain my form. If I can get back to my best form, I think I still have a chance to run in the Olympics."

The two-year ban against Sun was upheld despite a civil court's ruling that another athlete spiked her drink with the drug.

As host of the 2008 Summer Games, China is eager to avoid the embarrassment of one of its athletes being caught doping.

The Chinese government has launched a crackdown on doping in the country, which is a source of illegal steroids sold worldwide. In November, China opened its first anti-doping agency and a state-of-the-art laboratory. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:56 AM
Jamaica to strengthen anti-doping law ahead of Beijing Olympics
01/07/2008 | 05:59 PM
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KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica plans to strengthen its anti-doping legislation ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August.

"(The legislation) is a very comprehensive one and we hope to get it through (parliament) before the end of March," government medical officer Dr. Herbert Elliott said Sunday in a statement.

Elliott said that an anti-doping unit will be set up in the sports ministry, and Jamaica will establish bilateral arrangements with countries where athletes are based.

"Our athletes, while on the road, will be tested," Elliott said. "And if they violate the rules, the appropriate sanctions will take place."

Elliott also announced the creation of a commission – made up of representatives from several ministries – to keep banned substances out of the Caribbean country.

"I know of no doctor in Jamaica who so far has ever given an anabolic steroid injection to any of our athletes, and this is very commendable for a profession that elsewhere has sold its soul for big money," Elliott said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:58 AM
Venezuelan volleyball team makes Beijing Olympics, beating Argentina 3-1 in qualifying
01/08/2008 | 09:42 PM
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FORMOSA, Argentina – The Venezuelan volleyball team has advanced to the Beijing Olympics, qualifying for the first time after beating Argentina 3-1 in the South American elimination tournament.

Venezuela beat Argentina 22-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-16 to clinch a berth late Monday. In a runner-up match, Paraguay beat Uruguay 3-1.

Brazil, a leading volleyball power in South America, qualified directly for Beijing on the strength of its last World Cup performance in Japan.

Argentina and Venezuela reached the Formosa qualifying round unbeaten. Venezuela's victory gave it eight points, to seven for Argentina. Paraguay and Chile finished with six points and Uruguay with four.

Venezuela avenged a 3-0 loss to Argentina in January 2004 in Caracas, when Argentina qualified for the Athens Olympics.

Argentina's volleyball squad has participated in the last six Olympics and its best finish was the bronze medal in South Korea in 1988. Argentina can still reach the Beijing Games, depending on the outcome of a repechage at a qualifying tournament to be held in the next two months in Portugal. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 02:59 AM
RP has no invitation yet to Olympic boxing qualifier in Thailand
01/08/2008 | 10:15 PM
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The Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) has not received an invitation to join the Olympic qualifying tournament in Bangkok, Thailand.

This was bared Tuesday by ABAP president Manny Lopez who said that with or without invitation, six Filipino boxers will fly to Thailand in the hope of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics in August.

Lopez said that the Olympic qualifying event is set for January 24 to February 3 and offers Olympic slots to the gold and silver medalists in all 12 divisions.

"They will see our faces in Bangkok," Lopez said at the first 2008 session of the weekly Philippine Sports Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey's UN Avenue in Manila where he raised a dozen points that led to their controversial protest of the recent Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Thailand.

"Up to now, even if the deadline for the submission of the entries to the Olympic qualifying tournament lapsed last December 20, we have yet to receive an invitation from Thailand," Lopez said.

"But we will go there. We will bring in six boxers. If they don't let us in, there will be a bigger issue of discrimination which is against the Olympic charter," added the ABAP president in the session sponsored by Shakey's and PAGCOR.

Leading the short lineup, which will be finalized this week, are flyweight Violito Payla and bantamweight Joan Tipon. So far, only lightfly Harry Taρamor is assured of a slot to the Beijing Games.

After Thailand, the final Olympic qualifying tournament for Asian boxers will be held in March in Kazakhstan.

Lopez, secretary-general of the Asian Amateur Boxing Federation, defended the act of four Filipino boxers in the recent SEA Games where their surrendered to their Thai foes in the finals without throwing a punch.

Of 13 finalists (seven men and six women), only Annie Albania got a gold medal, by knocking out out her Thai opponent.

"You can expect a lot of fireworks in the coming days," Lopez. "And we are threading on rough waters."

Lopez recently wrote AIBA president Ching Kuo Wu of Taiwan regarding the SEA Games incident.

"He said he will look into it," Lopez said. Otherwise, we can elevate the matter to the International Olympic Committee."

The ABAP chief also cited the malpractices committed by Thai boxing officials during the SEA Games.

He said boxing equipment not approved by AIBA was used, resulting in numerous knockouts and injuries to boxers, and he questioned the fielding of referees who seemed to favor the host country's boxers.

"Where can you find a boxing tournament where a coach has one hand on a wireless telephone and an earphone while tending to his boxer? They were getting updates on the scoring that's why," Lopez said. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:03 AM
HK tries to ease fears summer heat will upset Olympic equestrian events
01/10/2008 | 07:02 PM
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HONG KONG – Olympic organizers do not expect other equestrian teams to follow the lead of Switzerland by pulling out of events at this year's Games due to Hong Kong's heat and humidity.

The Swiss team said Wednesday that it would not take part in the dressage event in Hong Kong because top rider Silvia Ikle was concerned about the stress of the weather and travel on her horse.

"We haven't been officially notified by the Swiss team, but we will respect their decision," Christopher Yip, media manager of the Equestrian Company, the body overseeing the Games' equestrian events said Thursday.

"We don't expect to see any other teams pulling out."

Hong Kong, which has a well-established racing circuit, was chosen to host the equestrian events at this year's Olympics, due to an outbreak of equine diseases and substandard quarantine procedures in mainland China.

But even the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which organizes horse racing in the Chinese territory and has invested about $109 million (€69 million) into building new venues for the events, does not hold races during the summer months, when temperatures reach 32 degrees Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) with severe humidity.

Organizers, however, said the weather in Hong Kong was not unique and that horses taking part in past Olympics in Atlanta and Athens faced similar conditions.

Most horses should be able to acclimatize within about 10 days, Christopher Riggs, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's head of veterinary services, said. "This is what we have advised, and this is what we saw happen in Atlanta and Athens," he said.

Yip said the dressage and showjumping events would be held at night, and that horses would be kept in air conditioned stables. He said they would employ misting fans, using up to 30 tons of ice a day, to keep the horses cool.

"We have taken this factor into consideration. There were no problems when riders came to try out the facilities in August," he said.

But many competitors and their horses did not attend the August trial and that has perhaps led to concerns that the horses will suffer during the hot, humid weather.

"If you think that your horse is in danger, or is going to die, then there's nothing anyone can tell you about the facilities that's going to make you change your mind," said one rider in the territory, requesting anonymity.

The Swiss team pulled out after world No. 4 Ikle said she would not risk taking her horse to Hong Kong.

The precision required in dressage and the finely-tuned temperament of horses in the event make it more influenced by conditions than the showjumping and cross-country events.

Peter von Grebel, head of the Swiss dressage team, told the Associated Press that "a stressed dressage horse simply can't deliver a top performance."

"In Atlanta we knew the situation, and it was extremely hot. I have to say our performance in Atlanta was also not optimal, partly due to the weather," he said.

Swiss dressage trainer Juergen Koschel resigned as a result of the pull-out, von Grebel said.

"As a professional, he doesn't see any sporting challenges for the coming year, and that's why he said perhaps there are other teams that need a national trainer."

The Swiss team will be replaced by another on the ranking list at the Games, Hong Kong's Equestrian Company said.

Approximately 200 horses will take part in the equestrian events in Hong Kong between August 9 to 20. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:04 AM
IAAF to decide on Olympic eligibility of amputee sprinter Pistorius
01/11/2008 | 10:32 PM
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MONTE CARLO, Monaco – The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) postponed until Monday its ruling on whether double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius is eligible to race in the Beijing Olympics or whether his curved, prosthetic racing blades give him an unfair edge.

It was the second postponement in a week after the world athletics federation first granted the 21-year-old South African more time to react to the findings of German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who conducted tests on the prosthetic limbs and said they give him a clear competitive advantage over able-bodied runners.

The ruling by the International Association of Athletics Federations, which is widely expected to go against Pistorius, was first expected on Thursday.

"The IAAF has now received a letter from the athlete Oscar Pistorius," the federation said in a statement. "The IAAF will not make any announcement on this case until Monday."

IAAF president Lamine Diack and the 27-member IAAF Council will assess that letter over the weekend.

Pistorius or his representatives were expected to make a statement on the issue later Friday in Pretoria, South Africa. The runner could still appeal any decision, including taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Pistorius worked with Brueggemann in Cologne over two days of testing in November to see to what extent the j-shaped carbon-fiber "Cheetah" extensions to his amputated legs differed from the legs of fully-abled runners.

Brueggemann told Die Welt newspaper last month that, based on his research, Pistorius "has considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs who were tested by us."

"It was more than just a few percentage points. I did not expect it to be so clear," he added.

Brueggemann and his scientists tested Pistorius' energy consumption and compared it with data of able-bodied 400-meter runners of the same speed.

The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting the use of any "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.

Ossur, the Icelandic company which is a leader in the production of prosthetics, braces and supports and also made Pistorius' blades, has said the blades do not provide an edge over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius has set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 in Paralympic events. To make the Olympics in Beijing, Pistorius would still need to qualify for the South African team and make the qualifying times.

Pistorius was born without fibulas – the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle – and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

He began running competitively four years ago to treat a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

Pistorius – nicknamed the "Blade Runner" – competed in the 400 at two international-level able-bodied meets in 2007. He finished second in a "B" race in 46.90 seconds at the Golden League meet in Rome on July 13 and, two days later, was disqualified for running out of his lane in Sheffield, England. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:10 AM
IAAF rules amputee sprinter Pistorius ineligible for Olympics
01/14/2008 | 10:56 PM
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BRUSSELS, Belgium – The IAAF ruled Monday that double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics because his prosthetic racing blades give him a clear competitive advantage.

The International Association of Athletics Federations had twice postponed the ruling, but the executive Council said the South African runner's curved, prosthetic "Cheetah" blades were considered a technical aid in violation of the rules.

"As a result, Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in competitions organized under IAAF Rules," the IAAF said in a statement from Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Pistorius, known as the "blade runner," announced last week that he planned to appeal any adverse decision, including taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Athletics South Africa said it would immediately apply the decision, further complicating Pistorius' future since he will not be able to set legal Olympic qualifying times in his own country.

"That's a huge blow," said Pistorius' manager, Peet Van Zyl. "He has been competing in South African abled-bodied competition for the past three years. At this stage it looks like he is out of any able-bodied event."

The decision was reached in an e-mail vote by the 27-member IAAF Council. The vote count was not disclosed but was believed to be unanimous.

The IAAF endorsed studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who conducted tests on the prosthetic limbs and said they give Pistorius a clear competitive advantage over able-bodied runners.

"An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30 percent) when compared to someone not using the blade," the IAAF said.

The federation said Pistorius had been allowed to compete in some able-bodied events until now because his case was so unique that such artificial protheses had not been properly studied.

"We did not have the science," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "Now we have the science. We are only interested in competitions that we govern."

Davies stressed the findings only covered Pistorius' specific blades and did not necessarily mean that all lesser-abled athletes would automatically be excluded.

The ruling does not affect Pistorius' eligibility for Paralympic events, in which he was a gold medalist in Athens in 2004.

"It's unfortunate because he could have boosted team athletics at the Olympics at Beijing, because he had the potential to qualify," said Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa.

Chuene said the federation would respect the ruling.

"There's not much we can do," he said. "It rules him out with immediate effect. We use the IAAF rule book. If we had our rules and our own competition, it would be easier. It is a huge problem."

Pistorius finished second in the 400 meters at the South African National Championships last year against able-bodied runners.

The runner worked with Brueggemann in Cologne for two days of testing in November to learn to what extent the j-shaped carbon-fiber extensions to his amputated legs differed from the legs of fully abled runners.

Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. He found that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.

The professor found that the returned energy "from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting."

Based on these findings, the Council ruled against Pistorius.

The findings are contested by the Pistorius camp.

"Based on the feedback that we got, the general feeling was that there were a lot of variables that weren't taken into consideration and that all avenues hadn't been explored in terms of coming to a final conclusion on whether Oscar was getting some advantage or not," Van Zyl said. "We were hoping that they would reconsider and hopefully do some more tests."

The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting the use of any "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.

Ossur, the Icelandic company which is a leader in the production of prosthetics, braces and supports and also made Pistorius' blades, has said the blades do not provide an edge over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius has set world records in the 100, 200, and 400 in Paralympic events.

Pistorius was born without fibulas – the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle – and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

He began running competitively four years ago to treat a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

Pistorius competed in the 400 at two international-level able-bodied meets in 2007. He finished second in a B race in 46.90 seconds at the Golden League meet in Rome on July 13 and, two days later, was disqualified for running out of his lane in Sheffield, England. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:12 AM
China outlines steps to monitor Olympic food
01/14/2008 | 11:03 PM
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BEIJING – Food for the Beijing Olympics will be highly scrutinized and supplied only by approved companies, China said Monday, declaring success in an aggressive food and product safety campaign following international criticism of Chinese standards.

The initiative that began in August led to officials yanking the export licenses of 600 toy makers, after several countries recalled Chinese-made toys containing lead paint and other dangerous parts, said Pu Changcheng, vice minister of the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

"Product quality and food safety are global issues," Pu said. "There is no end to the improvement of product quality and food safety so we need to work together to do a better job in the future."

China launched the campaign – part public relations drive, part crackdown – after problems were uncovered last year in Chinese exports. The campaign has also focused attention on the country's chronic domestic product safety woes, particularly as Beijing prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors for the Aug. 8-24 Summer Games.

"All the food supplied during the Olympic Games must be produced by accredited companies who have qualified for market access," Pu said. He did not elaborate on the requirements, but said it was the normal accreditation procedure for any Chinese food producer.

The food will be distributed from specially designated centers, and will undergo repeated inspections from production to consumption, he said.

Pu defended the safety record of Chinese toys, saying many failed safety standards due to design flaws or the changing regulations of importing countries. But after surveying 3,000 toy producers, quality officials pulled the export licenses of 600 workshops due to lax quality supervision.

"Even though the products they produce are based on the standards provided by relevant importers in other parts of the world, they need to take a second look at the safety standards to see whether the products are safe enough for consumers," Pu said.

During the recently concluded nationwide campaign, officials successfully curbed the use of nonfood materials or recycled food, and clamped down on the use of harmful preservatives and colorings, Pu said. Other progress included registering 98,000 food producers and stepping up efforts to create a mechanism to track food products.

But he said the country's many small food workshops remained difficult to regulate and often produced substandard food.

"This year, while we will continue to improve the overall oversight of food safety, we will take the overhauling of small food producers as a priority area and we will concentrate our effort to bringing order in this market," Pu said. "We will make sure that we can root out unlicensed small food workshops." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:13 AM
Aussie mining firm presents metal for 2008 Olympic medals
01/15/2008 | 06:18 PM
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SHANGHAI, China – The gold, silver, and copper for the medals the winners will be wearing around their necks at the Beijing Olympics this summer was handed over to the Games organizers Tuesday in Shanghai.

Australia-based BHP Billiton, an Olympics sponsor and the world's largest mining company, presented the metal to the Shanghai Mint, a monumental beige building on the banks of the city's famed Suzhou Creek where the medals will be made.

Billiton shipped the copper concentrate containing the 13 kilograms (5.9 pounds) of gold from its Escondida mine in Chile. The Cannington mine in Queensland, Australia, provided lead concentrate for the silver medals and the Spence mine in Chile contributed the copper cathodes that will be used to make the bronze medals.

Some of the raw materials were processed at Chinese smelting plants.

Altogether, the metal is enough to finish 1,000 medals for each gold, silver and bronze category. The same number of medals will be supplied for the Paralympics, which follow the Summer Games. Another 51,000 commemorative medals made of bronze will be awarded to all participants in both events.

Gold and jade – which signify respect and virtue in Chinese culture – are the two key elements in the medals, which incorporate traditional dragon design themes. The medals have a center circle inscribed with the Beijing Olympic logo, the five Olympic rings and "Beijing 2008."

The flip side of the medals carries a design based on the roots of the Olympics in Greece.

In the case of the gold medal, the inner circle is ringed by jade, supplied by China's remote Qinghai province, surrounded by a gold-plated rim.

Billiton has not said how much it is spending on providing the metals for the Games, but Clinton Dines, president of BHP Billiton China, said he was convinced that the company's support of the Olympics was a wise investment in "good will." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:14 AM
Opening, closing ceremony tickets for Beijing Olympics now require photo
01/15/2008 | 06:27 PM
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BEIJING – In another sign of tightening security for the Beijing Olympics, holders of tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies are now required to submit a photo to prevent the tickets from being sold or transferred.

The process of submitting photos began Tuesday with a deadline set for Jan. 31, organizers said in a statement. The photo and accompanying identification details will be matched with the ticketholder upon entering the stadium.

The requirement applies to residents of mainland China and any other ticketholder living outside China.

Organizers said the measure was being taken to "ensure security, eradicate fake tickets, control speculative ticket selling and safeguard the lawful interests of the majority of buyers."

Tickets for the two signature events are reportedly sold out at Beijing's National Stadium – known as the "Bird's Nest" – which is set for completion this spring.

In recent months officials have begun cracking down on foreigners living in China, hoping to keep potential protesters out of the country in the run-up to the Aug. 8 opening of the 17-day Olympics.

China's one-party government wants to use the Olympics to showcase its growing international stature, but fears the event might be seized by groups wishing to air political or social grievances against the government. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:16 AM
Fearing distractions and spying, China has Olympic athletes keep a low profile
01/18/2008 | 11:24 PM
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BEIJING – China will field about 800 athletes for the upcoming Olympics, and right now they are hard to find.

Trying to keep distractions to a minimum – and fearful that opponents might be spying – China is shuttering away its top medal contenders.

"It seems inevitable that I will see you guys less and less in the coming months," 110-meter hurdler Liu Xiang, the world record holder and Olympic and world champion, told reporters at his training camp a few weeks ago. Liu, who has sponsorships with Nike and Visa, rivals NBA star Yao Ming as the country's most visible athlete.

Expected to challenge the United States for the most medals and most golds, China is taking no chances and is hoping to keep pressure off key athletes in sports such as badminton, table tennis, weightlifting, volleyball, track and field, and swimming.

Deng Yaping, who won four gold medals in pingpong, said the pressure could be both a plus and a minus.

"Our advantage is playing in our home country and having a great level of support, which is a good thing," said Deng, who was voted the top Chinese female athlete of the 20th century. "The disadvantage is the great pressure from the fans."

In the next few months, many of China's top athletes will move to the heavily guarded, Beijing-based National Sports Training Center. The compound has a 24-hour guard composed of paramilitary police and Beijing municipal police.

"We are now entering a period of silence," said Li Yongbo, coach of the national badminton team.

Rain or shine

Experts are hoping to turn off the rain – and turn it on, too – this summer.

Chinese weather officials are predicting a 50 percent chance of rain for the opening and closing ceremonies (Aug. 8 and 24). However, as with just about everything else about these Olympics, the Chinese are leaving nothing to chance in a bid to stage perfect theater to showcase the power of China and its one-party state.

That's why more than 80 rocket launchers have been arranged from nine miles (15 kms) to 75 miles (56 kms) outside Beijing to seed threatening clouds and release their rain before it reaches the Chinese capital.

Creating rain in and around Beijing might also be attempted to clear the city's polluted air.

Chronically short of water, Beijing officials honed their rainmaking skills last summer. To make rain, technicians fire silver iodide or other similar catalysts at clouds to cause precipitation.

Authorities also used rockets and aircraft to disperse clouds before they reached Shanghai for the opening of the Special Olympic Games on Oct. 2.

The chief of China's meteorological administration avoided talking about specific preparations in a recent interview with state-run China Daily.

"It is unrealistic to speculate now on weather conditions for the Beijing Games and what moves we'll take then," Zheng Guoguang said. "We have the confidence and are ready."

Crackdown

Beijing officials launched a security operation last weekend known as "Action for a safe Olympic Games," which is designed to make sure that foreigners with grudges against China's government don't manage to enter the country and cause trouble.

Speaking to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Wang Anshun – deputy Communist Party chief of Beijing – said the operation would crack down on gangster-related crime, and tighten surveillance on venues like karaoke bars and bath houses.

He said the operation was aimed at guaranteeing "strict management and good social order."

"A comprehensive survey on rented houses and immigrant populations will be a major task," Wang said. "Foreigners who are found to have illegally entered, dwelled and worked in Beijing will also be included in the move."

The Olympics present a grand challenge for China's communist government, which is trying to maintain tightfisted control and also yield to International Olympic Committee pressure to give journalists open access in a country unaccustomed to transparency.


Volunteers galore

Beijing expects between 500,000 and 800,000 foreign visitors for the Olympics. They could be outnumbered by volunteers.

There's been a deluge of volunteer applications: 760,000 have applied for 100,000 spots at the Olympics and Paralympics. Just over 600,000 have applied for 400,000 positions as city volunteers, who will be working subway stations, bus stops and anywhere foreigners are likely to have questions.

"This shows that Chinese people love Olympic sports, and they want to participate in the Olympic movement," said Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee.

Visiting Beijing recently, US Health Secretary Mike Leavitt, who was the governor of Utah during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, said the surplus of volunteers bodes well for Beijing.

"The key is the volunteers and the people, that's what makes the Olympic Games work," Leavitt said. "It's the spirit of the Olympics that permeates everyone who comes."

Tidbits

Celine Dion will give a first public performance of a song she's dedicating to the Olympics on April 13 at Beijing's Workers Stadium." She sang "The Power of the Dream" at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics...

Olympic sponsor Johnson & Johnson is selling Band-Aids adorned with the five Fuwa mascots. The "Five Friendlies" of the games are a panda, Tibetan antelope, fish, swallow and the Olympic flame...
The National Aquatics Center – known as the "Watercube" – will have its first test beginning Jan. 31 with the China Open. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:18 AM
Fiji bans 8 Olympic soccer players over drinking spree
01/22/2008 | 12:09 PM
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Eight members of Fiji's Olympic soccer team have been fined and banned from representing the country for five years after leaving a training camp to go on a drinking spree.

Fiji Football Association president Muhammad Shamsu Dean Sahu Khan said the players would be fined between 10,000 Fijian dollars (US$6,400, €4,400) and F$18,000 (US$11,500, €7,900) and banned for leaving the camp at Lautoka without authority.

Sahu Khan said the incident occured on Jan. 12 while the players were in camp with the national team.

''Our academy rule is no kava, no alcohol and no smoking in the academy area,'' he said.

''Eight players jumped the fence at 10.30 p.m. and went away. They went and had drinks the whole night and came back to the academy 4.45 on Sunday morning. They will not be considered for any national commitments for the next five years.'' - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:19 AM
Beijing hopes to cut smoking in hotels for Olympics
01/22/2008 | 05:42 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing is working to increase the number of smoke-free hotel rooms available in the capital in time for this year's Olympic Games.

In a proposal by the municipal government, the proportion of smoke-free rooms in hotels will be raised to 70 percent, according to a notice on the Web site of the city's legislative affairs office Tuesday.

The anti-smoking initiative is the latest development as Beijing officials move to keep fans from lighting up when the Olympics open August 8. Legislation already exists that bans smoking in public places, but enforcement is uneven. Smoking indoors is very common in China.

Smoking should be banned indoors and outdoors in schools, sport and fitness centers, cultural protected areas, cinemas and other public places, the notice said. It should be banned indoors only at hospitals, government and private offices, and hotels and restaurants, as well as other places, it said.

According to the World Health Organization, based on 2003 statistics, 57 percent of men in China over the age of 15 smoke.

China banned smoking in taxis last October, but has not put in place a wider smoking ban for the city, despite promises for a smoke-free Olympics. The Beijing Municipal Health Bureau has promised to ensure no smoking in hospitals designated for priority use during the Olympic Games.

Beijing organizers have been under pressure to change people's behavior before the start of the Games. In recent months, campaigns have begun to stop people from spitting and teach them to stand patiently in line. Taxi drivers and hotel worker are also receiving etiquette and English lessons. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:20 AM
Belgian athletes will be barred from talking politics at Beijing Olympic sites
01/23/2008 | 11:12 PM
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BRUSSELS, Belgium – Belgian athletes will be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues during the Beijing Games. Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they will be free to speak their mind.

The Belgian Olympic Committee said Wednesday it would issue a strict code of conduct for athletes competing in Beijing.

"Not a single participant in the games will be allowed to give a political opinion at the Olympic venues (e.g.: competition sites and the Olympic village)," the committee said in a statement.

The committee also ruled that Olympic athletes would be barred from wearing any distinctive insignia protesting China's human rights record.

However, the committee said athletes would be free to talk about "issues that are personally relevant" outside the Olympic venues and during the six-month run-up to the games.

As the games draw near, the issue of human rights in China is increasingly prominent in the European media and several Olympic committees are pondering how to address the issue.

Last week, the Dutch government said China's human rights record must improve and that the Beijing Olympics should be used as an opportunity to press for change. China has already come out against raising political issues during the games.

In Europe, several activists have called for a boycott of the games to protest China's human rights record. Protests usually center on the treatment of the spiritual movement Falun Gong, which is banned in China, and activists defending the cause of an independent Tibet.

The Belgian committee said it was "utterly convinced that the games would have a positive influence on the social development of a country like China." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:23 AM
Beijing unveils 'cool' Watercube swimming venue for Olympics
01/28/2008 | 09:53 PM
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BEIJING – The "Watercube" swimming venue – an iconic, futuristic structure for the 2008 Olympics that looks like a building covered in bubble wrap – was unveiled Monday in Beijing.

Beijing Olympic organizing committee president Liu Qi and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong both dipped their hands into the competition pool and seemed satisfied at the brief unveiling ceremony. Guo even put the pool water to his lips.

Known officially as the National Aquatics Center, the Watercube has been dubbed the "cool" building of the Games because of its translucent, blue-toned outer skin that makes it look like a cube of bubbles.

Forty-two gold medals will be up for grabs at the venue during the Olympics, which start August 8. American Michael Phelps will be out to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals. He just missed the mark in 2004, winning six in Athens.

"There are many different buildings in the world, and I believe this could be one of the most significant sports venues," said Zheng Fang, an architect and chief of the design team for China Construction Design International.

The Chinese company collaborated with Australian company PTW Architects.

"The building is very innovative in how it appears," said John Pauline, a lead architect with PTW. "The aesthetics are cutting edge. In that respect it's incredibly unique."

The venue has 6,000 permanent and 11,000 temporary seats. Like the 91,000-seat National Stadium – the "Bird's Nest," which will be completed in March – both are seen as works of art and will anchor the Olympic Green area.

While some argue the gargantuan "Bird's Nest" could become a white elephant, the Watercube has been built for conversion to a shopping area and leisure center with tennis courts, a water park, retail outlets, nightclubs and restaurants.

"This building was designed for use after the Games," Pauline said. "We were looking at 30 or 40 years from now."

The outside and inside skin is made of a Teflon-like material – ETFE, or ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene. Composed of two layers, it's separated by an interior passage that allows the building to breathe like a greenhouse.

The maintenance could be complicated. At the unveiling it was clear the bubbles needed cleaning, soiled by Beijing's dirty air. Officials said this would take about a week and would be done periodically.

The exact cost of the building has been shrouded in secrecy, with estimates ranging from $150 million (€102 million) to more than US$200 million (€136 million). The original cost estimate was about $100 million (€68 million). Much of the building was financed by $110 million (€75 million) in private contributions from people in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The Watercube and Bird's Nest are located several hundred meters (yards) across from each other, situated on either side of a "sacred" north-south axis and promises to shift development. The venues are eight kilometers (five miles) due north of Tiananmen Square – the world's largest public plaza – and the Forbidden City.

There will be 37 venues for the Olympics. Beijing is the site of 31 – 12 new, 11 renovated, and eight temporary structures. Most are located in four clusters in the north of the city. Five more venues for soccer and sailing are located outside Beijing, and equestrian events will be held in Hong Kong.

The Watercube will host a test event this week. Though it hasn't drawn a top field, at least one swimmer can't wait to test the water.

"It's an important meet for me," said Swedish sprinter Stefan Nystrand, who competes at 50 and 100 meters. "I think it's great to be here since it's the same pool as the Olympics. I don't know why more top guys aren't showing up." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:25 AM
Olympic champ Meares could miss Beijing due to race accident
01/29/2008 | 06:38 PM
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ADELAIDE, Australia – Australian cyclist Anna Meares, winner of the 2004 Olympic 500-meter gold medal in track cycling, could miss a chance to defend her title due to a serious race accident.

Meares suffered a fractured neck vertebrae and dislocated shoulder in a crash during a track cycling World Cup meet in Los Angeles nine days ago.

The crash has put her Beijing Olympic selection in jeopardy and forced her out of Australian and world championship meets.

"I realize that I'm pretty lucky with the injuries that I have come away with," Meares said Tuesday. "The C2 vertebrae, so I have been told, is the one that controls all your breathing and if that goes, so too does your life."

Meares, who will be sidelined for about six weeks, sits fourth on the World Cup points table, with the top nine granted an Olympic berth.

With two Olympic qualification meetings to come, Meares, 24, could be surpassed by other riders – meaning she would need an exemption from world cycling's governing body, the UCI.

The UCI can award wild cards to riders, but only if a pre-qualified cyclist withdraws from the Olympics.

"If I miss out on points, I will have to continue training through and hope the UCI gives me that wild card," she said.

Australian track cycling head coach Martin Barras said Meares' Olympic selection "has been taken out of our hands".

"Where we had control of the selection process, now we don't anymore," Barras said.

"Considering the severity of the injuries, we don't want to mingle with her recovery with any sort of pressure with regards to qualifying or getting back into racing before she is fully ready – the severity of the neck injury dictates that."

Meares also suffered torn neck muscles, torn shoulder tendons and bruising in her fall in the kierin final in Los Angeles.

"I remember hitting my head and being in a lot of pain straight away, and the next thing that I remember was being on the bottom of the track being tended to," she said.

"When it's explained to you how severe the injury could have been, (I feel) fortunate to walk away with as little as I have got." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:26 AM
Ian Thorpe heads list of Australian torchbearers for Beijing flame
01/30/2008 | 06:42 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia – Five-time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe and runner Ron Clarke, who lit the Olympic cauldron in Melbourne 52 years ago, head the list of Australians participating in the Beijing Games torch relay.

"It is a great honor to be a small part of the torch relay," Thorpe said from Beijing, "in what will truly be an amazing event."

A total of 80 people, including past and present Olympians, will take part in the only Australian leg of the relay on April 24 in Canberra.

Thorpe won a record nine Olympic medals before his retirement in November 2006.

Other former Olympians taking part include Clarke, who carried the flame around the Melbourne Cricket Ground before lighting the cauldron at the 1956 Olympics, and marathon runner Robert De Castella, who competed at four Olympics.

Current Australian Olympians will be represented by swimmers Jodie Henry and Alice Mills and archery bronze medalist Tim Cuddihy.

Canberra will be the only Australian destination for the flame in what has become the world's longest Olympic torch relay.

Olympic organizers say 22,000 torchbearers will carry the flame on its journey from Greece to Beijing for the opening ceremony on Aug. 8. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:27 AM
NBA China to manage Beijing arena during and after Olympics
01/31/2008 | 05:56 PM
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BEIJING – The NBA has taken a stake in designing and running Beijing's Olympic basketball venue, during and after August's Summer Games.

NBA China – a joint venture of the NBA, broadcaster ESPN and Chinese companies – has joined promoter AEG and the Beijing Wukesong Culture and Sports Center to design, market, program and operate the stadium, NBA China said Thursday.

Basketball is growing in popularity in China, and the nation's top player, Houston center Yao Ming, is expected to be one of the Games' major stars.

The NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball are all striving to crack the China market, and take advantage of the nation's burgeoning leisure spending.

The glass-walled indoor stadium in western Beijing seats 18,000, sitting beside baseball fields that will be torn down and replaced after the games.

There had already been an agreement the NBA, the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee, and FIBA – the game's world governing body – to run the facility during the Games. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:30 AM
Olympic athletes look for a solution to Beijing's pollution
02/05/2008 | 12:01 AM
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BEIJING – Tyson Gay has heard stories that some athletes may wear facemasks at the Beijing Olympics, hoping to fend off fumes in one of the world's most polluted capitals.

"I hear a lot of people saying: 'You'll have to wear a mask, you'll have to do this or that,"' the 100- and 200-meter world champion said Monday on a visit to Beijing. "Everyone has to run in it. I'm not going to let something like that distract me."

Several American officials have said their athletes would not compete wearing masks, which would embarrass the host Chinese. Gay said he agreed with that line of thinking.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't do that (wear a mask)," he said.

Gay said he'll train in Hong Kong and might arrive in Beijing a week before the opening of the Olympics. He seemed convinced that Beijing organizers will close factories, stop feverish construction and ban more than 1 million vehicles from the roads to keep sooty air from staining China's highly polished preparations for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

He was, however, in the minority among a small group of elite athletes visiting Monday to inspect the facilities and do promotions for sporting goods maker Adidas, a major Olympic sponsor.

Several said they would stay away from Beijing until the last moment, choosing to train in Japan or nearby. Others will simply stay home, like Texan Jeremy Wariner, the defending Olympic and world 400-meter champion.

Haile Gebrselassie, recognized as the world's greatest distance runner and holder of the world marathon record, said he might skip the Olympic marathon and opt for the shorter 10,000 meters.

"The pollution is the most important thing," Gebrselassie said. "Actually, when we talk about the pollution, it's not only during the Olympic Games. What about the people here? They are really suffering."

He said he'd be training outside China and would need a few more months to decide about the Olympics.

"Compared to other events, the marathon is very hard to do here in Beijing," he said. "To run more than two hours in these kind of conditions is really very, very difficult. I'm sure the organizers of Beijing – they have to do something special for the marathon otherwise it's very difficult to run.

"Just to walk it's really hard, too."

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has warned several times that endurance events would be postponed if air pollution presents a danger.

Beijing has begun shutting down blast furnaces in the city's biggest steel company to improve air quality. It is also expected to enact temporary traffic restrictions during the games to ease traffic and reduce vehicle exhaust.

Ground-level dust, soot and industrial emissions mixed with car exhaust creates a gray haze that often blankets the city of 17 million.

Jana Rawlinson of Australia, the world champion in the 400-meter hurdles, said she'll train in Japan and arrive in Beijing on Aug. 15 – a week after the Games open.

"Our sports science people have said that you can't adapt to the pollution," she said. "You can adapt to the humidity and the environment, but pollution is not something your body can get used to. That's Australia's research. Whether it's the truth or not is up to different opinions.

"I am going to avoid it until I have to race in it."

She acknowledged the pollution might not be as bad as expected, and said some athletes are a "bit finicky." She cited a personal example to show the pollution may not slow athletes in short races.

"I ran in Shanghai last year and they let off fireworks right before my final, so I could barely see my hurdles and I didn't have a problem. The times didn't seem to be effected."

Wariner, who parted recently with long-time coach Clyde Hart, said he'll stay home in Waco, Texas, and arrive in Beijing the day before the opening ceremony. He said he'll skip a US training camp, likely to be set up just outside Beijing.

"I feel like I'll get better training at home," said Wariner, who is now coached by Michael Ford, a Hart protegee.

"I don't think the pollution is going to be as bad as some people say it will be," he said. "If it's going to bother me, it's going to bother all the other athletes. I mean the pollution is going to be there for everybody."

Teammate Allyson Felix, the world 200-meter champion, said she'd arrive in China two weeks before the Olympics and attend the US training camp.

"I think I'm more concerned about the heat and I'd like to just get adjusted to it and get familiar with it. I think the pollution is just something we're going to have to deal with. Thankfully, it's not for that long." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:33 AM
Olympic athletes choose Japan for training ahead of Beijing Games
02/07/2008 | 05:30 PM
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TOKYO – Japan is becoming the destination of choice this summer for athletes looking to prepare for the Beijing Olympics while dodging China's notorious pollution.

According to the Japan Olympic Committee, Germany, Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands have made arrangements for some of their athletes to train in Japan ahead of the Olympics and more are expected to follow.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest daily, reported that as many as 20 countries are looking to have their athletes train in Japan before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

Japan's proximity to China and its modern facilities make it an attractive place for athletes to prepare for the Olympics.

A flight from Tokyo to Beijing takes less than four hours and there are many direct flights to Beijing from cities in western Japan.

Sweden will set up a training camp in Fukuoka for 150 athletes while Belgium is looking at a training facility in nearby Kumamoto.

Jana Rawlinson of Australia, the world champion in the 400-meter hurdles, said she'll train in Japan and arrive in Beijing on Aug. 15 – a week after the Games open.

Rawlinson acknowledged the pollution might not be as bad as expected but still plans to train elsewhere.

"I am going to avoid it until I have to race in it," said Rawlinson.

Other athletes and officials were reluctant to publicly cite air pollution and food quality in China as reasons for training in Japan.

"We picked the same place where we prepared last year for the world championships (in Osaka) because we had a very good experience there," Eberhard Vollmer, a spokesman for the German athletics federation, said Thursday. "The climate is nearly identical, we can work off the jet lag and just the entire surroundings were good."

Vollmer said concerns over air quality in Beijing weren't behind the decision to have German athletes train in Japan.

Britain's swimming team, which took part in a meet in Japan last summer, will also train in Osaka.

"We chose Osaka for the familiarity of the area for the British swimmers and coaches and the quality of the facility," said David Richards, media manager for British Swimming. "It also has easy access to Beijing."

In attempt to curb air pollution during the Games, Beijing organizers will close factories, halt construction and ban more than 1 million vehicles from the roads. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:34 AM
Argentina still unbeaten in Olympic qualifying
02/06/2008 | 05:39 PM
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Argentina beat hosts New Zealand 3-1 in a men's Olympic qualifying field hockey match Wednesday to remain the only unbeaten team after four rounds at the six-nation tournament.

Both New Zealand and Argentina were previously unbeaten but, boosted by Rodrigo Vila's two goals, Argentina won a match which was regarded as a preview of Sunday's tournament final. The winner of that match will play at August's Beijing Olympics.

Lucas Cammareri put Argentina ahead with a 17th-minute field goal and they never relinquished the lead.

Vila scored his first goal from a free hit five minutes later, giving Argentina the 2-0 lead they carried to halftime.

Argentina sealed the match when Vila capitalized on a defensive error to score again early in the second half. New Zealand's only goal came eight minutes from full-time, when Dean Collier broke the defense from a free hit.

New Zealand must now beat France on Thursday to take its place opposite Argentina in the final.

France beat Trinidad and Tobago 5-2 to join the hosts on a 3-1 record after four games. Matthieu Durchon scored twice for France, which also got goals from Martin Genestet, Frederic Soyez and Gerome Branquart.

The Caribbean side, whose goals came from Wayne Legerton and Nicholas Wren, has yet to win at the tournament but has improved steadily since a 12-0 loss to New Zealand in its opening match.

Mark Gleghorne scored five goals as Ireland beat the United States 8-0. Ireland needed a win by 10 goals or more to displace New Zealand for its second place on the championship table. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:36 AM
British athletes must agree to avoid protests or gestures at Beijing Olympics
02/10/2008 | 09:25 PM
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LONDON – British athletes at the Olympics must sign a new clause in their contracts which prohibits making politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Beijing Games.

"The reality is, given the level of political scrutiny of the world's media on these games and the way China will handle them, the BOA felt it was sensible and proper to flag that rule to our athletes," British Olympic Association communications director Graham Mewson said Sunday.

The International Olympic Committee already has a rule which states that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

In January, Belgian athletes were told they would be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues. Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they will be free to speak their mind.

The BOA is making the change because China's government is widely regarded as sensitive to criticism over issues such as its human rights record and Tibet, Mewson said.

British athletes have been required to sign the 32-page BOA contract for 20 years before competing in the Olympics, but this is the first time such a clause is being added.

Mewson said the clause will not bar British athletes from "honestly answering" questions they are asked during interviews at the Aug. 8-24 games about "politically sensitive issues."

"An athlete who decides to lift up his team shirt to show a 'Free Tibet' one below it, that's very different," Mewson said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:38 AM
British Olympic chiefs have no desire to gag athletes in Beijing
02/12/2008 | 12:21 AM
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LONDON – The British Olympic Association said Monday it has "no intention of gagging" its athletes at the Beijing Games.

On Sunday, the BOA said it would require its athletes to sign a new clause in their contracts which prohibits making politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Olympics.

"Clearly (the instructions) had been misinterpreted and we now accept they may have been open to misinterpretation," BOA spokesman Graham Newsom said Monday. "But there is no intention of gagging anyone. We are trying to mirror what it says in the Olympic Charter."

Simon Clegg, the BOA's chief executive, admitted that the BOA's Team Members Agreement appeared to go beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.

"This is not our intention nor is it our desire to restrict athletes freedom of speech and the final agreement will reflect this," Clegg said.

While the clarification was seen as a backdown, Newsom said no such gagging order existed. He said the organization had not tried to put any block on free speech and had been under no political pressure from the government.

"The reality is that we have historically had a very strong independent views and we are completely different from government," Newsom said. "We don't take any government funding and we make our own views."

The BOA has sent out instructions to athletes headed for Beijing that they should abide by IOC-backed regulations which state they should not comment on any politically sensitive issues or take part in political, religious or racial propaganda at the Olympic sites and venues.

Newsom said these instructions had been in affect for at least 20 years and were sent out to those athletes going to their first Olympics who had not seen them before.

In January, Belgian athletes were told they would be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues. Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they will be free to speak their mind. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:39 AM
Beijing Olympic organizers say athletes to follow IOC's rules after free speech scandal
02/12/2008 | 05:57 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing Olympic organizers said Tuesday all athletes should follow International Olympic Committee rules governing political and religious activity, but would not comment on accusations that Britain had sought to gag its athletes at this summer's Games.

On Sunday, the British Olympic Association said it would require its athletes to sign a new clause in their contracts barring them from making politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Olympics.

Following an outcry, the association's spokesman Graham Newsom said Monday there had been "no intention of gagging anyone" but admitted that its Team Members' Agreement appeared to go beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Beijing organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide did not respond to questions about the British controversy.

"We welcome athletes from all over the world to come to Beijing for the Olympics, and we also hope they will follow the Olympic spirit and the IOC's rules," Sun said.

The British Olympic Association has instructed athletes headed for Beijing that they should abide by IOC-backed regulations that state they should not comment on any politically sensitive issues or take part in political, religious or racial propaganda at the Olympic sites and venues.

British Olympic officials said the instructions had been in affect for at least 20 years and that they were sent to athletes who had not seen them before because they would be competing at the Olympics for the first time.

Nevertheless, the British group's move drew strong criticism from human rights groups eager to use the Games to raise awareness of China's human rights record, free speech restrictions, and support for Sudan's government that stands accused of backing atrocities in Darfur.

"This affair is indicative of the lack of courage that characterizes some officials in the Olympic movement nowadays," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and anti-censorship group Article 19, headquartered in London, said in a statement.

"Such behavior ends up making the Chinese authorities look like victims with whom one has to choose (one's) words carefully. This is back to front. The victims are the thousands of political prisoners and the 100 or so journalists, Internet users and bloggers who are in prison solely for expressing their views peacefully," the groups said.

Newsom said the British Olympic Association had not tried to put any block on free speech and had been under no political pressure from Beijing.

In January, Belgian athletes were told they would be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues. Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they will be free to speak their mind.

Separately Tuesday, Darfur activists highlighted the Olympics in an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao condemning Beijing's support for Khartoum.

"As the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games approach, we will continue to call on the Chinese government for action," said the letter, signed by eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 13 Olympic athletes and 46 parliamentarians, along with celebrities including actress Mia Farrow and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

"We are aware of the tremendous potential for China to help bring an end to the conflict in Darfur," the activists said in the letter, which criticized Beijing's support for Sudan at the United Nations and said China's robust trade with the country was underwriting abuses in Darfur. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:40 AM
ATP will award rankings points for players competing at Beijing Olympics
02/12/2008 | 06:13 PM
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LONDON – The ATP will again award rankings points to players who compete at this year's Beijing Olympics.

The awarding of points is not new, but it is seen as a way to ensure that some of the top players in the world attend the games.

"The Olympic Games remain an integral part of our sport's great story and are a welcome addition to this year's calendar," ATP executive chairman Etienne de Villiers said Monday in a statement.

The WTA announced in July that it would award rankings points to its Olympians.

Points were also awarded at the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Athens Games.

The ATP and the International Tennis Federation also said the world rankings will be used as a guide to determine who gets the 56 direct spots in the 64-player field in both men's and women's singles competitions in Beijing.

Six of the remaining eight spots will be given out by the ITF's Olympic Committee, while the other two berths will be given out by the International Olympic Committee, National Olympic Committees and the ITF.

Each country, however, is limited to a maximum of six players, with up to four competing in the singles tournament and up to two teams in doubles.

"The 2008 Olympic tennis event will have the best quality field possible," ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said.

The Olympic tennis event starts Aug. 10, two days after the opening ceremony, and will finish on August 17. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:41 AM
Greeks race to replant burnt Ancient Olympia ahead of Beijing flame ceremony
02/12/2008 | 07:27 PM
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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece – White and purple flowers run riot among toppled temples at the site where the ancient Olympic Games were born 2,800 years ago.

But in the fire-blackened hills and river banks just beyond, a desperate race is on to replant large swathes of forest wiped out by massive summer wildfires that killed 66 people and ravaged southern Greece.

At stake is the image that will be broadcast worldwide during the March 24 flame-lighting ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Greek officials say the vast effort will pay off, and some 30,000 young plants will be in place for the elaborate ceremony, held in Ancient Olympia since the 1936 Berlin Games.

"We are working seven days a week, late into the evening," project supervisor George Lyrintzis said. "We have completed 75 percent of the work at an intensive pace, and the planting will be finished by the end of this month."

The ancient Games were held at Olympia for more than 1,000 years in honor of Zeus, chief of the ancient gods. Forests around the site were devoured in August by Greece's worst wildfires on record. Firefighters stopped the flames just short of the ancient ruins and Olympia's rich archaeological museum at this World Heritage site.

"A large section of the Olympic landscape was lost," archaeologist Olympia Vikatou said.

Over the past three weeks, Lyrintzis' team has planted some 22,000 tree saplings and bushes – aiming to recreate the scenery ancient travelers described more than 1,800 years ago.

These will include oaks – sacred to Zeus – cypresses, olive trees, poplars and Judas trees up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) tall, as well as laurel and oleander bushes.

"Most of the plants we are using are local species with the exception of 3,000 cypresses imported from Italy, as these have a higher resistance to disease," said Lyrintzis, a senior official at the state National Agriculture Research Foundation.

The 50 hectares (120 acres) being replanted include surrounding hills and river banks, as well as the Coubertin Grove, where the heart of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, is buried.

Landscapers had to compensate for two months lost to bureaucratic delays, which prompted Greece's Olympic Committee last month to urge speedy action if the country was to avoid "international disrepute."

A committee official on Monday said it was monitoring the works, but declined to comment on progress.

Vikatou, a senior archaeologist responsible for the Olympia area, said the schedule was tight but expressed optimism replanting would be finished by the beginning of March.

The work will cost some €2.7 million ($3.9 million), to be covered by a donation from the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, which is providing an additional €1.3 million ($1.9 million) for replanting around ancient Olympia by 2010.

In the March 24 ceremony, an actress in the white gown and sandals of an ancient priestess will offer a ritual prayer to Apollo, ancient god of light and music, in front of the ruined temple of Hera. The Beijing flame will be lit using a concave mirror to focus the sun's rays on a silver torch. If the day is overcast, a backup flame will be used from a trial lighting.

A relay of runners will then carry the flame for 137,000 kilometers (85,000 miles) over 130 days – the torch's longest journey in Olympic history.

Olympia was first inhabited in prehistoric times, during the third millennium B.C.

The Games started in 776 B.C. and were the most important sporting festival in ancient Greece, held every four years and lasting up to five days.

After Christianity was established, Roman emperor Theodosius abolished the festival in A.D. 394, deeming it pagan. The site again hosted an Olympic event during the Athens 2004 Games, when the shot-put was held in the ancient stadium. -AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:42 AM
Germans to stick with Olympic Charter, no extra restrictions for Beijing Games
02/12/2008 | 09:29 PM
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FRANKFURT, Germany – German athletes competing at the Beijing Olympics will not be under extra restrictions on expressing their opinions beyond what's already in the Olympic Charter.

"Our athletes are mature citizens who are aware of their responsibilities but who can speak their minds," German Olympic Sports Union spokesman Gerd Graus said Tuesday.

German athletes will be expected to respect the Olympic Charter, he said.

International Olympic Committee rules state "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas."

On Sunday, the British Olympic Association said it would require its athletes to sign a new clause in their contracts barring them from making politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Olympics.

Following an outcry, association spokesman Graham Newsom said Monday there had been "no intention of gagging anyone" but acknowledged that its Team Members' Agreement appeared to go beyond the provisions of the Olympic Charter.

Human rights groups have criticized the British plans.

In January, Belgian athletes were told they would be prohibited from raising human rights or other political issues at Olympic venues. Outside the sports venues and Olympic village, however, they would be free to speak their minds. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:42 AM
RP hires 2 Cuban coaches to help train Pinoy boxers for Beijing
02/12/2008 | 11:04 PM
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Two Cuban boxing coaches are on their way to the Philippines to beef up the country's preparations for the Beijing Olympics and the next Asian qualifying tournament in Kazkahstan.

The coaches – Juan Enriquez Steyners Tissert and Badoberto Rojas Scott –were lent by the Cuban government to help in the Philippines' Olympic boxing campaign, according to Manny Lopez, presdient of the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP).

Lopez emailed the credentials of the Cuban coaches to media outfits on Tuesday, the same time he made the announcement. He flew with Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Butch Ramirez to Cuba to arrange the agreement with the Cuban Sports Ministry.

"Kalakip po dito and mga bio data ng dalawang national Cuban coach na kinuha at magtatrabaho sa Pilipinas," Lopez said. "Sa aming pag-aaral ni Chairman Butch Ramirez, na aking kasama sa Havana, ay sila po ang pinaka magaling na puede nating makatulong sa pagpapayos ng ensayo at pag sasanay ng koponang national."

Tissert is a 57-year-old coach who started his career in 1972 with the Provincial Boxing Academy. He served as coach for Spain in 1992 to 1994 before serving Cuba as head coach from 1994 to 2002.

Scott, who is 41 years old, served as coach for the High Performance National Center of Cuba. He was pivotal in giving Cuba two World Championships gold medals – one in 1986 in Reno, Nevada, in the United States and another in 2005 in China.

Lopez said that the papers of the Cuban coaches are already being processes and they are expected to arrive in the Philippines before the end of the month.

So far, only Harry Taρamor has gained an Beijing Olympics spot.

ABAP send five boxers in the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, but all failed to join Taρamor. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:43 AM
Spielberg quits as Beijing Olympics adviser
02/13/2008 | 07:07 AM
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NEW YORK - Steven Spielberg is ending his involvement as an artistic adviser for the Beijing Olympics.

The film director made the decision Tuesday, hours after actress Mia Farrow and several humanitarian groups assailed him for working with the games' Chinese organizers.

At issue for both Farrow and Spielberg is China's close relationship with Sudan, where thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the Darfur region.

China buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports. In turn, China sells weapons to the Sudanese government and has defended Khartoum in the U.N. Security Council.

Spielberg had already sent a letter urging President Hu Jintao to use China's influence during the Olympics to help the situation in Darfur. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:44 AM
Spielberg pullout from Olympics a major PR hurdle
02/14/2008 | 09:32 AM
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BEIJING - Steven Spielberg was supposed to lend a little Hollywood glitz to this year's Beijing Olympics. Instead, the heavyweight director's rejection of a role in the Summer Games on human rights grounds stands as the event's biggest political challenge yet.

Spielberg, who won an Oscar for his 1993 Holocaust film ''Schindler's List,'' said he was turning down a position as artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies because China was not doing enough to pressure its ally Sudan into ending the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.

That decision drew praise from a slew of other groups critical of Beijing, boosting a months-long campaign by activists to spotlight the communist regime's human rights record.

Although not entirely unexpected, Spielberg's announcement Tuesday appeared to catch Beijing flat-footed. Neither the organizing committee nor China's Foreign Ministry had responded by late Wednesday.

Spielberg, whose 2005 film ''Munich'' dealt with the killings of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, had indicated as early as August that he might not take part in the ceremonies. Spielberg said he had given up hope that China would take a more aggressive approach toward Sudan.

China is believed to have special influence with the Islamic regime because it buys two-thirds of the country's oil exports while selling it weapons and defending Khartoum in the UN Security Council.

Fighting between government-backed militia and rebels in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and left an estimated 2.5 million displaced since 2003.

''While China's representatives have conveyed to me that they are working to end the terrible tragedy in Darfur, the grim realities of the suffering continue unabated,'' Spielberg said in a statement.

Spielberg was supposed to have joined a team led by famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. Yimou's representatives did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment. Spielberg had yet to sign a contract and had only visited Beijing once as part of Olympic planning.

In recent days, the US Congress and a coalition of Nobel Peace Prize winners, politicians and elite athletes have also lobbied Beijing over Darfur.

Actress Mia Farrow and other activists delivered an open letter addressed to Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Chinese Mission to the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

''How can Beijing host the Olympic Games at home and underwrite genocide?'' said Farrow, a UN goodwill ambassador, shivering in freezing weather.

Praising Spielberg's decision, Human Rights Watch said corporate sponsors, governments and national Olympic committees must urge Beijing to improve human rights at home.

China has repeatedly denounced what it calls attempts to ''politicize'' the Aug. 8-24 Games.

Yet it has been unable to turn back a rising tide of negative global opinion that joins concerns over the city's notorious pollution, snarled traffic and displacement of people for the construction of Olympic venues.

Beijing has invested billions of dollars and its national prestige into what it hopes will be a glorious showcase of China's rapid development from impoverished agrarian nation to rising industrial power.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said the IOC had not been involved in discussions between Beijing and Spielberg and had no comment on the director's pullout.

''This is a personal decision of Mr. Spielberg,'' Moreau said.

Leading sponsor Adidas, which is reportedly spending $200 million $200 million (€138 million) for sponsorship rights to the Beijing Games, also said it would remain uninvolved.

''We do not believe we have the political leverage that the campaigners attribute to us,'' the German sporting goods maker said in a statement.

China's state-controlled media carried no mention of Spielberg's announcement.

Despite the government's official view, Luo Qing, a scholar who researches China's national image at Communications University of China in Beijing, said the 2008 Games were destined to attract political controversy.

''The Olympics is not just about sports,'' Luo said. ''Politics will be even more prominent in 2008 because China is a political hot spot and, as an Eastern country, likely to cause greater misunderstanding.'' - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:45 AM
Top Chinese leader assumes Olympic organizing role
02/15/2008 | 11:33 PM
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BEIJING – China's leaders have appointed a rising national political star to head up preparations for this summer's Beijing Olympics, a further indication of their determination to prevent any blemish on what it sees as its international coming-out party.

Xi Jinping, the Communist Party's No. 6 official and likely future leader, was shown Friday on state broadcaster CCTV's main evening news program touring the Olympic stadium and other sites for the Aug. 8-24 Games.

The former head of the Olympic effort, Beijing party chief Liu Qi, was shown standing at Xi's elbow playing a clearly secondary role.

There was no official announcement of Xi's appointment to head the Olympic effort, although the move had long been rumored.

Six months from the opening ceremony, Chinese leaders felt the need to place ultimate responsibility for Olympics preparations in the hands of a top national leader with thorough administrative experience and a direct line to the highest echelon of power.

For Xi, the former leader of China's business hub of Shanghai, the task is a key test of his fitness to succeed Hu Jintao as party leader and president when Hu begins stepping down in 2012. Heading a successful games effort could help him clinch the spot.

Top officials are reportedly happy with Liu's work, but many view the move as a signal to the international community of Beijing's intent to spare no effort to ensure the success of the games.

While CCTV showed Xi expressing satisfaction with preparations so far, China's latest challenges have turned on its troubled record on human rights and media freedoms, rather than on its ability to provide first-class venues. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:47 AM
Chances of Kosovo competing as separate team in Beijing Olympics 'unlikely' – IOC
02/19/2008 | 07:07 PM
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LONDON – Kosovo's chances of fielding a separate team at the Beijing Olympics are "unlikely" despite the province's declaration of independence from Serbia, the IOC said Monday.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said Kosovo needs to be recognized by the United Nations as an independent state and meet various sports requirements before gaining Olympic status.

"At this stage we still have to see what that the UN decides," Moreau said. "It looks unlikely athletes would be able to compete in Beijing for Kosovo because of the very short period of time."

The Beijing Olympics run from August 8 to 24.

Five ethnic Albanian boxers from Kosovo are hoping to represent their homeland in Beijing.

Apart from UN recognition, Kosovo needs to have a recognized national Olympic committee and official ties with several international sports federations.

Once those criteria are met, the IOC executive board could endorse Kosovo's Olympic status. Final approval would come from the full IOC assembly.

"As we speak today, it is too early to say what will happen," Moreau said in a telephone interview from Lausanne, Switzerland. "It's quite early in the process. It's completely hypothetical. We will have to wait and see what the UN decides."

Short of full recognition, the IOC could allow Kosovar athletes to compete as independent competitors under the Olympic flag. Such arrangements were made previously for athletes from East Timor and the former Yugoslavia.

On Sunday, Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders declared independence from Serbia. Kosovo had formally remained a part of Serbia even though it has been administered by the UN and NATO since 1999.

The United States, Britain, France and Germany have endorsed Kosovo's independence declaration. Russia and Serbia are opposed, as are a few EU countries, including Spain.

Last July, the IOC granted recognition to the Pacific island chain of Tuvalu and the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, bringing Olympic membership to 205 nations.

Four athletes from East Timor competed in white uniforms under the Olympic flag at the 2000 Sydney Games as "individual Olympic athletes." East Timor was still under UN administrations following its vote in 1999 for independence from Indonesia. The IOC acted following appeals from then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

The East Timor solution was similar to the arrangement made for Yugoslav athletes to compete at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Yugoslavia was under UN sanctions at the time because of conflicts with its republics, but the IOC permitted its athletes to compete as individuals with no national affiliation. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:48 AM
Beijing Olympics will be a success despite boycotts – IOC chief
02/19/2008 | 11:29 PM
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MADRID, Spain – The Beijing Olympics will be a success despite the threat of boycotts and Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's decision to pull out as an adviser to the opening ceremony, IOC president Jacques Rogge said.

Spielberg rejected a role as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies last week due to China's link to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

"I hold much respect for Spielberg's decision and if an athlete doesn't want to go, I'll respect that, too. But the games will be a success, without a doubt," Rogge said in an interview published Tuesday in sports daily Marca. "The games are stronger than any one person."

A Dutch lawmaker, Joel Voordewind, is also calling for an international boycott of the opening ceremony, but Rogge noted that the United States' boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games to protest Russia's invasion of Afghanistan did not ruin the event.

"The most powerful man in the world, the most influential (then-US President Jimmy Carter) ordered a boycott and the games were still a success," Rogge said.

Rogge expects many heads of state – including US President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy – to attend the opening ceremony.

"All of the heads of state have said 'We will be present' and are not in favor of a boycott. Neither are the athletes," Rogge said. "I think boycotts are a thing of the past, not of the present nor the future."

Rogge reasserted that the International Olympic Committee would not tolerate athletes mixing politics with sport, especially on the podium.

"We don't want this to turn into a political demonstration. This is sport," he said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:49 AM
Beijing Olympic official says people evicted got generous compensation
02/19/2008 | 11:43 PM
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BEIJING – A Beijing municipal official has disputed claims that people evicted to make way for Olympic venue construction had been impoverished by low compensation payments, arguing the payout had been generous.

Zhang Jiaming, deputy director of the Beijing city's government's construction committee, on Tuesday said the payments had allowed people to buy better housing and some could even afford a car with the left over money.

He said 14,901 people – involving 6,037 households – were relocated to build the 31 venues in Beijing.

The figures are in stark contrast to an estimate in December by the Geneva-based Center for Housing Rights and Evictions, which claimed 1.5 million people would be displaced by the time the Games are held. The group estimated 13,000 people were being evicted monthly in preparation for the Games.

Zhang said his number represented only residents whose homes were on sites where venues were built and did not include other relocations brought on by highways, subways and the hundreds of skyscrapers being build to ready the city for this Aug. 8-24 Games.

Zhang spoke at a news conference at the new 18,000-seat Olympic basketball venue in west Beijing, which is expected to attract capacity crowds daily during the Games. The venue will hold its first test event in April – a women's basketball tournament.

In Beijing's rapid development in the last 10 years, complaints have been common from homeowners who have been moved away to make way for development. In many cases residents of older neighborhoods say they are not adequately compensated and are forced to relocate outside the city. They often accuse developers and officials of profiting on the deals.

Zhang said there were no forced evictions involving Olympic venues and that the average compensation per household was 700,000 yuan ($98,000).

He said many of those displaced were small farmers living in sparsely settled areas in north and west Beijing.

"The relocation projects went very smoothy, so there was no one forced out of their homes for the venue projects," Zhang said. "After resettlement we guaranteed a much better life than the past."

"With the additional money they could even buy cars for themselves," Zhang added. "I will tell you a real story – Some of the farmers became city residents and they got new jobs as cleaners and with the additional money they got their own cars."

He said renters who qualified were also compensated, but he gave no details, citing "very complicated" rules.

Reached by the Associated Press, a lawyer who works on family relocation cases said the government figures seemed reliable.

"The amount of compensation is reasonable," he said. "I believe the government gave a generous amount because these are reallocations that involve Olympic construction. It is connected with the stability of the society and the reputation of the government.

"I can't say whether the amount is very high. The compensation varies from area to area, and it also depends on the size of the house and how many people are in the family being relocated." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:49 AM
Kelly Holmes to run in London leg of Beijing Olympics torch relay
02/20/2008 | 12:33 AM
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LONDON – Two-time Olympic champion Kelly Holmes will run in the London leg of the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics.

Holmes, who won the 800 and 1,500 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics, will be one of 80 runners in the relay leg, which will be held April 6 in the host city for the 2012 Olympics.

London organizers only released the name of Holmes, broadcaster Trevor McDonald and actress Amara Khan in its initial list Tuesday.

Other runners are expected to be stars of sports, stage, screen and music as well as local schoolchildren.

The torch will start at Wembley Stadium in northwest London, the site of the 1948 Olympics, and finish at the 02 Arena, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, in east London.

The 02 will be one of the venues for the 2012 Games.

London also hosted a leg of the torch relay for Athens.

The flame will be lit on March 25 in Ancient Olympia, Greece. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:51 AM
IOC chief says Olympic body is no 'panacea' for political change in China
02/22/2008 | 12:41 AM
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – IOC president Jacques Rogge said Thursday that the Olympic body is not a "panacea" to bring political changes to China in the buildup to this year's Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee has come under pressure from political activists protesting China's policies on human rights, Tibet, Darfur, press and religious freedom and other issues.

"The IOC is a catalyst for change in China but it is not a panacea," Rogge said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It is a sporting, non-political organization and we cannot solve the problems of the world."

At a news conference Wednesday, Beijing Olympic marketing director Yuan Bin called on activist groups who oppose China's perceived role in Darfur not to put pressure on sponsors to withdraw their financial support.

Some politicians have even suggested a boycott of the games.

"I think it is unavoidable that non-governmental organizations want to leverage the business of the Olympic Games from China," Rogge said. "We believe the Olympic Games are a force for good but don't expect from the games what they cannot deliver."

Last week, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg backed out of his role as artistic adviser to the Beijing opening and closing ceremonies. He accused China of doing too little to end the problems of Darfur, a western province of Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died in conflict between rebels and government-back militias.

"If you organize an Olympic Games in general you know there will be criticism," Rogge said following a ceremony to award Singapore the right to host the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in August 2010.

"There has been criticism in Athens (host of the 2004 Olympics) and there will be criticism in (2012 host) London. That is part of the games." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:52 AM
Beijing airport beefs up security measures for Olympics
02/22/2008 | 12:21 PM
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BEIJING - Beijing's international airport will be installing high-tech portable bomb detectors as part of its security plan to combat terrorism ahead of the Summer Olympics.

Zhang Zhi, deputy director general of the airport police, said the new detectors will be able to warn of explosives in a few seconds, the English-language China Daily reported Friday.

Airport police have already been equipped with X-ray machines, anti-riot robots, and some bomb detection and disposal devices, Zhang said.

''But we need more and faster bomb detectors for the Games,'' he said.

Airport security is a major concern with tens of thousands of government leaders, Olympic officials, athletes and visitors expected to arrive in Beijing to attend the games.

Zhang said other measures will include setting up a security zone to prevent anyone from taking shots at aircraft as they take off and land. Traffic checkpoints will be set up around the airport. In addition, background checks are being conducted on all airport employees.

China believes terrorism is the biggest threat facing this summer's Olympic Games and has called for closer international cooperation to prevent possible attacks. China's generally secretive police agencies have sought advice on Olympic security from the US, Germany, Israel and other foreign governments.

FBI head Robert Mueller said during a visit earlier this year that China's security preparations for the Olympics were impressive and that his agency was lending its expertise on fending off possible terrorist attacks.

China has also boosted anti-terrorism training for its military, with troops focusing on biochemical and nuclear threats, and emergency rescue operations.

As part of a larger security sweep of the capital, Beijing police will launch a 39-day effort starting immediately to check the documents of its migrant population in order to ensure a safe public environment for the Olympics, The Beijing News reported Friday.

Migrant workers who do not have documents will be required to have a temporary residence permit. Those who don't could face a 50 yuan (US$7; €4.7) fine. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:52 AM
UK team has no concern about food for Olympic athletes in Beijing
02/22/2008 | 07:16 PM
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MACAU – Britain will not follow America's lead by importing its own food for athletes at the Beijing Olympics, a British sports official said Friday.

"We have no major concerns about the food in Beijing," Bernard Cotton, head of performance fort the British Olympic Association, told reporters in the Chinese territory of Macau.

The US Olympic Team has said it will fly in thousands of tons of meat and other foods for its more than 600 athletes staying in central Beijing for the Aug. 8-24 Games. US Olympic officials are concerned that food tainted with chemicals or other drugs could not only pose a health risk to an athlete but could trigger a positive drug test.

Cotton said catering facilities at the Olympic Village where the bulk of international athletes will be staying during this summer's Games are "of the highest order" and that the British team was not worried about contamination.

"One of the dangers of the Olympic Village is athletes putting on weight, not getting ill," he said.

Cotton said there was concern about Beijing's air pollution, and that "some" athletes might choose to wear face-masks, but no decision had been taken for the team as a whole.

He reiterated that British athletes would not be asked to sign any new agreements restricting them from commenting on political issues during the Games, other than what was contained in the International Olympic Committee's charter.

"We have no intention of applying any further restrictions than what is written in the IOC charter and what's in previous team documents," he said.

Amid criticism that it was gagging athletes, the BOA appeared to drop a plan to strengthen the segment of its agreement banning political comments. Cotton said the agreement would be exactly the same as the one signed by athletes for the past two Olympic Games.

"The (IOC) agreement is focused on creating an environment in which all athletes can concentrate on their performances and not be distracted by nonperformance issues," he added.

Cotton said about half the British team would be based in tiny territory of Macau and would travel to Beijing 48-72 hours before their events.

The choice of Macau had raised eyebrows in the neighboring Chinese territory of Hong Kong, which up until 1997 had been a British colony. Reports suggested Hong Kong's choking pollution had driven the team to seek an alternative, but Cotton said the decision was based more on ease of transport.

"A 25 minute drive from our hotel (in Macau) and our athletes can be at the most distant training facilities. Our experience of Hong Kong is that it's very busy, it's frenetic and it wouldn't produce the same coherent, compact operations," he said.

Asked if he was concerned that the athletes would be distracted by the plethora of casinos in the former Portugese colony of Macau – the only place in China where casino gambling is legal – Cotton was adamant his team would not risk their performance at the tables.

"They will be the most boring lot of athletes you have ever met. They will eat, they will train and they will sleep ... and they will go to Beijing healthy and rested from their experience in Macau."

The first of over 250 athletes, coaches and medical staff staying in Macau will arrive on July 23. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:54 AM
As always, political sparring will be feature of Beijing Olympics
STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Writer
02/22/2008 | 07:18 PM
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BEIJING – As much as Olympic officials want to focus on sports, the Beijing Olympics are sure to feature plenty of politics.

The International Olympic Committee likes to say the games are about sports.

The latest instance came after IOC president Jacques Rogge responded to Steven Spielberg's withdrawal as an artistic adviser for Beijing: the IOC is a "sports, not a political organization."

Spielberg pulled out because he says China isn't doing enough to pressure Sudan into ending the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.

Historians and political scientists contacted during the uproar over Spielberg's departure offered a long list of other games that were tied to politics: Berlin (1936), Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980), Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988). They probably could have added others.

Chinese-born historian Xu Guoqi, author of the soon-to-be published book on Chinese sports – "Olympic Dreams" – disputed the nonpolitical claims.

"As a matter of fact, the main reason for China to host the games is for political considerations rather than its appreciation for the games itself," Xu said in an e-mail. He teaches history at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

Despite Spielberg's withdrawal and threats of protests from human rights groups, religious groups and Tibet and Taiwan separatists, Xu said the games – in the long-term – will reinforce a positive image of China.

"By bidding for and hosting the Olympic Games, China obviously tried to project a positive image abroad as a peace-loving and respected power," Xu said. "At home, however, the message transmitted from the propaganda machine is that hosting the games is a glorious moment in Chinese history and every Chinese should present the best face of China to the world and help Beijing successfully host the greatest party, bringing honor to the nation and the Communist Party."

David Huang, who completed his doctorate at Bowling Green State University and works for the Beijing municipal government, said Beijing would try to control the political aspect of the games.

"The Olympic Games have been trying hard to get rid of politics," he said. "Unfortunately, the Olympics are a place that is good for politics.

"China definitely will not let political issues be involved in the Beijing Olympics, but some other countries will."

Writing in the Times of London, columnist Simon Barnes said China should brace for foreigners who oppose areas of Chinese politics or culture.

"By wishing the Olympic Games on itself, China has come into greater contact with the Culture of Disagreement than would otherwise have been possible. Beijing will be stuffed full of athletes and journalists who disagree with all kinds of things. ... Some will make a fuss about Darfur and executions and reeducation and so on, others will not. It's an individual decision."

Yosuke Fujiwara, the head of broadcast relations for the Beijing Olympics, has worked at Olympics since 1992. Fujiwara, who is Japanese, has been in Beijing for three years and said the Chinese government, Chinese people and the IOC have different ideas about what will constitute successful games.

"I don't quite understand what the Chinese people, the Chinese government and the organizing committee will use to evaluate if the games are a success," he said. "Will it be good looks, fairness, international rules or large participation by ordinary Chinese? This is a riddle for me."

And for others.

Air and marathon

Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie said a few weeks ago in Beijing that the Olympic race should begin at 6:30 a.m. to avoid stifling heat and humidity.

However, Liu Wenbin, deputy director of the Sports Department for the local organizing committee, said there are no plans to deviate from the scheduled start at 7:30 a.m.

Gebrselassie also threatened to skip the race, complaining bitterly about Beijing's polluted air. IOC president Jacques Rogge has said repeatedly that endurance events would be rescheduled if the air were too bad. Liu, however, said he knew of no contingency plans to reschedule because of pollution.

"So far our contingency plan doesn't have any relation with the air quality, only the bad weather," he said this week.

Asked if he was upset that growing numbers of countries are planning to set up training camps away from China, hoping to avoid the pollution, Liu replied: "It's their choice. We welcome them and it's their decision."

No foreign help wanted

Zhang Jilong, a director for the Beijing organizing committee, confirmed this week what everyone suspected: no foreigners will be among the 28 competition managers. All managers will be Chinese nationals, people who are likely to have grown up in the state-run sports system and probably are also loyal members of the Communist Party.

The IOC had been pushing for the Chinese to employ foreign experts, but lost the battle. This goes against trends in Athens and Sydney, where many foreigners were employed.

Zhang said 11 "candidates" had trained in Athens for several months to prepare for these Olympics. Being a competition manager can become a high-profile job if there is controversy with disputes being contested in English or French. The post could also be on the front line in the event of security problems.

"I am very confident in their competence," Zhang said. "I believe all of them will do a good job and play their role."

Zhang said the games would provide a "legacy" of Chinese who are trained in managing sports, many of which are foreign in China – like fencing, sailing and equestrian events.

Zhang's assistant, Liu Wenbin, said all 28 would have strong language skills in English or French and "none of these competition managers will have to resort to an interpreter."

Don't bank on it

The Olympics could put Chinese banking technology under stress.

Guo Ligen, vice chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, cautioned in a statement this week that an expected influx of 800,000 foreigners – and one million Chinese from outside Beijing – might overload the system that handles bank card transactions.

He said technology problems in the last year at five commercial banks "revealed the fragility of our banking information system."

"We can by no means bring the problems to the Olympics and spread hazards outside the banking industry," Guo was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Despite rapid changes, China is mostly a cash-based society. Credit cards came in to common use only about a decade ago.

Tidbits

Beijing's roads, Olympic venues and hotels will be decked out with millions of flowers during the games. According to widely published plans, 20 roads that lead to venues, 31 venues and 24 Olympic hotels will be filled with flowers by the end of July.

Shanghai is making its contribution to the Olympics: 40 female university students from the city will become medal presenters. The Eastern Morning Post in Shanghai reported that recruiting ends on March 10. Candidates must be 18 to 25 and of a certain height.

In addition, "appearance must be relatively good, features must be in proportion, there must be a high-degree of political awareness, a devotion to group consciousness and a certain degree of English." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:56 AM
Beijing looks to other provinces to help curb air pollution during Olympics
02/26/2008 | 06:55 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing is ordering neighboring provinces to reduce industrial pollution this summer to help clean up the Chinese capital's air during the Olympic Games, state media reported Tuesday.

Beijing and surrounding areas are being told to cut back factory operations and increase the use of technology to clean their emissions, the China Daily newspaper said.

It said authorities were hoping to avoid shutting down industries altogether in order to temper the economic impact. The full extent of pollution control measures, however, would depend on atmospheric conditions during the Aug. 8-24 Games, it said.

"The air quality of Beijing is definitely influenced by neighboring provinces and... we have made this move to guarantee air quality," State Environmental Protection Agency official Wang Jian was quoted as saying by the paper.

Concerns over heat, humidity and polluted air in Beijing have set national Olympic committees scrambling for ways to protect their athletes, especially those competing in outdoor endurance events.

Already, the capital has announced plans to shut down construction sites, gas stations and oil depots to reduce the amount of dust and harmful chemicals in the air, and has begun shutting down blast furnaces at the city's biggest steel maker.

Temporary traffic restrictions to ease congestion and reduce vehicle exhaust are also being mulled.

Beijing hopes the Olympics will also build momentum behind longer-term pollution reduction plans, including rules to reduce use of plastic bags and tougher standards for power plants and the steel industry.

Wang said more than 10 factories in Beijing and the surrounding province of Hebei that were scheduled to close over the next two years will now be shut by June.

The newly announced rules apply to Hebei and the neighboring provinces of Shanxi and Shandong, along with the coastal city of Tianjin and the sprawling Inner Mongolia autonomous region to the north, the report said.

It said reductions would be required starting in July, although other reports have said measures could begin taking effect as early as May.

Additional restrictions on vehicles, building sites and industry could be enacted in the event of bad weather, although positive forecasts appear to show those won't be needed, Wang was quoted as saying.

"As long as the plan is carried out properly, we will have no problem in meeting the standard of air quality for the Olympics and Paralympics," Wang said, referring to the games for physically disabled athletes that follow the regular Olympics. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:57 AM
Beijing's new multibillion-dollar airport terminal set for Olympics
02/26/2008 | 07:12 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing opens the doors this week to its latest Olympic creation, a massive glass and steel airport terminal with a graceful sloping roof that will welcome visitors to the Summer Games.

Fronted by pillars of deep imperial red, Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport boasts skylights that give it a dragon-like appearance.

The huge, airy interior will have 64 Western and Chinese restaurants, 84 retail shops, and a state-of-the-art-baggage handling system. A high-speed commuter train will whisk passengers into the city, while the runway is capable of handling Airbus' huge A380 superjumbo.

The terminal is a centerpiece project for the Olympics designed to relieve the overloaded airport's other two terminals and accommodate expected rapid growth in the number of visitors to Beijing.

The terminal is "a safe and efficient non-competition venue for the much anticipated Beijing Olympics Games," said Dong Zhiyi, deputy general manager of the Capital Airport Holding Co.

"We feel very proud of our nation," Dong told reporters Tuesday.

Six airlines will begin flying into the terminal Friday, while others will switch over from the other two terminals in March. The Olympics start August 8.

Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the building attempts to combine traditional architectural elements with up-to-date technology. Its red columns and muted gold roof are meant to evoke Beijing's imperial palaces and temples.

Dong said it took just under four years to build the terminal, its runway and most of the related infrastructure, a compressed timetable to ensure it was ready for the Olympics.

The floor space of the terminal and ground transportation center covers 1.3 million square meters.

The Games are a source of great pride to the Chinese, and Beijing has been turned into a massive construction site over the last seven years as it undergoes a $40 billion (€27 billion) makeover.

China's capital desperately needed a new terminal even without the Olympics, with double-digit economic growth rapidly outpacing infrastructure expansion plans. Dong said he expects the whole airport to receive 64 million visitors this year. That is up from 50 million last year and 20 million in 2000. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:58 AM
China dismisses call by Myanmar activists for Olympic boycott
02/26/2008 | 07:31 PM
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BEIJING – China urged an activist group in Myanmar that called for a boycott of this year's Olympic Games to have a "correct understanding" of Beijing's policy toward their country.

China's "good neighborly and friendly policy" toward Myanmar "serves the interest of the people in Myanmar and also in China," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Tuesday. China is one of Myanmar's key trading partners.

"The policy is conducive to the democratic process of reconciliation and peace in Myanmar. I hope relevant organizations could have a correct understanding of this policy," Liu said.

Pro-democracy activists in Myanmar called Monday for the world to boycott the Beijing Olympics over what they said was China's continuing support of Myanmar's military dictatorship.

The 88 Generation Students group, which was instrumental in last year's pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar, accused China of bankrolling and arming the junta and failing to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between it and detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party.

The 88 Generation Students joined a growing group of critics urging an Olympic boycott over complaints ranging from Beijing's human rights record to its failure to more actively press Sudan – where China is a major oil buyer – to end violence in the Darfur region that has killed at least 200,000 people.

Liu said China opposes any move to link the Olympics with politics.

"Our main concern is that the Olympic Games is a great gathering event of the Chinese people and world people and they shall not be politicized or boycotted under some political excuses," Liu said.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg quit earlier this month as an artistic adviser for the Beijing Olympics, saying China was not doing enough about Darfur.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962 and has not had a constitution since 1988, when the army violently suppressed pro-democracy protests and the current junta took power.

In September the junta crushed peaceful demonstrations that were triggered by rising food prices but expanded to include demands for democratic reforms. The UN estimates the crackdown killed at least 31 people, and thousands more were detained. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 03:59 AM
2 RP jins reach q'finals of Beijing taekwondo tournament
02/26/2008 | 10:47 PM
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Filipino jins Kathleen Eunice Alora and John Paul Lizardo reached the quarterfinals of the Good Luck Beijing 2008 International Taekwondo Invitational Tournament at the University of Science and Technology Beijing Gymnasium.

This is according to a statement issued on Tuesday by the Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA).

Alora hardly broke a sweat in getting to the next round of the women's 49-kilogram category after Dominican Republic's Yajaira Peguero was automatically disqualified for nonappearance.

In contrast, the 21-year-old Lizardo encountered strong resistance before pulling off a 3-2 win over Rodolfo Osornio of Mexico in the men's under-58-kg preliminary round.

Alora, a De La Salle University standout, will face the real test when he tackles China's Wu Jing Yu in the quarterfinals, while Lizardo will be meeting an unfamiliar face in Yang Dai Qiang of host China.

Lizardo escaped from an impending sudden-death clash with Osornio after the Mexican committed a decisive infraction. The Filipino drove Osornio out of the area of scrimmage, prompting the referee to deduct a point from the Mexican with 21 seconds remaining.

"My hunger for revenge motivated me to beat him," said Lizardo, who was booted by Osornio in the first round of the 2007 World Taekwondo Championships also in Beijing. "Now, we're even."

The Smart/Petron RP taekwondo team is headed by PTA vice president Sung Chon Hong.

Also competing in the tournament are Alex Briones in the under-80-kg event and Kirstie Eunice Alora in the under-67-kg even. Alora will see action in the Olympic test competition on Wednesday.

Olympic-bound jins Tshomlee Go and Marie Antoinette Rivero, who celebrated her 19th birthday on Tuesday, joined the 10-man taekwondo delegation as observers.

Coaches Raul Samson and Roberto "Kitoy" Cruz are handling the team. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:00 AM
Microsoft Phils donates P1M for Beijing-bound RP athletes
02/26/2008 | 10:56 PM
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Microsoft Philippines and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) announced on Tuesday their partnership to help the Filipino athletes at the Philippine Sports Association (PSA) Forums.

According to POC president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco, the world's leading software company is donating P1 million for the training of Filipino athletes to this year's Beijing Olympics.

"The POC is looking forward to a long-term partnership with Microsoft because it will be beneficial to both of us," Cojuangco said in the forum, which is held weekly at Shakey's on UN Avenue in Ermita, Manila.

Joining the POC chief in launching the partnership dubbed OlymPinoy were Microsoft Philippines managing director Rafael Rolland and marketing director Ivan Franco.

"We at Microsoft have realized that an athlete's skills go beyond sports," Rolland said. "They have the ability to move the hearts of their fellow Filipinos, inspire and unite the nation through sports. We are determined to support our Filipino athletes even after the 2008 Beijing Olympics and OlymPinoy is just the start."

The POC will decide on how the money would be spent.

"The board will decide," Cojuangco said. "But I guess it should be for the coming Olympics."

So far, 11 Filipino athletes have qualified for the Beijing Olympics which take place in August.

They are Miguel Molina, James Walsh, Daniel Coakley, Ryan Arabejo, Christel Simms, Sheila Mae Perez and Ryan Fabriga in swimming and diving; Tshomlee Go and Mary Antoinette Rivero in taekwondo; Harry Taρamor in boxing; and Mark Javier in archery.

Microsoft will also raise funds by setting aside a percentage from the sales of Microsoft products.

The pot goes to the Filipino athletes who can bring home the gold medal from Beijing, or divided equally among gold medalists. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:01 AM
China shocked, but still hopeful of Yao Olympic appearance
02/27/2008 | 12:46 PM
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BEIJING - Yao Ming's season-ending injury prompted shock and concern in his native China on Wednesday, though hopes remained high that he would recover in time for the Beijing Olympics in August.

The NBA star is the world's best known Chinese athlete and far and away the most popular sports star in China, embodying the country's collective hopes for global competitiveness and international acceptance.

While China is not considered a leading Olympic medal contender in basketball, the 2008 Olympic hosts see Yao as one of the faces of the games and are counting on him to lift the event's public profile, and draw fans and viewers from around the world.

''The only thing offering Yao Ming any solace at this time is that his injury will not force him to miss the Beijing Olympics of his dreams,'' leading newspaper Titan Sports said in a front page article.

The Houston Rockets and NBA All-Star center was ruled out for the season Tuesday with a stress fracture in his left foot, dealing a major blow to his team's playoff hopes.

While word of Yao's injury arrived too late for most Chinese newspaper deadlines, it was a leading item on the main national midday television news report.

Doctors blamed the injury on accumulated stress on the bone, rather than any single incident. Titan said the true cause was the Rockets' failure to provide a reliable substitute for Yao, forcing him to play long minutes every game.

''In fact, exhaustion was really the major reason behind Yao Ming's injury,'' the paper said.

Yao's injuries elicit major concern among Chinese sponsors and television stations broadcasting Rockets games, since viewership tends to fall dramatically when he is not playing.

A spokesman for the Chinese Olympic Association said it had no statement on Yao's condition and the Chinese Basketball Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Apart from Yao, the Chinese national team also boasts former Dallas Mavericks center Wang Zhizhi, the first Chinese player in the NBA, along with 2.11-meter (6-foot-11) power forward Yi Jianlian of the Milwaukee Bucks. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:03 AM
Athens gold medalist swimmer pulls out of Beijing Olympics
02/29/2008 | 09:48 AM
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BRISBANE, Australia - Swimmer Jodie Henry, who set a world record while winning gold in the 100-meter freestyle at the Athens Olympics, won't defend her title in Beijing due to an injury.

The 24-year-old Henry said Friday a muscle imbalance in her pelvic region forced her to withdraw from the Australian championships from March 22-29 in Sydney, which are doubling this year as the Olympic trials.

''It has been a very hard decision to make as the Olympics is every swimmer's goal,'' said Henry, who also led Australia to gold medals at Athens in 4x100-meter freestyle and medley relays.

''I have been struggling with an injury which has meant that I haven't been able to train as much as I would have liked, and as much as I have needed to, to be ready for the Olympic trials.''

Henry said she is not retiring. Doctors have told her that with the right treatment - a combination of exercises and physiotherapy - she could return for next year's world championships in Rome and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India.

At last year's world titles in Melbourne, Henry finished sixth in the 100 free.

''It's a shame for Jodie and a great loss to the Australian team,'' said Australian head coach Alan Thompson. ''She has become a great leader for us, both individually and particularly in our relay teams over the past six years.'' - Ap

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:04 AM
With Yao out, China vigilant over injuries to other Olympic stars
02/29/2008 | 11:59 AM
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BEIJING - With Yao Ming out of the NBA season, China's athletic officials are working hard to keep other Olympic stars healthy.

A foot injury injury to Houston Rockets center Yao has posed the once-unthinkable prospect of China's highest profile athlete missing this August's Beijing Games, depriving the Chinese organizers of their best known and most charismatic star.

While doctors say Yao may be healed by then, top Olympic officials said they were reviewing measures to prevent injuries to other top athletes. Hurdler Liu Xiang, the Olympic and world champion, and world record-holder, was receiving special attention.

''Yao's injury was caused by longtime fatigue. The same problems can occur in track and field due to over-training over improper arrangement of the practice,'' Feng Shuyong, head coach of China's national athletics team, was quoted as saying in newspapers Friday.

''We will try to give a proper workload to the athletes and do the best we can to avoid any injury,'' Feng said.

After Yao, Liu is probably China's best-known international sportsman, famed at home for being the first Chinese to win an Olympic sprint event in the 110-meter hurdles.

Like Yao, Liu has grown rich off commercial endorsements, making his physical condition a matter of prime concern for both fans, sports officials and international business.

Liu, currently in winter training at Beijing, is attended to by two doctors and an American specialist, Feng said.

Altogether, the Chinese athletics team has more than 30 doctors, with other top athletes such as women's hammer toss champion Zhang Wenxiu also entitled to their own physicians, he added.

Liu's coach Sun Haiping told the China Sports Daily newspaper that Liu was in prime condition and eager to get the season under way at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, from March 7-9. Sun said Liu's primary competition will come from Cuba's Dayron Robles, likely also to be his biggest rival at the Beijing Games.

Yao's injury was front-page news across China, drawing shock and concern from fans, athletes and state-controlled media.

While a course of treatment was yet to be determined, doctors say he won't be ready to play until July _ nail-bitingly close to the Aug. 8 start of the Games.

The 2.26-meter (7-foot-6) Yao, who was averaging 22 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season, was ruled out for the season on Tuesday with a stress fracture in his left foot, a stunning blow to the surging Rockets.

In a joint statement faxed to media, the China Olympic Committee and the State Sports General Administration wished Yao a rapid recovery and said they were willing to provide any assistance necessary.

''As to whether or not we will see Yao Ming in Olympic competition, that will be determined by the objective conditions of his recovery,'' the statement said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:05 AM
Yi Jianlian not ready to think of not having Yao Ming for Olympics
03/01/2008 | 03:23 PM
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NEW YORK – The Olympics will be the biggest thing that ever happened to Chinese sports. Right now, Yi Jianlian isn't ready to think about them.

Not so soon after the injury to Yao Ming, which could ruin the host country's hopes of showing how much it has improved in basketball.

"The Olympics is more than five months away right now, so I haven't really thought too much about that," Yi, the Milwaukee Bucks rookie forward, said on Thursday through a translator. "But I'm really hoping that Yao Ming can get better before the Olympics and participate in that. But he has a lot of time right now."

Yao will miss the rest of the NBA season with a stress fracture in his left foot. An expected recovery time of about four months would have the Houston Rockets center ready for the Beijing Olympics, which begin on August 8.

But any setback would likely put his status in jeopardy, which is why there is such concern back in China. Yi said he has gotten many calls this week from people who want to talk about Yao. Yi said he also spoke to his injured Olympic teammate.

"He just said that I've got to watch out for my own physical condition in the future," Yi said.

The Chinese aren't a threat to win a medal, and without Yao they would struggle to win even a game. But if he does play, China certainly can be competitive against some teams, as it proved two years ago in the world championship.

The New Jersey Nets' Bostjan Nachbar was on the court for one of Yao's most courageous performances.

Yao had 36 points and 10 rebounds to help China stun Slovenia 78-77 in Japan, a victory that advanced the Chinese out of the first round. Shortly after returning from a four-month absence following a broken foot and far from in top condition, Yao played all 40 minutes, dominating NBA centers Rasho Nesterovic and Primoz Brezec.

"He's definitely carrying that team," Nachbar said on Thursday. "He's obviously the main, main player over there, so it didn't surprise us that he had a good game."

When Yi spoke, he was one of many Chinese awaiting results of a second opinion Yao was seeking to determine if he would need surgery. In the meantime, Yi wasn't ready to think beyond that.

"All the Chinese fans right now are really caring about the results of the examination. What we need to do right now is wait for the results to come out and after that we can make a plan for what's going to happen," Yi said. "So right now, since everything isn't certain, there isn't really any point in thinking too much about 'what if' or what could happen." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:07 AM
Ancient Olympia ready for Beijing flame ceremony after fire damage
03/04/2008 | 12:38 AM
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ATHENS, Greece –Greece's culture minister says Ancient Olympia is ready to host a flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics on March 24, after heading a project to restore land damaged during deadly wildfires last summer.

Michalis Liapis visited Olympia and announced that more than 30,000 trees and shrubs had been planted in areas burned during the massive wildfires that killed 66 people and ravaged southern Greece. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:09 AM
Satellite navigation, army to help get officials, athletes to Olympic venues
03/04/2008 | 11:16 PM
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BEIJING – Athletes and high-ranking Olympic officials being whisked to venues this summer will get there with the help of satellite navigation devices – and some aid from the military.

Yu Chunquan, director of transportation for the local organizing committee, said Tuesday that an "unprecedented 8,000 volunteers" would drive many of the vehicles that will speed through Beijing's usually clogged streets using specially designated "Olympic lanes."

He said 2,000 additional "professional drivers" would chauffeur buses and other vehicles under contract to local companies.

Yu said many of the 7,000 vehicles designated for official Olympic use would have satellite navigation systems, preventing drivers from getting lost.

When pressed, Yu acknowledged some of the "volunteer drivers" would come from the military, a move aimed at covering any security risk for the highly publicized games.

"We know during the games that people in the Public Security Bureau will be very busy," Yu said. "So to my knowledge, no policemen have applied for this position. Yes, military men – some soldiers – applied to be drivers. They are volunteers. In the past Olympics, there have been some military men providing service."

Yu said the overall traffic plans for the Olympics would not be completed until the end of April. Officials are expected to ban half of Beijing's vehicles – that number will reach 3.3 million this summer – shutter factories and halt construction in the weeks leading up the Aug. 8-24 games.

Beijing is considered one of the world's most polluted cities, and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has warned that some outdoor endurance events would have to be postponed if the air quality were poor.

Last August, in a four-day test, officials removed 1.3 million private vehicles daily using a plan under which even- and odd-numbered license plates were ordered off the roads on alternate days. Officials said the plan was successful despite haze and gray skies during the four-day drill. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:10 AM
Interpol chief: No terror threat to Beijing Games
03/05/2008 | 03:39 PM
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HONG KONG - Interpol hasn't seen any intelligence that suggests a specific terrorist threat to the Beijing Olympics, but organizers should not let their guard down, the head of the international police organization said Wednesday.

Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble, speaking at a security conference in Hong Kong, said he was satisfied with the security measures being put in place for the Games, but officials should still be on the lookout for threats.

"I think prudence requires to recognize that it could be (a terrorist target)," he said.

China believes terrorism is a major threat to the Aug. 8-24 Games and has called for closer international cooperation to prevent possible attacks. China's generally secretive police agencies have sought advice on Olympic security from the United States, Germany, Israel and other foreign governments.

FBI head Robert Mueller said during a visit earlier this year that China's security preparations for the Olympics were impressive and that his agency was lending its expertise on fending off possible terrorist attacks.

China has also boosted anti-terrorism training for its military, with troops focusing on biochemical and nuclear threats and emergency rescue operations. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:11 AM
Beijing Athletes Village opens doors for sneak preview
03/05/2008 | 08:32 PM
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BEIJING – If you're a female gymnast, the apartments at the Athletes Village for the Beijing Olympics will seem spacious. If you're a male weightlifter, they may seem a bit cramped.

And if you're interested in buying one of the units after the Games, you will need something between $500,000 and $1 million.

Chinese officials opened the complex of high-rise apartments to media for the first time on Wednesday. Located about a 25-minute walk northwest of the two centerpiece venues for the games – the Bird's Nest stadium and swimming's Water Cube – the 66-hectare (163-acre) complex will accommodate between 16,000-17,000 athletes and officials. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:12 AM
China lowers medal expectations as Olympic pressure mounts
03/05/2008 | 08:35 PM
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BEIJING – China's sports authority is lowering medal expectations and offering counseling for athletes as pressure mounts on the Olympic hosts to succeed at August's Games.

Deputy Sports Minister Cui Dalin acknowledged that the Chinese public holds high hopes for their athletes to top the medal tallies in Beijing. On Wednesday, he offered a long list of reasons why that likely won't happen.

"We've got to take a pretty sober, objective view toward this. Overall, we're not a big sporting nation," Cui told delegates to China's main government advisory body, which is meeting this month alongside the ceremonial legislature, the National People's Congress.

Like China, the US has downplayed its Beijing medal chances in an apparent strategy to reduce pressure on athletes. Historically, however, the host nation has enjoyed a boost in the medal tally.

Although China was second in golds at the 2004 Games in Athens, it was a distant third in the overall medal tally, Cui pointed out. Chinese athletes are offered powerful inducements for winning performances, from entry to elite universities to lucrative endorsement deals.

In dampening medal expectations, Cui cited challenges ranging from rule changes to limited growth prospects in sports that China already dominates, such as diving, table tennis and badminton.

Meanwhile, China has recently fallen further behind top nations in medal-rich sports such as athletics and swimming which hold the key to topping the tallies.

"I just don't see much hope" in swimming and athletics, Cui said. "We're just too far behind."

The cancellation of some events in fencing, cycling, and athletics have also eliminated some medal chances.

China is also weak in the three popular balls sports: soccer – "very disappointing," Cui said; basketball – "not so good"; and volleyball – "only the women show much promise."

"In the competition altogether, the United States and Russia are still well above our level," Cui said.

Athletes are under pressure from the public, with invasive, often inaccurate Chinese media coverage making things worse, Cui said. Sports authorities were ramping-up athletes' mental and emotional preparations by hiring psychologists to provide counseling, he said, without giving details.

Sports psychology remains largely unknown in China, with most coaches merely telling their athletes to "chi ku," or "eat bitterness."

In one bright spot, Cui said authorities were cheered by news that NBA All Star center Yao Ming was expected to be fit to play for China despite suffering a season-ending foot injury. He said the scare had prompted Chinese coaches to redouble efforts to prevent player injuries.

Cui laughed, however, when asked to offer a prediction for China's medal haul.

"The beautiful thing about athletic competition is that you never know the result until the competition is over," he said.

In his address to the National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao said the Games will boost China's development.

"We will prepare for and organize the Games well, strengthen cooperation with the international community, and create an excellent environment to ensure that the Games are a unique, well-run sporting event," Wen said Wednesday. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:13 AM
IAAF junks new tests of amputee sprinter Pistorius to get Olympic entry
03/05/2008 | 11:06 PM
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VALENCIA, Spain – Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius claims new tests on his prosthetic racing limbs contradict an earlier study which led the IAAF to declare him ineligible for the Olympics. The IAAF, however, doesn't accept the new findings.

"It is one thing when you do a laboratory test where you agree the protocols and witnessing, and another thing when you don't," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "It is really not up to us to judge because we have already made a decision."

Based on tests performed by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, the International Association of Athletics Federations ruled in January that Pistorius is ineligible to run in the Beijing Olympics – or any other sanctioned able-bodied competitions – because the South African's "Cheetah" j-shaped blades are "technical aids" that give him a clear advantage.

But Pistorius commissioned his own tests last month in Houston, Texas, and contends they produced sharply different results which could boost his chance of competing in Beijing after all.

"I am very optimistic as to the results, they were very positive," Pistorius told the AP in South Africa. "Some were very different to the results from the tests in Germany."

Pistorius also spoke in a television documentary to be aired Wednesday in Britain on channel Five.

"I'm really excited for the outcome," he said in the program. "I am still hoping that I can make the cutoff to qualify for the Olympic Games but time is tight, and I only have until mid-June I think and I haven't had any able-bodied races."

Davies said the IAAF was sticking to the results of the German study.

"We would stand by what Brueggemann did," he said. "And, as we say repeatedly, on the basis that he agreed on that protocol. He witnessed it, we witnessed it. So going off and doing testing – who knows where and who knows what – is not the same."

Pistorius had already appealed the IAAF ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The results of the new tests will form an "integral" part of his case before CAS, said Pistorius' lawyer, Rajen Ranchhoojee.

Ranchhoojee declined to say who conducted the new tests or give any details of the results. He said the Pistorius group did not want to jeopardize his appeal, antagonize the court or create any "sense of expectation."

"We have two parties here and what we need is some objective arbitrators to make a decision," the lawyer said. "They will analyze the tests and make a decision. Whether the tests are done under the IAAF or independently or under the guise of the court doesn't matter, what matters are the results.

"We will do as much as possible to help Oscar achieve his goal (of competing in the Olympics). Our belief is that Oscar's blades do not give him an advantage and we hope the court will come to the same conclusion."

The Brueggemann tests found that Pistorius' blades gave him a demonstrable mechanical advantage – more than 30 percent – when compared to someone not using the blades.

Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able-bodied runners on about a quarter less energy.

Pistorius was born without fibulas – the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle – and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee. He began running competitively to treat a rugby injury, and won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

Pistorius finished second in the 400 meters at the South African national championships last year against able-bodied runners. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:14 AM
Injury ends Filipino pug's Beijing Olympics dream
03/06/2008 | 03:21 PM
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MANILA, Philippines - The end has come for Filipino light-flyweight Violito Payla's Olympic dreams, at least for now.

In a statement released Thursday, Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) president Manny Lopez said the Doha Asian Games gold medalist was advised by doctors not to participate in the 2nd and last Asian Olympic boxing qualifying in Kazakhstan.

"It is with deep sadness that the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (ABAP) would like to announce that light-flyweight Violito Payla, Doha Asian Games gold medalist, will no longer be able to compete in the 2nd and final Asian Olympic boxing qualifying in Kazakhstan this month," Lopez said.

ABAP made the decision on Thursday after receiving a letter from Dr. Raul Canlas, chief of the Philippine Center for Sports Medicine, stating that the boxer's shoulder injury will not heal in time for a full training for the coming Olympic qualifier.

Canlas said that Payla could only go back to the gym after a month. However, the reason as to how Payla sustained the injury was not mentioned in the statement.

The ABAP president also revealed in the statement that the PCSM found Payla to be suffering from a "partial, torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder."

"Despite this unfortunate event, ABAP remains confident that the country will be able to send more boxers to Beijing after the Kazakhstan qualifying. We continue to hold high hopes that our team will carry the flag proudly in Kazakhstan," Lopez said.

As of this posting, the coaching staff, now headed by Cuban coach Enrique Steyners Tissert, is studying as to who will take over Payla's place in the national training pool based in Baguio City. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:15 AM
Beijing to pay car owners, won't ban migrants during Olympics
03/08/2008 | 04:00 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing will compensate car owners barred from driving on city streets during the Olympics and will not totally ban migrants, state media reported Saturday, in signs the government wants to take some of the sting out of restrictions planned for the August games.

The government is working on a compensation scheme for car owners during the Games when private cars will be restricted to driving every other day, newspapers and television reports said, citing remarks by Vice Mayor Ji Lin.

Ji acknowledged that the city was tightening controls on the swarms of rural migrants in China's capital by stepping up inspections of the permits residents are supposed to have.

But "during the Beijing Olympics we will absolutely not restrict outsiders from entering the capital," Ji was quoted as saying at a legislative meeting Friday.

The measures, Ji said, are intended to help Beijing clear away air pollution and traffic congestion — among the thorniest logistical problems Beijing confronts in hosting the games.

Beijing ranks among China's most polluted cities and is regularly shrouded in a brown smog made worse by swelling ranks of private cars and a metropolitan area population that has soared to 17 million. With only five months before the August 8 opening, Beijing is under pressure from athletes and the International Olympic Committee to drastically improve air quality.

At the same time, Beijing's efforts to soften the Olympic restrictions show how carefully the authoritarian communist government must tread as people grow wealthier and more aware of their rights.

Private cars account for an increasing share of Beijing's 3.3 million vehicles, most of them bought in the past five years by a rapidly rising middle class. During a tryout of Olympic traffic restrictions last August, private car owners mostly complied but not without grumbling that their rights to drive were being infringed.

Reports of Vice Mayor Ji's remarks stressed that the new traffic measures are designed to be fair. Ji said the city would use an odd and even license plate system to keep half the cars off the road each day and promised that the restrictions would be lifted once the Games are over.

Ji said details of the compensation are being worked out. Speculation in local media has said that motorists might be given rebates on the road taxes paid annually to obtain a car permit.

Aside from a demanding middle class, Beijing is also under pressure from the International Olympic Committee not to impose heavy-handed security measures.

Migrants from elsewhere in China who have flocked to Beijing in recent years to take part in an Olympic-fueled building boom have complained in recent weeks about police checks to see if they have temporary residence permits. Police have also routed vagrants and beggars in recent months.

Ji defended the inspections as necessary for security. He said the government would make sure that migrants have access to city services and the indigent would be provided with assistance. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:16 AM
China making progress to clean air ahead of summer Olympics – IOC chief
03/09/2008 | 11:59 AM
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SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan – IOC president Jacques Rogge is optimistic about China's efforts to tackle air pollution ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Rogge said Saturday that Beijing is making big strides in clearing up its notoriously bad air quality, which has been a major concern for both the International Olympic Committee and leading athletes. In an interview with the Associated Press, Rogge also reiterated his stance that the IOC should not be pressuring China about its human rights record, and praised the growing number of women who will compete in games.

Rogge has previously warned that some endurance events at the Olympics might be postponed if the air quality is poor, but said he hoped much of the pollution will be cleaned up when the games start in August.

"We will see that they have made major progress," Rogge said on the sidelines of the Fourth IOC World Conference on Women and Sport.

Because of the pollution concerns, dozens of countries are basing their training camps outside China, with athletes opting to enter Beijing just before their events begin. Some athletes, like marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, have said they may skip the event because of health concerns.

Rogge pointed to Chinese measures that include switching from coal to gas energy, closing 10 percent of its gas stations, shutting down polluting steel mills and planting millions of trees between the Gobi Desert and Beijing.

But the Olympic boss again refused to comment on China's human rights record — even though athletes like Dutch Olympic swimming champion Pieter van den Hoogenband have pressed him to express his stance.

"We're not a political organization," Rogge said. "There are organizations that are far more knowledgeable and powerful than we are to move on the political front. We support the causes for the improvement of human rights, but the IOC is not the body to solve all the problems of the world. We are there to organize sport and we should stay within our role."

The conference in Jordan focused on boosting women's participation in the Olympics and other sporting events, and Rogge said he was pleased that more female athletes than ever will compete in the Beijing Games. Some 45-percent of the 10,500 participants — almost 5,000 — will be women.

"It's much more than in the past," Rogge said.

Rogge also revealed the winners of the 2008 Women and Sport Trophy, which included overall winner Datuk Seri Avalina Othman Said from Malaysia, Abby Hoffman of Canada and Lingwei Li of China. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:17 AM
New Zealand clinches Oceania Olympic berth
03/09/2008 | 01:47 PM
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand clinched the Oceania regional nomination for the Beijing Olympic men's soccer tournament when it beat the Cook Islands 8-0 in a qualifying match at Lautoka, Fiji on Sunday.

The win gave New Zealand a clean sweep of the round-robin qualifying tournament with earlier wins over the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

New Zealand finished the tournament with 19 goals for and three against, well ahead of the second-placed Solomon Islands, which it beat 2-0 on Friday.

"The pressure was off a bit," coach Stu Jacobs said of Sunday's win.

"We were always going to win this match, it was just a case of how many. But you still have to maintain your professionalism and the lads certainly did that today."

New Zealand's participation in the 16-team Olympic men's soccer tournament still has to be ratified by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

The New Zealand women's team Saturday sealed its Oceania nomination for Beijing with a 2-0 win over Papua New Guinea.

A representative of Soccer New Zealand will meet with the New Zealand Olympic selectors in the near future to put the case for the men's and women's teams' selection for Beijing.

New Zealand's selection criteria usually require teams or individuals to be able to finish in the top half of their field in an Olympic event before they are considered for inclusion in the team. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:19 AM
Beijing Olympic organizers assures security amid terror plot
03/10/2008 | 04:16 PM
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BEIJING - Beijing's Olympic organizers say they are confident the upcoming Games will be safe from terrorists.

The statement Monday came one day after an official said alleged terrorists captured in January were planning to attack targets associated with the Summer Games in August. Few details have been released about the plot and an apparently unrelated attempt to crash a passenger jet also revealed Sunday.

Olympic organization spokesman Sun Weide says an efficient security command is in place and that Chinese officials are "confident" the Games will take place peacefully. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:19 AM
Nakamura named for Japan's marathon team for Beijing
03/10/2008 | 06:42 PM
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TOKYO – Yurika Nakamura followed up her weekend win in Nagoya by being named Monday to Japan's marathon team for the Beijing Olympics.

The 21-year old Nakamura, who won the Nagoya International Women's Marathon the day before, will join Reiko Tosa and Athens Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi on the women's squad, Japan's athletics federation said.

Missing from the women's squad was Sydney Olympic gold medalist and former world-record holder Naoko Takahashi, who finished a disappointing 27th in Sunday's race. The 35-year-old runner also failed to qualify for Japan's team at the Athens Olympics.

The three-member men's squad includes Tsuyoshi Ogata, who placed 5th in last year's world championships, the federation said. Atsushi Sato and Satoshi Osaki round out the squad. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:20 AM
Chinese exec promises clean air for Beijing Olympics
03/11/2008 | 04:07 PM
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BEIJING - Beijing will meet its pledge to have clean air for the Summer Olympics, an environmental official said Tuesday, playing down worries that the city's notorious smog will overshadow the Games.

Pollution-cutting measures in Beijing and surrounding areas were being intensified to make sure the air meets required standards, said State Environmental Protection Administration Vice Minister Zhang Lijun.

"After we have implemented all the measures, there is no problem for Beijing to meet the standards. We can deliver on our commitment," Zhang said at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.

Zhang's claim came a day after world marathon record-holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia said he might skip the long-distance running event in Beijing because of the city's poor air quality.

Considered the world's best distance runner, the 34-year-old Gebrselassie — who has asthma — fears his health could be damaged by running through the streets of the Chinese capital.

He said he would make a final decision in May after he finds out whether he qualifies for the 10,000-meter race. He would be a gold medal favorite if he did take part in either event.

A murky haze blankets Beijing on most days. With the Olympics around the corner, China has constantly been on the defensive over the pollution level.

Zhang said he expects that "by June, we will complete all tasks necessary" to ensure the city will have the required clear air.

The measures include requiring Beijing, as well as the nearby city of Tianjin and Hebei province, to temporarily shut down some of their most heavily polluting plants. They include cement and steel factories.

The provinces of Shanxi and Shandong, along with the huge Inner Mongolia region, would also be required to restrict emissions from their coal-fired power plants. Zhang did not give details, but the measures could mean limits on electricity use and shorter working hours for companies.

In order to satisfy commitments made in 2001 in its bid to host the Olympics, Beijing will be required to show that it meets international standards for four major pollutants — sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, inhalable particles and chemical oxygen demand, a measure of water pollution.

Regular monitoring of air quality has shown that the city has already met the standard for three of the four measures. Only inhalable particles still do not meet the acceptable level, Zhang said.

"Emissions of inhalable particles have been reduced significantly but they are not up to standard yet," he said.

Particle pollution remains Beijing's biggest challenge because it is attributed to construction, industry and vehicles.

Concerns about the capital's pollution have dominated international athletes' preparations for the games. Several countries have decided to station their athletes outside China — in some cases in Japan or Korea — for training.

Gebrselassie visited Beijing in January and voiced concern about the air quality then.

"The pollution is the most important thing," he said at the time. "Actually, when we talk about the pollution, it's not only during the Olympic Games. What about the people here? They are really suffering."

Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the United States Olympics Committee, said none of the 600 US athletes competing in the games was planning to withdraw due to the air quality. However, some US athletes have chosen to do their training outside of China — for instance, the powerful US swim team will train in Singapore.

"No US athlete has indicated they are considering withdrawing from an event due to concerns about air quality," Seibel said. "For most US athletes, their focus right now simply is on trying to qualify for the team." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:21 AM
Tibetan exiles to defy police protest march vs Beijing Olympics
03/11/2008 | 06:41 PM
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DHARMSALA, India – Hundreds of Tibetan exiles in northern India resumed a march to Tibet on Tuesday to protest Beijing hosting this summer's Olympic Games and said they would defy a police order restricting them to a single district.

The exiles' planned six-month march from India to Tibet began Monday to coincide with the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet that forced the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.

The marchers had stopped for the night near the northern Indian city of Dharmsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Local police chief Atul Fulzele said Monday night the marchers were banned from leaving the Kangra district, which contains Dharmsala, following a recommendation from the Indian government.

But Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said Tuesday morning that the protesters would ignore the police order.

"This is the fun part now," Tsundue said. "We are ready for any kind of obstruction. We will be very peaceful but when so many people are determined to give their lives up, no police can stop us."

Fulzele said police would take "legal action" against the marchers if they attempted to breach the Kangra boundary. He did not elaborate.

Tsundue said the marchers were expected to reach the district, 55 kilometers (34 miles) away, by Wednesday.

India has been sympathetic to the Tibetan cause in the past. It has clamped down on public protests in recent years, however, fearing they could embarrass Beijing and damage burgeoning relations between the two Asian giants.

Fulzele said the march went against an agreement between New Delhi and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Protesters rallied Monday in the Indian capital, New Delhi and in Katmandu, Nepal, where hundreds of activists clashed with police. Pro-Tibet demonstrations also took place in San Francisco in the United States and in Olympia, Greece — the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games.

In Lhasa, Tibet, as many as 300 monks marched in the city center to mark the anniversary of the uprising, and Chinese authorities detained 50 to 60 monks, reported Radio Free Asia, a private broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress.

Meanwhile the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, accused China of "unimaginable and gross violations of human rights" in the Himalayan region. He was speaking at a separate event in India.

However, none of the groups taking part in the protest walk were affiliated with the government and neither the Dalai Lama nor Tibet's government in exile have issued any official statement on the march.

The exile groups said the march was to be one of several protests around the world before the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games.

The groups say Beijing's preparations for the Games come at a time when China is attempting to stamp out Tibetan Buddhist culture and to increase the government's presence in Tibet.

Beijing maintains that Tibet is historically part of China, but many Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:23 AM
China foreign minister blasts Beijing Olympic critics
03/12/2008 | 06:05 PM
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BEIJING – China's foreign minister on Wednesday said human rights groups that cite the Beijing Games in their criticisms of the Chinese government were violating the Olympic charter.

Yang Jiechi said China was willing to work with those who bring constructive criticisms and suggestions on how to do a better job of holding the Olympic Games, scheduled for August.

"We welcome suggestions and criticisms offered out of goodwill," Yang said at a news conference held annually on the fringes of the legislature's two-week session.

But he said those who "want to tarnish the image of China... they will never get their way."

China is under fire from a wide range of activists and foreign politicians who are using the Olympics to draw attention to China's policies toward Africa, Tibet and other minorities at home, as well as restrictions on free speech, religion, and legal redress.

Chinese officials have castigated such moves, calling them attempts to exaggerate problems and politicize the games.

"I want to say, that not to politicize the Olympic Games is required by the Olympic charter," Yang said. "For those people who attack China, they often talk about the importance of laws and regulations. Then why are they violating the Olympic charter."

Yang said that despite criticisms, the international community and foreign leaders were broadly supportive of the Beijing Games,

"They have demonstrated profound friendship to the Chinese people," Yang said.

Yang also reiterated previous statements that Beijing's fetid air would be cleaned up by the Aug. 8 start of the Olympics.

His assurances followed an announcement earlier this week by world marathon record-holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia that he would almost certainly skip the long-distance running event in Beijing because of the city's poor air quality.

China has been on the constant defensive over the level of its air pollution. With the Olympics around the corner, a muddy haze blankets the capital of Beijing on most days.

"I believe the air quality will only become better and better in Beijing," Yang said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:24 AM
IOC chief says boycott of Beijing Olympics over Tibet wouldn't 'solve anything'
03/16/2008 | 01:10 PM
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BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The president of the International Olympic Committee rejected the idea of boycotting the Summer Games in Beijing over China's crackdown in Tibet, saying it would only hurt athletes.

"We believe that the boycott doesn't solve anything," Jacques Rogge told reporters Saturday on this Caribbean island. "On the contrary, it is penalizing innocent athletes and it is stopping the organization from something that definitely is worthwhile organizing."

Demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet on Friday – the most violent riots there in nearly two decades – left at least 30 protesters dead, according to a Tibetan exile group. China ordered tourists out of Tibet's capital and troops patrolled the streets on Saturday.

On a six-day tour of the Caribbean, Rogge expressed condolences for the victims and said he hopes calm will be restored immediately. He declined to say whether the committee would change its stance if violence continues or more people are killed.

"The International Olympic Committee has consistently resisted calls for a boycott of the Olympic games," Rogge said. He declined to comment further on Tibet during a brief news conference.

The head of the Swiss Olympic Committee told state-owned DRS radio that he is against a boycott but wants the IOC to intervene with China over the troubles in Tibet.

"The Rubicon has been crossed," Joerg Schild said. "I can't bring myself to say that we're going to go there and do sport."

IOC vice president Thomas Bach said the committee will speak with China about human rights, but boycotting the games "would be the wrong way because that will cut lines of communication."

European officials joined the IOC in urging Beijing to end the violence and engage in dialogue, but also said politics should not intrude on the spirit of the games.

"The Olympics must be held in an atmosphere of true brotherhood," EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told Italy's ANSA news agency. "Otherwise this feast of sport would be seriously at risk."

At least four major boycotts have occurred in Olympic history, but they mostly resulted in undue punishment for athletes, said David Wallechinsky, an author and vice president of the International Society of Olympic Historians.

It is unlikely the IOC would support a boycott despite the recent violence in Tibet, he said. The committee held the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City even though authorities had killed hundreds of nonviolent protesters days before the event, Wallechinsky said.

He condemned, however, the decision to host the games in China.

"The IOC asked for trouble when they put the Olympics in a country run by a dictatorship," he said. "Now it's come back to haunt them."

On Saturday, the activist group Students for a Free Tibet demanded that officials scrap a plan to have the Olympic Torch pass through Tibet.

"(It) will either dangerously exacerbate tensions or simply make the IOC complicit in China's repression of Tibetans to assure a successful propaganda exercise for China," the group said in a news release.

The Olympic committee issued a statement calling for an end to the violence.

"The IOC shares the world's desire for a peaceful resolution to the tensions of past days in the Tibetan region of China," it said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:26 AM
Australia won't support Tibet-related boycott of Olympics
03/17/2008 | 03:09 PM
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SYDNEY, Australia - The Australian Olympic Committee will not support any boycott of the Beijing Olympics over human rights concerns.

AOC president John Coates said in a statement Monday that despite a continuing crackdown on Tibetan protesters, Australia endorses the IOC's policy that boycotting the August games would achieve nothing except disadvantaging athletes.

"The Olympic Games have shown by example the benefits of bringing together people from all races and religions to practice sport in a spirit of friendship and fair play," Coates said.

"It is not the role of the IOC to take the lead in addressing such issues as human rights or political matters, which are most appropriately addressed by governments or concerned organizations."

Protests spread from Tibet into three neighboring provinces Sunday as Tibetans defied a Chinese government crackdown, while the Dalai Lama decried what he called the "cultural genocide" taking place in his homeland.

The unrest in Tibet began March 10 on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule of the region. Tibet was effectively independent for decades before communist troops entered in 1950.

In 1980, the then-Australian Olympic Federation defied a directive from the Australian government to boycott the Moscow Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, although many athletes withdrew of their own accord.

"Australia has participated in every Olympic Games of the modern era and the games in Beijing will be no different," Coates said.

He said the Olympic Games were "a vehicle for good" which will also bring greater scrutiny on China's behavior as a nation.

"They have a positive impact on society and a positive impact on the host cities and countries," he said. "The IOC's focus must remain on enabling highly dedicated athletes to prove themselves at the pinnacle of sport.

"As the president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, has stated, to deny them that opportunity would penalize athletes and solve nothing." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:26 AM
EU sports chiefs, Olympic Committees oppose boycott of Games
03/17/2008 | 05:16 PM
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BRDO PRI KRANJU, Slovenia – European Union sports ministers and Olympic committees say they oppose a boycott of the Beijing Games over the handling of the Tibet protests.

The ministers, holding talks Monday, say sports should not be linked to such a political issue and that previous Olympic boycotts have already shown what limited impact they have.

Slovene Sports Minister Milan Zver, who is chairing a meeting of top EU sports officials from the 27 member states and Olympic committees, said "I am against a boycott of the Olympic Games in China."

His sentiments were echoed by other ministers and Olympic committees. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:27 AM
Olympic official says Beijing air quality risky to athletes
03/17/2008 | 07:13 PM
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BEIJING – An analysis conducted on Beijing's air quality indicated some risk to athletes in outdoor endurance events such as road cycling and marathon, but that results are better than expected, an International Olympic Committee official said Monday.

Arne Ljungqvist, the chair of the IOC Medical Commission, said endurance events lasting more than an hour could expose participants to breathing problems, but the overall findings showed that "conditions will be good for athletes during the games."

"The risk is more related to the fact that they may not perform at the best level," he said.

Beijing's notorious pollution triggered the first air quality study of any host city commissioned by Olympic officials. China is set to host this year's Olympic Games in August. - AP

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04-11-2008, 04:28 AM
Rower Redgrave to run in London leg of Beijing torch relay
03/18/2008 | 12:42 AM
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LONDON – Steve Redgrave, Britain's most successful Olympian, will run in the London leg of the Beijing torch relay.

The former rower's participation as one of the 80 runners in the relay, which will be held on April 6, was announced Monday by Olympic sponsor Samsung. Redgrave, who won his fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, also ran in the Athens torch relay.

"With the Olympics in 2012 getting ever closer there is no better time for the general public to engage with the Olympic spirit, customs and tradition – and the torch is a big part of that," said Redgrave, referring to the 2012 London Games.

Samsung said Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon will also run, along with four competition winners.

Only three other runners have been announced – two-time Olympic champion Kelly Holmes, British broadcaster Trevor McDonald and actress Amara Khan.

Last month, former Olympic gold medalist Linford Christie was told he wasn't welcome to run in the relay after accidentally being invited. Christie, who is banned from the Olympics because of a positive doping test, said he wouldn't have been able to make the date anyway.

The torch relay will start at Wembley Stadium in northwest London, the site of the 1948 Olympics, and finish at the O2 Arena, formerly known as the Millennium Dome, in east London.

The O2 will be one of the venues for the 2012 Games.

The flame will be lit on March 25 in Ancient Olympia, Greece. - AP

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04-11-2008, 04:29 AM
Chinese premier says protesters in Tibet are against Olympics
03/18/2008 | 05:35 PM
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BEIJING – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says Tibet protesters are trying to undermine the Beijing Olympics.

Speaking Tuesday on the final day of China's annual legislative session, Wen said the protests went against the wish of the Chinese people to stage a successful Olympics in August.

"By staging that incident they want to undermine the Beijing Olympics Games," Wen said. "And they also try to serve their hidden agenda by inciting such incidents."

His comments came a day after the United States and European Olympic bodies said they opposed any boycott of the games because of China's crack down on the Tibet protests.

"The Beijing Olympics will be a grand gathering for people from around the world," Wen said. "We need to respect the principles of the Olympics and the Olympic charter and we should not politicize the games."

Several days of anti-Chinese riots in Tibet's capital have focused attention on China's human rights record with the games fewer than five months away. A smooth run-up to the Olympics has also been marred by health concerns about Beijing's noxious air.

The International Olympic Committee's top medical official, Arne Ljungqvist, acknowledged Monday that athletes in outdoor endurance events could face some "risks" from pollution and said air quality was "less than ideal."

However, he said conditions were better than expected following an evaluation air quality data supplied by Beijing organizers. His comments on a conference call from Sweden came during a 24-hour span in which a gray haze blanketed the city and gusting winds blew sand and grit from myriad construction sites.

At least one environmental expert, Steven Andrews, has suggested that improvements in Beijing's air quality ratings are due to "irregularities in monitoring and reporting." Ljungqvist said he had "no doubt" about the data.

Andrews wrote a commentary on Beijing's air pollution that appeared last month in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal. Chinese officials have denied their data was manipulated.

Wen called the Olympics a "dream shared by people of many generations in this country," but said he was bracing for more "problems of this or that sort."

European Olympic officials meeting Monday in Slovenia said the violence in Tibet was no reason to boycott the games.

"Under no circumstance will we support the boycott. We are 100 percent unanimous," said Patrick Hickey, the head of the European Olympic Committees. Hickey repeated the IOC mantra that sports and politics should be separate.

"Not one world leader has come out with the suggestion of a boycott and no less a person than the Dalai Lama" is against it," Hickey added.

China is spending a reported US$40 billion (€25.4 billion) on venues, subways, new highways and related infrastructure for the Aug. 8-24 games. Any boycott would be a huge embarrassment to China, which is using the games to showcase its quick progress from an impoverished rural country to an economic and political power.

"If you were to take the games away from China, China's relationship with the rest of the world would be set back a decade," said Susan Brownell, an American expert on Chinese sports at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She is spending this year at Beijing Sports University.

"It's scary to think of the negative effects that would have in China's attitude toward the rest of the world."

China-born historian Xu Guogi said the Beijing games would be remembered as the "best ever," but not without surmounting more problems.

"The protests again China from groups such as Tibet supporters, Fanlun Gong, Taiwan independence advocates, human rights groups and Darfur activists are bound to happen," he said in an e-mail. Xu teaches at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

The United States, which faces challenges from China and Russia to stay atop the medal table, joined Australia and Russia in opposing a boycott. The U.S. led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow games, and suffered from a boycott of the '84 Olympics in Los Angeles.

"Other than unnecessarily and unfairly punishing athletes, Olympic boycotts accomplish absolutely nothing," Darryl Seibel said, a spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee. - AP

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04-11-2008, 04:31 AM
Bogut, Mills named to 33-man Olympic training squad
03/19/2008 | 12:06 PM
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SYDNEY, Australia - Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut and first-year US collegiate star Patrick Mills were included in a 33-man Olympic training squad named Wednesday by Basketball Australia.

The squad, which includes four other American college players and six based in Europe, will be reduced to 12 players in late July ahead of the Beijing Games in August.

Mills, a 19-year-old point guard who plays for Saint Mary's in California, scored a freshman-record 37 points in his fourth collegiate game.

Australian coach Brian Goorjian said Mills was a vital part of Australia's qualifying series victory over New Zealand last year and that he would be "very important" to the team's chances in Beijing.

"I think he's got to take a lot of credit for us qualifying," said Goorjian. "He had a huge impact on the team."

Other US collegiate players named to the Australia squad include Aron Baynes of Washington State, Aaron Bruce of Baylor, Aleks Maric of the University of Nebraska and Andrew Ogilvy of Vanderbilt.

The European-based players are Brad Newley of Panionios BC in Greece, Damien Ryan of Vanoli Soresina and Wade Helliwell of Solsonica Rieti, both in Italy, David Andersen of CSKA Moscow in Russia, Luke Schenscher of Germany's Brose Baskets and Matthew Nielsen of Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania. - AP

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04-11-2008, 04:31 AM
Going to Everest peak still highlight of the Olympic torch relay
03/19/2008 | 05:25 PM
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BEIJING – The Olympic torch relay route through Tibet and to the top of Mount Everest will not change despite recent violent protests in Lhasa, a Chinese Olympic official said Wednesday.

Anti-government riots last week in the Tibetan capital and a crackdown by communist authorities have led to calls by Tibetan activist groups to stop the relay from going through the region before the games.

"The Tibet leg of the torch relay will proceed as scheduled," said Jiang Xiaoyu, the executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee.

"We firmly believe that the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region will be able ensure the stability of Lhasa and Tibet and also be able to ensure the smooth going of the torch relay in Tibet," Jiang said at a news conference.

He said the ascent to the top of the world's tallest mountain would be the highlight of the torch relay and "a great feat in Olympic history."

Last week's riots, which the government says killed 16, have cast a larger spotlight on China's human rights record, although there have been no calls by governments or international sports officials for a boycott of the Olympics.

Even before the violence, taking the torch to the top of Everest was shaping up to be one of the grandest and most politicized feats of an already politicized Olympics. The relay directly touches on one of China's most sensitive issues: its often harsh 57-year-rule over Tibet.

Beijing says that Tibet is historically part of China, but many Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping it with Han people, the majority Chinese ethnic group.

Tibetan activist groups have criticized the Olympic torch run as an attempt by Beijing to add legitimacy to Chinese control of Tibet.

Jiang said climbers would take the Olympic flame to Everest's 29,035-foot summit on a day with favorable weather conditions in May.

He said local police and governments would provide security along the relay route.

China has already begun denying mountaineers permission to climb its side of Mount Everest this spring, a move that reflects government concerns that activists may try to disrupt its torch plans. Everest straddles China's border with Nepal, and Nepal recently agreed to ban climbers from its side of the mountain during the torch run.

Activists have in the past unfurled banners at the Everest base camp and the Great Wall of China calling for Tibet's independence.

Last year, organizers for the Beijing Summer Olympics announced ambitious plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history — an 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents and reach Everest's summit. - AP

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04-11-2008, 04:33 AM
Kluft drops heptathlon to join long-jump, triple jump at Beijing
03/19/2008 | 05:27 PM
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STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Reigning Olympic heptathlon champion Carolina Kluft will not compete in the event at the Beijing Olympics, instead focusing on long jump and triple jump, a report said.

The 25-year-old Swede told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet she was no longer motivated in heptathlon.

"I have had a dialogue with my self, looked for different signs and followed my heart," Kluft said.

Kluft had dominated heptathlon in recent years, winning three World Championships, two European Championships, and the World Indoor Championships, but said in October she was considering a switch to long jump.

She said she made the final decision this week and was excited to focus on the long jump and triple jump, even though she may not be a candidate for the medals in Beijing.

"You have to live your own life. In 10 years I would have more regrets about not daring to follow the philosophy I believe in, than missing a medal," she said.

Kluft is undefeated in the heptathlon since 2001, and her score of 7,032 points at last year's world championships in Osaka, Japan, was second only to the world record set by Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the United States at the 1988 Olympics.

"When I won in Japan last fall I didn't enjoy the competition, and afterward it felt like 'yes, now it's done,' more than 'I had so much fun,'" she said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:33 AM
Olympic torch relay still to pass through Tibet despite violence
03/19/2008 | 05:29 PM
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BEIJING – The Olympic torch relay route in Tibet and to the top of Mount Everest will not be changed despite protests in Lhasa, a Chinese Olympic official said Wednesday.

Anti-government riots in the Tibet capital of Lhasa last week and a resultant crackdown by authorities has led to calls by Tibet activist groups to stop the relay from going through the region before the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said that the ascent to the top of Mount Everest would be the "highlight" of the torch relay and "a great feat in Olympic history."

"The Tibet leg of the torch relay will proceed as scheduled," Jiang told a news conference, adding that "we firmly believe that the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region will be able ensure the stability of Lhasa and Tibet and also be able to ensure the smooth going of the torch relay in Tibet."

The riots, which the government says killed 16, have cast a spotlight on China's human rights record, although there have been no calls by governments or international sports officials for a boycott of the games.

Jiang said climbers would take the Olympic flame to Everest's 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit on a day with favorable weather conditions in May.

He said local police and governments would provide security along the relay route.

Mount Everest is in the border region between Nepal and Tibet. China has already begun denying mountaineers permission to climb the Tibetan side of the mountain this spring – a move that reflects government concerns that activists may try to disrupt it torch plans.

Even before the riots, taking the torch to the top of Mount Everest was shaping up to be among the more politicized events of an already politicized Games. The relay touches one of China's more sensitive issues: its 57-year-rule over Tibet.

Beijing says Tibet is historically part of China, but many Tibetans argue the Himalayan region was virtually independent for centuries and accuse China of trying to crush Tibetan culture by swamping the region with people of China's majority Han ethnic group.

Tibetan activist groups have criticized the Olympic torch run up Everest as an attempt by China to legitimize its control of Tibet.

Activists have in the past unfurled banners at the Everest base camp and the Great Wall of China calling for Tibet's independence. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:34 AM
China may bar live TV broadcasts at Olympics
03/22/2008 | 01:19 PM
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BEIJING - China might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics, apparently unnerved by the recent outburst of unrest among Tibetans and fearful of protests in the heart of the Chinese capital.

A ban on live broadcasts would disrupt the plans of NBC and other major international networks, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast the Aug. 8-24 games and are counting on eye-pleasing live shots from the iconic square.

The rethinking of Beijing's earlier promise to broadcasters comes as the government has poured troops into Tibetan areas wracked by anti-government protests this month and stepped up security in cities, airports and entertainment venues far from the unrest.

In another sign of the government's unease, 400 American Boy Scouts who had been promised they could go onto the field following a March 15 exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were prevented from doing so by police.

"It was never specifically mentioned to me it was because of Tibet that there were extra controls, but there were all these changes at the last minute," said a person involved in the Major League Baseball event who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The communist government's resorting to heavy-handed measures runs the risk of undermining Beijing's pledge to the International Olympic Committee that the games would promote greater openness in what a generation ago was still an isolated China. If still in place by the games, the security measures could alienate the half-million foreigners expected at the games.

Like the Olympics, live broadcasts from Tiananmen Square were meant to showcase a friendly, confident China - one that had put behind it the deadly 1989 military assault on democracy demonstrators in the vast plaza that remains a defining image for many foreigners.

"Tiananmen is the face of China, the face of Beijing so many broadcasters would like to do live or recorded coverage of the square," said Yosuke Fujiwara, the head of broadcast relations for the Beijing Olympic Broadcasting Co., or BOB, a joint-venture between Beijing Olympic organizers and an IOC subsidiary. BOB coordinates and provides technical services for the television networks with rights to broadcast the Olympics, such as NBC.

Earlier this week, however, officials with the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee, or BOCOG, told executives at BOB that the live shots were canceled, according to three people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

"We learned that standup positions would be canceled," one of these people said. "No explanation was given for the change."

Sun Weijia, the BOCOG official in charge of dealing with BOB, declined comment, referring the matter to press officers, three of whom also declined to comment. IOC offices were closed Friday for the Easter holiday; two spokeswomen did not immediately return e-mails and phone calls seeking comment.

The decision by BOCOG may not be final. The change was relayed verbally, one person said. All three hoped that IOC President Jacques Rogge and other leading Olympic committee officials, expected in Beijing next month for regularly scheduled meetings, may be able to prevail on Beijing committee to change its mind.

It's unclear whether the ban would apply to coverage of the Olympic marathon, which starts in Tiananmen. An early indicator will be a marathon test-event scheduled for April.

If the decision stands, it would be a blow to the TV networks whose money to buy the right to broadcast the games accounts for more than half the IOC's revenues. The biggest spender is NBC. It paid US$2.3 billion for the rights for three Olympics from 2004 to 2008 - Athens, Turin and Beijing.

Officials at NBC refused to comment.

The Tibet unrest - which broke out March 10 in the regional capital of Lhasa and has since spread across western China - and the government's harsh response underscores the communist leaders' unease as the Olympics approach.

With paramilitary police patrolling Beijing at night and journalists being expelled from Tibetan areas, security measures are on par with those not seen since the government mobilized police to crush the Falun Gong spiritual movement in 1999-2000.

Activist groups have said for months that they planned to use the Olympics to promote their causes. But the challenge faced by China's leadership seems to grow more imminent.

Aside from Tibet protests, the government said it foiled a plot this month by Muslim separatists in western China to blow up a China Southern Boeing 757. Foreign activists angry about China's support for Sudan, which is party to a civil war in Darfur, said this week they would demonstrate in Beijing during the games.

After the Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet!" at the finale of a Shanghai concert this month, officials ordered tighter scrutiny of all performances.

The Boy Scouts seemed to get caught in a response to both the sometimes violent Tibet protests and Bjork; police canceled all on-field entertainment for the exhibition baseball games, including the singing of the Chinese and US national anthems.

Beijing Olympic committee officials began signaling their discomfort with live broadcasts in Tiananmen Square to the IOC a year ago but discussions went back and forth, according to the people involved. The square - overlooked by a large portrait of communist founder Mao Zedong - has been a magnet for protests for decades. - AP

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04-11-2008, 04:36 AM
Greeks have backup torch as rain, protests threaten Olympic flame-lighting
03/23/2008 | 10:09 AM
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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece – One way or another, Beijing will get its Olympic flame.

In a final rehearsal at noon Sunday, a Greek actress in the white gown and sandals of a pagan high priestess will use the sun's rays to kindle the torch for the 2008 Olympics, among the ruins of the ancient games' birthplace.

That flame will be sent to China if storms forecast for Monday scuttle the official lighting ceremony, beside the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera in ancient Olympia, southern Greece.

Clouds spoilt the ceremony for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics and the last three winter games.

To be quite sure, a backup flame was lit at a rehearsal Saturday.

But bad weather is not the only headache for the mock-ancient ceremony's organizers – who took the rare step of moving Monday's event an hour back to avoid rainstorms.

Some 1,000 police will surround Ancient Olympia to keep pro-Tibetan protesters away from the flame-lighting, which International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is due to attend.

Tendon Dahortsang, a protest organizer, said campaigners opposed to China's rule in Tibet are planning a peaceful protest Monday, following deadly clashes in Tibet with Chinese security forces.

"We're keeping the details under wraps because we're not done planning right now and also because of security concerns as there is a lot of scrutiny on this (event)." he told The Associated Press.

"We want to be there and to tell the world the truth about China ... China's crackdown on peaceful Tibetan protesters, (and its) 50 years of illegal occupation of Tibet."

But a Greek government official said politics had no place at the ancient site.

"We are determined to safeguard the flame ceremony," he said, on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to comment on the event. "This has nothing to do with political disputes."

Tibetans and their supporters have protested in cities around the world against China. Some fear the arrival of the Olympic torch – scheduled to travel through 20 countries before the Beijing Olympics open on Aug. 8 – could spark violent protests against China.

Others are calling for heads of state, dignitaries and corporate sponsors to boycott the Games, or at least the opening ceremony.

The Olympics were the most important sporting event in ancient Greece, held every four years during a sacred truce. They started in 776 B.C. and lasted over 1,000 years, until their abolition in 394 A.D. by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius.

Although cauldrons were lit during the ancient games, the torch is a modern concept introduced at the 1936 Berlin Games. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:37 AM
Thai Olympic torchbearer withdraws to protest China crackdown in Tibet
03/23/2008 | 04:29 PM
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BANGKOK, Thailand – One of Thailand's representatives in the Olympic torch relay has withdrawn in protest over China's recent crackdown on protesters in Tibet, a statement said Sunday.

Narisa Chakrabongse – one of the country's six torchbearers – said in an open letter that she decided against taking part in the relay to "send a strong message to China that the world community could not accept its actions."

Anti-government protests started in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on the March 10 anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule and turned violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans in three neighboring provinces.

Beijing's official death toll from the rioting is now 22, but the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile has said 99 Tibetans have died.

"The slaying of the Tibetans ... is an outright violation of human rights," Narisa wrote. "It happened two weeks before the Olympic torch leaves Athens and five months before the Olympic Games. This reflects the Chinese government's negligence of world sentiment."

Tibetans and their supporters have protested in cities around the world against China, where the games will be staged.

Some fear the arrival of the Olympic torch – which arrives in Thailand in April en route to Beijing – could spark violent protests against China, while others are calling for heads of state, dignitaries and even corporate sponsors to boycott the Olympics, or at least the opening ceremony. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:38 AM
China vows secure Olympics torch relay as activists plan protest
03/24/2008 | 03:11 PM
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BEIJING – China pledged strict security measures to ensure that the Beijing Olympics torch relay, which begins with a lighting ceremony in Greece on Monday, is not marred by protests by supporters of the Dalai Lama.

The Communist leadership has faced a public relations disaster since demonstrations against Chinese rule turned violent March 14 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, sparking waves of unrest in surrounding provinces.

The riots, the largest and most sustained in almost 20 years, have embarrassed and angered Beijing, which has promised a smooth run-up to the Olympics and is hoping that a successful games will bolster its international image.

"The more determined the Dalai clique is to ruin the torch relay and the Olympic Games, the more hard and good work we need to do on the preparation and the implementation of all aspects," Yin Xunping, a Communist Party official, was quoted as saying by the Tibet Daily newspaper. Yin is head of the Tibet Mountain Climbing Team, which is responsible for the Mount Everest segment of the torch relay.

He was speaking at a meeting organized last week by Tibet's sports bureau, whose head, Dejizhuoga, urged "intense precautions and heightened security."

The report, cited Monday by the official Xinhua News Agency, did not give any details of what measures would be taken. A receptionist at the Tibet sports bureau said no officials were available for comment Monday.

Mount Everest straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet. China has already begun denying mountaineers permission to climb the Tibetan side of the mountain – a move that reflects government concerns that activists may try to disrupt its torch plans.

A fresh obstacle was expected later Monday in Athens, where pro-Tibet activists have vowed to protest at the official lighting of the Olympic torch. About 1,000 police were expected to be on hand to keep demonstrators away from the ceremony.

The torch is scheduled to travel through 20 countries before the Beijing Olympics open on August 8.

China's plans to take the torch through Tibet and to the top of Mount Everest have upset Tibetan activist groups, which accuse Beijing of using the event to convey a false message of harmony in the troubled Himalayan region. Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.

Tenzin Dorjee, a spokesman for Students for a Free Tibet, which plans to protest in Greece, said he wanted the International Olympic Committee to remove Tibet from the torch route. Allowing China to carry the torch through the region would be "adding insult to 50 years of bloodstained injury," he said.

The Lhasa protests have highlighted accusations that China has harshly restricted Tibet's unique Buddhist culture and flooded the area with the majority Han Chinese ethnic group.

The demonstrations started by monks on March 10, the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, exploded into rioting, looting and arson four days later. China's reported death toll is 22 but Tibet's exiled government says 80 Tibetans were killed. Another 19 died in subsequent violence in Gansu province, it said.

The Chinese government dispatched thousands of troops to Lhasa and the surrounding provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai, where sympathy marches have erupted into clashes. It also issued a "Most Wanted" list of 21 protesters, appealing to people to turn them in.

In Gansu province, an official in Xiabagou said the town's Tibetans had fled into nearby mountains to evade arrest over the weekend.

"There are no Tibetans left here," said the official at Xiabagou's forestry bureau, who refused to give his name because of the sensitivity of the issue.

On Saturday, hundreds of Tibetans marched through the town, about six hours by bus away from the provincial capital of Lanzhou, and removed the Chinese flag from a government building, the official said. He said he did not have any other details but said order had been restored.

But "I would not recommend any tourists to visit at this moment," he said. "There are still many policemen with guns and batons on the streets."

In Lhasa, police patrols continued, residents said, and shops were closing early.

A woman from the propaganda department of the Lhasa Communist Party municipal committee, who refused to give her name, said there were no updates on the number of arrests or surrenders.

The Jokhang temple, Tibet's most sacred shrine and the heart of Lhasa's old city, remained closed.

"Although we are still closed at the moment, everything inside our monastery is back to normal. We'll wait another few days to see what happens," said an official from the director's office who refused to give his name.

The government has insisted that stability has returned to the troubled areas. State broadcaster China Central Television said Sunday that electricity and telecommunications had been restored in Lhasa.

Also Monday, police in Nepal broke up a protest by 200 Tibetan refugees and monks near the offices of the United Nations by beating them with bamboo sticks and arresting 40.

The protest is the latest by Tibetan monks and refugees in Nepal's capital demanding the UN investigate the recent crackdown in Tibet by Chinese authorities. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:39 AM
IOC chief engaged in 'silent diplomacy' with China on Tibet
03/24/2008 | 05:20 PM
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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece – International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge said Monday he is engaged in "silent diplomacy" with China on Tibet and other human rights issues in advance of the Beijing Olympics.

Rogge gave his most extensive public comments on China's political situation in an interview with The Associated Press in Ancient Olympia, where he was attending the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Games.

Rogge and the International Olympic Committee have come under pressure to speak out about the crackdown in Tibet and China's record on human rights, Darfur, freedom of speech and other issues as the Aug. 8-24 games approach.

In the 45-minute interview, Rogge reiterated his long-standing position that the IOC is not a political organization and can not interfere in the internal affairs of China. But he stressed that he is involved in private dialogue with Chinese leaders and insisted the human rights situation has improved since Beijing got the games seven years ago.

"The IOC is engaged in what I call a 'silent diplomacy' with Chinese authorities since day one of the preparations of the games," Rogge said. "We are discussing on a daily basis with Chinese authorities, including discussing these issues, while strictly respecting the sovereignty of China in its affairs."

Rogge, who will chair IOC executive board meetings in Beijing next month, said he will meet then with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

"I have a series of points to discuss with him and I'm sure he has points to discuss with me," Rogge said, without elaborating.

"I repeat, we are not a political body, we are not an NGO, but it is our responsibility to make sure the athletes get the best possible games which they deserve," he said.

Rogge contested claims that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated since the IOC gave the games to Beijing in 2001.

"I dispute that, I challenge that," he said. "Awarding the games to China has put China in the limelight and opened the (human rights) issues up to the world. Tibet, rightfully so, is on the front page. But it would not be on the front page if the games were not being organized in China."

"I believe the games have advanced the agenda of human rights," Rogge added. "Is the situation perfect? By no means. Has it improved? I'm saying yes. Is the glass half full, or half empty? I'm saying half full."

The violence is Tibet has brought China's policies to the fore in the final months before the games. Protests began on March 10 on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and turned violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans in three neighboring provinces.

Beijing's official death toll from the rioting is 22, but the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile has said 99 Tibetans have been killed.

Rogge expressed concern about the violence but would not criticize China for its crackdown.

"It's difficult to make a judgment on the responsibilities, but violence from whatever side is something which of course is worrying us," he said.

Rogge said the IOC can no more than join world leaders in calling for a peaceful resolution of the situation.

"The United States of America, the European Union and the pope have called for a peaceful resolution and a reduction of violence," he said. "We are saying what the world leaders are saying."

Rogge, meanwhile, said there is no "credible momentum whatsoever" for any Olympic boycott over Tibet.

"The major governments do not want it, the sports community definitely do not want it, and I'm sure the public opinion does not want it," he said.

Some politicians have suggested the possibility of government leaders boycotting the opening ceremony, but Rogge also said there was no broad support for such a move.

Despite the heightened controversy surrounding the games, Rogge said the decision to give the Olympics to Beijing was the right one.

"When we awarded the games to China, we knew there would be discussions," he said. "We were not naive. We knew discussions would flare up in the last six months and that has happened... We cannot deny one-fifth of mankind the advantages of Olympism... We believe the games will be a catalyst for change and will open a country which used to be mysterious to much of the world."

Rogge came to Ancient Olympia for the flame-lighting ceremony that kicks off the torch relay for the Beijing Games.

Tibetan activists have announced plans to protest during the relay, which will travel 137,000 kilometers (85,000 miles) over 130 days through five continents before reaching Beijing's Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony.

Rogge expressed concern at the possibility of violent protests.

"The torch relay is a symbol of peace, a symbol of unity of people of the world and of the Olympic truce," he said. "We call on everyone not to use violence. I don't think the public opinion would accept violence in such a public event. It would be counterproductive."

The torch relay is scheduled to go through Tibet, creating a possible flashpoint. Rogge said there are no plans to change the route, but didn't rule it out.

"The original torch relay has been confirmed by BOCOG and Chinese authorities," he said. "So far, as I speak now, the IOC is in agreement with that. No one can foresee the future." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:40 AM
Olympic marathon will succeed sans Gebrselassie – IOC chief
03/24/2008 | 07:51 PM
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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece – The Olympic marathon in Beijing won't be tarnished by world record-holder Haile Gebrselassie's decision to skip the event because of pollution concerns, IOC president Jacques Rogge said Monday.

"While I regret the absence of Haile Gebrselassie, I respect his decision," Rogge said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But the games are far stronger than the individual. The marathon will be a great success and there will be a great champion."

The 34-year-old Ethiopian runner, a two-time Olympic 10,000-meter champion, said earlier this month he won't run the marathon at the Beijing Games because of the city's air pollution, heat and humidity. He may still run in the 10,000.

"It's going to be the hardest marathon in history," said Gebrselassie, who holds the world record of 2 hours, 4 minutes, 26 seconds.

Pollution – in addition to the violence in Tibet and other human rights issues – has been a major concern for China and the International Olympic Committee in the leadup to the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. Some athletes are reportedly considering wearing masks to ward off the bad air in Beijing.

While Belgian tennis star Justine Henin has expressed concern that the pollution could aggravate her asthma, Rogge said the four-time French Open champion will definitely compete in Beijing and her "No. 1 goal" of the year is to win the gold medal.

The IOC released data last week indicating that air quality in Beijing is better than expected, but athletes in outdoor endurance events could face risks.

Rogge said the figures show there is "no danger whatsoever" for athletes competing in high intensity events lasting under an hour, but that those involved in endurance events longer than that – such as the marathon, road cycling and triathlon – could be affected by poor air.

Rogge reiterated that if pollution levels surpass a certain threshold, those events could be postponed until the air clears. The men's marathon is traditionally held on the final day of the games.

"We could easily postpone for a couple of hours or start at an earlier hour," he said. "I'm not very worried about that."

Rogge noted that, at the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, the downhill was postponed for 16 days due to weather conditions and was only held on the final day of competition. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:41 AM
Germany rejects calls of Beijing Olympic boycott
03/24/2008 | 07:54 PM
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FRANKFURT, Germany – Germany has rejected calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of China's crackdown in Tibet and pledged to send a team to the games.

At the same time, the German Olympic Sports Union (DOSB), the highest Olympic body in the country, said it was following the events in Tibet with "great attention and concern," and added it was aware that the human rights situation in China is still "unsatisfactory" despite improvements in the last few years.

In a statement issued Monday, the DOSB noted that the United Nations, the German government and the Dalai Lama had spoken out against a boycott of the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:42 AM
Protests disrupt flame lighting rite for Beijing Games
03/24/2008 | 07:58 PM
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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece – Protests by press freedom and pro-Tibet groups disrupted the flame lighting ceremony Monday for the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

Three members of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders were detained after running onto the stadium field during the ceremony in Ancient Olympia. Police confirmed they had detained three French nationals.

One protester displayed a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs, while Liu Qi, president of the Beijing organizing committee and Beijing Communist Party Secretary, was giving a speech.

"If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so," the French group said in a statement. "We cannot let the Chinese government seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the dramatic situation of human rights in the country."

Moments later, a Tibetan woman covered herself in red paint and lay in the road in front of a runner carrying the Olympic torch into the nearby village of ancient Olympia, while other protesters chanted "Free Tibet" and "Shame on China."

Two protesters were seen being detained by police, but Greek authorities had no immediate comment.

IOC president Jacques Rogge attended the ceremony, where the sun's rays were used to kindle the flame.

"It's always sad when there are protests. But they were not violent and I think that's the important thing," Rogge told The Associated Press.

When the stadium incident took place, China state TV cut away to a prerecorded scene, preventing Chinese viewers from seeing the protest. TV commentators on Chinese TV never mentioned what took place.

Greek television commentary also made no mention of the incident.

Tibet's deadly protests started March 10 in the capital of Lhasa on the 49th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The demonstrations turned violent four days later, touching off demonstrations among Tibetans in three neighboring provinces.

Beijing's official death toll from the rioting is 22, but the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile has said 99 Tibetans have been killed.

Monday's ceremony was held an hour early – starting at 0900GMT – to avoid rain forecast for later Monday. Clouds hid the sun ahead of the Sydney 2000 Summer Games, as well as the Winter Games of 2006, 2002 and 1998 – forcing organizers to use a backup flame.

From Olympia, the flame started on its 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile) journey across five continents, ending at the Beijing stadium on Aug 8.

High priestess Maria Nafpliotou handed the torch to Alexandros Nikolaidis, who won a silver medal in taekwondo at the 2004 Athens Games. He was to hand the flame to Luo Xuejuan, who won China's only swimming gold medal in Athens.

A total 645 torchbearers will carry the flame through Greece for a week, over 1,528 kilometers (950 miles). It will make a stopover at the Acropolis before being handed over to Chinese officials at the restored ancient stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Forests around the birthplace of the ancient Olympics were devastated by wildfires that killed 66 people and ravaged southern Greece last year. The flames were stopped on the fringe of the ancient site.

More than 30,000 trees and shrubs have since been planted around the site. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:43 AM
Chinese finding out they can't control what comes with the Olympics
TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Columnist
03/25/2008 | 05:21 PM
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Let the games begin.

The first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics goes to the free-speech protester who managed to crash the carefully staged lighting of the Olympic torch in Greece. The silver goes to the Tibetan woman covered in fake blood who briefly blocked the path of the torch relay before it had barely began.

Two other protesters get bronze medals, only because they didn't do much other than run around the field at Ancient Olympia and make some noise.

Is this going to be a great Olympics or what?

Records will surely be set long before the games officially open August 8 in Beijing, though those keeping the official books will likely not recognize them. They would like to keep the fun and games contained on the athletic side, but the genie is already out of the bottle for this Olympics.

Tibet, Darfur, freedom of speech. They're all in play, and if Monday's action at the torch lighting was any indication, the Chinese either better figure out a way to deal with differing political views – and quick – or risk having the games they so desperately wanted to celebrate the country as an athletic and economic power turned into a platform of a completely different kind.

The early indications aren't promising. Flexibility doesn't seem to be the country's strong point.

China has already blocked off routes from its side of Mount Everest this spring, fearful that Tibet activists may try to disrupt plans to carry the Olympic torch to the world's tallest peak. The same fears have prompted the country to ban live broadcasts during the Olympics from Tiananmen Square, where Chinese troops crushed pro-democracy protests nearly two decades ago.

But the Olympics are a worldwide phenomenon, and the protests that succeeded in Greece despite the presence of 1,000 police showed how little the Chinese can control things outside their own country. There are well-organized groups eager and ready to link these games with causes that include suffering in Darfur and the bloody Chinese crackdown in Tibet, and they're going to be hard to stop.

Imagine what's going to happen when the torch relay comes to San Francisco, its only North American stop, on April 9 and protesters get a chance to unleash their full fury. The city's mayor has already said no one will be prevented from demonstrating as the torch travels through the city, and city officials have even debated whether to use the event to criticize China's human rights record themselves.

The Olympics are five months away, and already they're a public relations nightmare. The Chinese thought they would stage the grandest games ever and the world would applaud, but a good portion of the world appears to be growing increasingly uneasy with the whole thing.

There were always issues with these Olympics, as there are with any Olympics. British officials wanted to muzzle their athletes during the games, the US State Department warned anyone attending that they would likely be under surveillance, and the choking pollution in Beijing might keep some athletes away.

But now there are really big issues, and the Chinese aren't doing themselves any favors in clumsy and heavy-handed attempts to separate them from the field of play.

None are bigger than Darfur and Tibet, and Chinese officials have to be worried about what is to come after seeing what was supposed to be a glorious torch lighting ceremony overshadowed by demonstrators in Greece. Months of protests leading up to the Olympics will be bad enough, but what happens if protests break out during the games in Beijing and are put down violently?

At least one group has already announced its intentions to make a scene.

"We are planning some actions during the games themselves in Beijing," said Jill Savitt, executive director of Dream for Darfur. "We're not going to release the details of those yet for fear we wouldn't be able to pull off those events."

Indeed, the very Olympics that the Chinese want to use to show off their country will be used by activists to show things that may not be so pretty. Though there has been some idle talk about possible boycotts because of Tibet, both sides want these games to go ahead for reasons of their own.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said much the same thing Monday in an interview with The Associated Press before the torch ceremony that went bad.

"Awarding the games to China has put China in the limelight and opened the issues up to the world," Rogge said. "Tibet, rightfully so, is on the front page. But it would not be on the front page if the games were not being organized in China."

The Chinese wanted these games badly, and they got them. They're spending untold billions to put on a spectacle for the world.

But they're finding out early that they can't always control what the world sees. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:44 AM
State-run Chinese media ignores Olympic torch-lighting protests
03/25/2008 | 05:34 PM
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BEIJING – According to state-run media, anti-Chinese government protests that marred the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony simply didn't happen.

State-controlled Chinese media did not mention the embarrassing disruption, which took place Monday in Greece when a protester evaded security and ran up behind Beijing Olympic organizing committee President Liu Qi as he was giving a speech.

The image and the report of the protester unfurling a black banner – the Olympic rings replaced by handcuffs – appeared around the world in newspapers, on Web sites and on television broadcasts.

But not in China.

The domestic censorship comes as China tries to avoid a public relations disaster abroad.

The torch relay and the Olympics were supposed to feature a modern China. Instead, the intense coverage of Beijing preparations has become a stage for protests by pro-Tibet activists, and human rights and religious groups.

The games have also highlighted Beijing's choking pollution, tensions over Taiwan and issues with a Muslim minority in the west of the country.

The English-language China Daily published at least eight articles about the torch-lighting without mentioning the disruption. It also ignored the protest of a Tibetan woman who lay in the road of the torch relay until she was removed by police.

"A perfect start on the road to gold," the newspaper said in a headline.

"The Olympic flame will radiate light and happiness, peace and friendship, and the hope and dreams of the people of China and the whole world," it said, quoting Liu's speech. Liu is also the head of Beijing's Communist Party.

While ignoring the protests, the paper carried a front-page article accusing some media of "distorted and sometimes dishonest" coverage of recent riots in Tibet.

The Chinese-language People's Daily, the main voice of the Communist Party, filled half of its front page and all of its sports page with reports of the torch lighting. There was no mention of protests.

The powerful Guangming Daily carried reports from the state-run Xinhua news agency.

"People in Tibet are looking forward to the Olympic Games," one headline said.

"The whole country's attention and enthusiasm for the ceremony showed the world that the Chinese people's passion aroused by the Olympic flame is far beyond sports," an article said.

TV also ignored the protests. China state-run TV cut away just before the protests on Monday and showed a prerecorded scene, preventing Chinese viewers from seeing the incident. Chinese TV commentators didn't mention it. The TV coverage was broadcast with a slight delay, allowing censors to intervene.

International TV broadcasts from CNN and the BBC – available only to foreigners in apartment compounds or hotels – were blacked out when they carried scenes of the protest.

Unnerved by the threat of live TV broadcasts, China might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics. Any ban would upset international TV networks, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) to broadcast the games.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang called the protests "shameful and unpopular."

"We believe that China has the confidence and capability to ensure a smooth Olympic torch relay and a successful Olympic Games," said Qin, who tacitly acknowledged the protests took place.

A half-dozen Chinese interviewed on the streets Tuesday said they didn't know about the protests.

"It's not something we should care about," said a migrant worker collecting rubbish, who identified himself as Mr. Zhang. Migrant workers earn about US$150 monthly and tens of thousands have been at work in Beijing building the city's new Olympic venues and airport terminal.

"We're not even quite sure we can still stay in this city when Olympic come," Zhang added. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:46 AM
Australians urge protesters not to target Olympic torch relay
03/25/2008 | 06:35 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia – Australia's senior Olympic official is urging political demonstrators not to target the Beijing Games amid global moves to bolster security for the torch relay following protests in Ancient Olympia.

A protester evaded tight security, ran behind Beijing Olympic chief Liu Qi, and held up a black banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs at the traditional lighting of the flame in Greece on Monday.

In other statements against China's human rights policies and crackdown in Tibet, three men advocating press freedom evaded massive security and ran onto the field at the ceremony in Ancient Olympia before they were seized by police.

And a Tibetan woman covered in fake blood briefly blocked the path of the torch relay.

"I think the Olympic Games are a cause and an agent for good, not a panacea for ills," former International Olympic Committee vice president Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Beijing Games, said.

Protests are expected to coincide with the torch's arrival in the Australian capital on April 24.

"We will use the focus on Canberra and the torch to highlight the current situation in Tibet and to call for the torch not to go ... through Tibet and up Mount Everest," Australia Tibet Council executive officer Paul Bourke told the Australian Associated Press.

Bourke said protesters would travel from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for the protest action.

"Tibet is virtually under a state of undeclared martial law and we don't believe it's appropriate to be taking the torch through Tibet at that time."

The Australian Capital Territory's chief minister John Stanhope is proposing high security when the flame is in Canberra during its 130-day journey to the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies in Beijing.

"The ACT government has been liaising with the Chinese Embassy ... and the Australian Federal Police on security arrangements from the time Canberra was invited to participate in the torch relay," Stanhope said. "These arrangements are well-advanced and, of course, will remain subject to whatever change or augmentation might be needed."

Falun Gong practitioners and Tibet supporters have already staged protests outside China's embassy in Canberra.

"The ACT government respects the right of anyone to air their opinions or make their sentiments known, so long as they do so in a peaceful manner and so long as they respect the laws of the ACT," Stanhope said. "Canberra has the advantage of hosting the torch later in the global tour, and will be able to learn from the experience of other cities along the way."

China's communist leadership has faced a public relations disaster since protests of its rule turned violent March 14 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, sparking waves of unrest in surrounding provinces. China reported a death toll of 22 from the violence, but Tibet's exiled government says 80 Tibetans were killed. Nineteen died in subsequent violence in Gansu province, it said.

A rising chorus of international criticism and floated calls for a boycott have unnerved the Chinese leadership, which has turned up efforts to put its own version of the unrest before the international public.

"Everybody's very sensitive to what's been happening in Tibet in recent days and we hope that the Chinese will bring peace very quickly," Gosper said in an Australian TV interview Tuesday. The Olympics "is not a nasty event, this is an event of celebration.

"I think that detractors who try and draw attention to their own issues ... are only doing their own causes harm."

Gosper, who won a silver medal for Australia at the 1956 Olympics, said the spirit of the Olympics was at stake.

"It's symbolic of sport at its best, it's symbolic of peace and good will," he said. "And whilst there are detractors, we're hopeful the torch will come through as it should as an ideal of the Olympic and what it represents." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:47 AM
New Zealand to send men's, women's soccer teams to Beijing
03/27/2008 | 03:20 PM
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand - New Zealand will send men's and women's soccer teams to the Beijing Olympics after its national Olympic committee ratified their selection Thursday.

Both teams earned games places by winning Oceania regional qualifying tournaments but their Olympic attendance was dependent on the NZOC's approval of their selection.

The NZOC imposed additional selection criteria, requiring both teams to demonstrate an ability to move beyond pool play in Beijing. Its board ruled Thursday that the men's team likely would, and although the women's team was less likely to qualify from its pool, it had earned the right to compete.

"The New Zealand's women's football team won the Oceania qualifier recently, meeting International Federation standards," the board said in a statement. "The NZOC board believes that Beijing 2008 will be a critical stepping stone in preparation for a competitive result at London 2012 and future-proofing the development of women's football in New Zealand."

The New Zealand teams have yet to be named. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:48 AM
Reed says British cyclists have peaked too soon ahead of Beijing
03/29/2008 | 01:08 PM
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MANCHESTER, England – American Jennie Reed isn't overwhelmed by Britain's domination of the world track cycling championships. She thinks the British riders are peaking too soon ahead of the Olympics.

Reed has reached the sprint semifinals, set for Saturday.

Teammate Sarah Hammer has won America's sole medal – a silver. She was denied gold in the individual pursuit by Britain's Rebecca Romero, a convert from rowing.

Romero's title was one of six Britain has claimed out of 10 gold medals in front of the home crowd.

"Some people like to show their cards," Reed told The Associated Press. "Everyone wants to win, but the idea is to just build and build and sometimes it's good to give you something more to want if you don't come away on top.

"So many different things happen in the Olympics that you can't forecast."

Reed upset newly crowned time-trial champion Lisandra Guerra of Cuba to raise hopes of an American gold, despite her foot slipping from the pedal in an earlier round.

"I thought my day over," she said. "But what I thought was going to be the end of my worlds ended up being a really good day. Now I'm in the top four, of course I want the gold."

That could mean facing defending champion Victoria Pendleton of Britain, who came within 0.08 of the 15-year-old world record in the qualifying round.

The other semifinalists are Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania and Guo Shuang of China.

"I just feel that I'm getting better as the competition goes on, so I'm excited," Reed said.

Reed was a medal hopeful at 2004 Athens, but placed 10th over 200 meters in the sprint. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:49 AM
Christophe Riblon satisfied with silver, but aiming for gold in Beijing
03/29/2008 | 01:18 PM
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MANCHESTER, England – Christophe Riblon lost the points race gold medal at the world track cycling championships by three centimeters (an inch) on Friday.

That's the way he saw it.

Officially, he lost by one point.

The Frenchman was stripped of five points for straying onto the strip at the bottom of the velodrome while he was winning a sprint during the 160-lap race . He finished second to gold medalist Vasili Kiryienka of Belarus.

"I don't really understand. I was only over by about three or four centimeters, and there was no one following me," Riblon said.

Still, he said, "I'm on the podium and I think I deserved it."

Most of the 27-year-old's points came at the end of the 40-kilometer (25-mile) race. He won four of the last six sprints.

It wasn't enough, though, and his only hope of victory was to claim a 20-point bonus for lapping the field. He got more than halfway there in the final laps, but didn't have enough power to pull it off before the race ended.

"Four laps from the end, I could see myself as world champion," Riblon said.

"But I am very satisfied, especially as I just found out I'm going to have a little girl."

Riblon has been a professional road racer for several years and has cut back on his track racing, but said his heart was still on the track and he planned to go one better than silver at the Olympics in Beijing.

"I hope the chance will be there in the games and things will go in my favor," he said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:50 AM
Olympics torch arrives in Beijing amid protests
03/31/2008 | 09:20 AM
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(Updated 10:20 a.m.) BEIJING - The Olympic torch touched down in Beijing amid high security Monday before a round-the-world relay expected to be a lightning rod for protests against China's policies and human rights practices.

The arrival was shown live on state television, and comes a week after the lighting ceremony for the torch in Greece was marred by protests. There were also protests Sunday by a pro-Tibetan group when Greek officials handed over the flame to organizers of the Beijing Games in Athens.

The torch arrival in Beijing allows the government a brief respite before the relay sets off on a problematic, monthlong world tour.

The torch relay has been heavily promoted by the Chinese government. The chartered Air China plane was greeted at the Beijing airport by hundreds of schoolchildren waving Chinese and Olympics flags.

Chief Beijing organizer Liu Qi carried the flame off the plane. Showing how important the Olympics are to China's communist leaders, he was greeted by Zhou Yongkang. A former public security minister, Zhou is a member of the Communist Party's supreme nine-man Politburo Standing Committee.

Authorities have given few details about a torch welcoming ceremony later Monday in Tiananmen Square, the heart of China's capital.

There has been a noticeable boost in security in downtown Beijing. One subway station at Tiananmen Square was closed and dozens of police were at other subway stops. Police also closed the square to vehicles.

After a one-day stop in Beijing the flame goes Tuesday to Almaty, Kazakhstan, the start of the 20-country, 137,000-kilometer (85,100-mile) global journey.

The grandiose relay is the longest in Olympic history and has the most torchbearers — a sign of the vast attention lavished on the Games by Beijing, which hopes to use it to showcase China's rising economic and political power.

Instead, however, it has provided a stage for human rights activists who have been criticizing China over a range of issues including its handling of Muslims in the far west of the country, its control over Tibet and its relationship with Sudan.

Tibetan and rights groups have said they will stage protests along the torch route. That includes stops in London, Paris and San Francisco over the next 10 days.

The relay has especially focused attention on recent unrest in Tibet, the worst in the Chinese-controlled region since 1989.

Dozens of Tibetan exiles burned an effigy of China President Hu Jintao as they reached the Indian capital of New Delhi on Sunday, carrying a symbolic flame which they said was running parallel to the official torch for the Beijing Olympic games.

Beijing's relay was tarnished before it even began when a demonstrator protesting Chinese media curbs grabbed headlines last week by disrupting a Chinese official's opening address at the lighting ceremony in Greece.

That was followed across Greece by a smattering of protests by activists protesting a crackdown on dissent in Tibet and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which is banned in China. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:52 AM
Olympics torch is re-lit in Beijing amid protests
03/31/2008 | 01:10 PM
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BEIJING - Chinese President Hu Jintao presided over the re-lighting of the Olympic torch Monday in the host city Beijing, signaling the start of a round-the-world torch relay that already has become a magnet for human rights protesters.

Hu's participation in the elaborate ceremony in Tiananmen Square in the heart of the capital underlined the importance that China places on the Olympics and its hopes to display a confident, strong nation to the world when the Games open Aug. 8.

The ceremony 130 days before the start of the Olympics was broadcast on state television, and comes a week after the lighting ceremony for the Olympic torch in Greece was marred by protests.

"I declare the torch relay of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games begun," Hu said after handing the flame off to China's Olympic and world champion hurdler, Liu Xiang. Liu jogged off the square as confetti flew, Chinese and Olympic flags waved and traditional drums pounded.

After a one-day stop in Beijing, the flame goes Tuesday to Almaty, Kazakhstan, the start of a monthlong 20-country, 137,000-kilometer (85,100-mile) global journey.

The grandiose relay is the longest in Olympic history and has the most torchbearers — a sign of the vast attention lavished on the games by Beijing, which hopes to use it to showcase China's rising economic and political power.

Instead, however, it has provided a stage for human rights activists who have been criticizing China over a range of issues including its handling of Muslims in the far west of the country, its control over Tibet and its relationship with Sudan.

Tibetan and rights groups have said they will stage protests along the torch route, which includes stops in London, Paris and San Francisco over the next 10 days.

The relay has especially focused attention on recent unrest in Tibet, the worst in the Chinese-controlled region since 1989.

The flame arrived from Greece early Monday aboard a chartered Air China plane, greeted at Beijing airport by hundreds of flag-waving schoolchildren.

Amid tight security, police and paramilitary officers were stationed on overpasses, bridges and entry ramps along the flame's route into the city. Two subway stations at Tiananmen Square were closed and dozens of police guarded other subway stops. Police also closed the square to vehicles, and pedestrians and bicyclists were kept at one block away.

Authorities also closed off Chang'an Boulevard, the capital's main thoroughfare, which runs along the north end of Tiananmen Square between it and the Forbidden City, ancient home to Chinese emperors. Traffic was snarled for several kilometers (miles) east of the square. Pedestrians were blocked from all other approaches.

State television's live broadcast of the ceremony was delayed by about one minute, apparently to ensure the feed could be cut in the event of any disruptions.

Last week, the China Central Television broadcast cut away from the flame lighting ceremony in Greece when protesters ran behind Chief Beijing organizer Liu Qi as he gave a speech. It showed stock footage of the ceremony site instead.

About 5,000 people, including 220 foreign journalists, were on hand for the ceremony in the middle of the vast square in the heart of Beijing. Other attendees were mainly officials, entertainers and large numbers of middle-aged women engaged in orchestrated cheering.

Bright red seats faced north to where a huge portrait of Mao Zedong overlooks the square. Martial artists and dancers in minority costumes, including those of Tibetans, cavorted on a huge red carpet covering much of the north end of the square.

The ceremony mixed bright colors and a modern look with military music and imagery from China's imperial past. Top Communist Party officials spoke of global understanding and respect, but also sprinkled their address scope with familiar political catchphrases.

"Now the Olympic flame has brought the noble Olympic spirit to China. The burning Olympic flame will spread the message of peace and friendship and unite all people under one world, one dream," Liu Qi said, invoking the Beijing Games' official slogan.

The sun shone throughout the ceremony and Beijing's air was relatively free Monday of the dense smog that frequently smothers the city.

The IOC has repeatedly said it might reschedule events if smog levels are too high because micro-particles associated with air pollution can potentially trigger asthma attacks and cause heart problems among athletes in endurance events.

Hein Verbruggen, the only foreign IOC official to address the ceremony, made no mention of potential problems.

"All along the relay route people will be touched by the Olympic Games and what it means," said Verbruggen, who heads the IOC commission monitoring Beijing Games preparations. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:52 AM
9 golds for Britain, but will the Olympics go the same way?
03/31/2008 | 06:26 PM
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MANCHESTER, England – The British are so stoic about their sporting failures that the concept of success can be a little hard for them to grasp.

Which is maybe why even taking half the gold medals at the track cycling world championships isn't yet being translated into taking half the medals at the Olympic Games, either by the British media or by the British team.

"We are competitive across the board. I think we'll get three to four golds," said Shane Sutton, Britain's track cycling team manager. There are 10 events on the Olympic track program.

Veteran cycling commentator Phil Liggett was more confident.

"Those guys will win all the medals in Beijing," he said.

Bradley Wiggins took three golds in Manchester, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy and Rebecca Romero had two each. The men's and women's pursuit teams both broke world records. Britain took gold in nine of the 18 disciplines contested and – maybe crucially – in seven of the 10 Olympic events.

The Netherlands – officially the strongest team in world track cycling going into the event – improved on its one gold medal from a year ago, taking one on Saturday and two on the final day. They will be hoping to improve further before the Olympics, with all eyes on Marianne Vos, the points race champion in Manchester, who plans to compete both on the track and the road at Beijing.

Jennie Reed of the United States came round Victoria Pendleton on the final bend of the last event to secure gold in the women's keirin. She will be in Beijing, as will Sarah Hammer, who lost her individual pursuit crown here but is certain she can win in China.

Britain probably can't hope to entirely emulate all its success of Manchester at Beijing, where it will be without the home-crowd support. Still, it's not exactly a one-off – after British riders took seven gold medals a year ago in Spain.

"People are saying it's all happened at the wrong time, but this is this the last race of the track season," Liggett said. "Now they only have to concentrate on winning a medal in Beijing."

One or two riders who could be competitive in Beijing were missing this week. Anna Meares of Australia didn't recover in time from a crash she suffered in January, but looks likely to qualify and be fit in time for the women's sprint events in China.

Also hoping for better luck at Beijing is eight-time world champion Natallia Tsylinskaya of Belarus, who crashed in the heats of the women's sprint here and broke her collarbone.

One British medal hope is also missing with a broken collarbone – Chris Newton, who was injured in a training fall earlier this month after he had taken the World Cup points race crown.

Former world champion Rob Hayles, who had been due to compete in the individual pursuit, was banned for two weeks by the International Cycling Union after an abnormal blood test on the first day of the competition.

Australia is certainly one team that will be seeking better results in Beijing. Its four golds from Athens evaporated here, where they took only one silver and three bronzes. As well as Meares, the Australians will be counting on sprinter Ryan Bayley and pursuit rider Katie Mactier to raise their game for Beijing.

Belarus was the only team other than Britain and the Netherlands to take more than one gold in Manchester, and that despite the absence of Tsylinskaya. One revelation in Manchester has been Aliaksandr Lisouski, who took gold in the men's scratch race and then won a bronze in the men's omnium, an event that requires both endurance riding and sprinting.

One gold in Beijing already looks to be almost wrapped up – in a tricolor flag. The French men's sprint team has been virtually unbeatable in recent years, and a gold medal and world record in Manchester suggests that they will be the team to beat in Beijing. French men will also be up with the best in several other events. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:53 AM
Olympic torch leaves on month-long global tour
04/01/2008 | 01:37 PM
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BEIJING - The Olympic flame headed to Kazakhstan on Tuesday to start a month-long global tour expected be a magnet for protesters against China's government.

The flame left on a chartered plane for Almaty, Kazakhstan after an elaborate kickoff ceremony held under tight security in host city Beijing's Tiananmen Square.Almaty is the first of 21 stops around the world before it returns to mainland China on May 4.

The high-profile journey is widely expected to draw demonstrators over the next month as the torch travels through London, Paris and San Francisco. Even stops in Kazakhstan and then Turkey on Thursday could be flash points for China's Muslim Uighur minority living abroad.

Activists have pledged to disrupt the tour to bring attention to causes ranging from Tibetan independence to the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

A Tuesday editorial by the People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, warned that troubles lie ahead in the four months before the Aug 8-24 Games.

"With the opening of the games approaching, the burden on our shoulders is heavier and the task tougher. We must keep a clear head, improving our awareness of the potential dangers, and bravely facing all the difficulties and challenges," it said.

But the commentary said China is prepared for the difficulties because "to successfully host the Olympics is the wish shared by 1.3 billion Chinese people."

Monday's ceremony to rekindle the Olympic torch went off seamlessly in Beijing's closely guarded Tiananmen Square — with dancers in brightly colored uniforms, flower-toting children and confetti. The flame had been carried from Greece in a lantern aboard an Air China flight.

President Hu Jintao presided over the ceremony, which was broadcast to the world on state television 130 days before the games open. About 5,000 people attended the invitation-only event though hundreds of seats were left vacant, filled only with plainclothes security agents in black jackets.

The 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile) torch relay is the longest ever, meant to showcase China's growing economic and political clout. But the Olympic Games have also focused unwanted attention on China in the wake of deadly protests earlier this month in Tibet, the biggest challenge to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region since 1989.

In the wake of the subsequent crackdown, Beijing has come under intense international scrutiny over its human rights policies, causing embarrassment and frustration for China as it prepares to host the Aug. 8-24 games.

China has consistently blamed the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, and his supporters for inciting peaceful protests that began March 10 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The marches exploded into violence four days later.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urged President George W. Bush to consider boycotting the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics as a symbolic gesture against China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet.

"I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table," Pelosi said in an interview taped for airing Tuesday on ABC television. "I think the president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do."

However, Pelosi, a longtime critic of China's human rights policies, said she does not support boycotting the full games. The White House has said that Bush would not boycott the Beijing Olympics, saying the games are a sporting event, not a political one.

international athletes have already begun to make their own political statements regarding China.

On Tuesday, officials in New Delhi said India's soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia has refused to carry the Beijing Olympic torch during its run in the capital later this month to protest China's crackdown.

"This is my way of standing by the people of Tibet and their struggle. I abhor violence in any form," The Times Of India daily quoted Bhutia as saying.

Last month, a Thai torchbearer, one of six chosen to bear the flame in Thailand, also withdrew from the relay, saying she wanted to protest China's actions in Tibet. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:54 AM
IOC wants Beijing to open Internet during Olympics
04/01/2008 | 06:07 PM
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BEIJING – The Internet must be open during the Beijing Olympics.

That was the message a top-ranking International Olympic Committee official delivered Tuesday to Beijing organizers during the first of three days of meetings, the last official sessions between IOC inspectors and the host Chinese before the games begin in just over four months.

China routinely blocks Internet access, a practice it has stepped up since rioting broke out over two weeks ago in Tibet.

Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC coordinating commission, said blocking the Internet during the Games "would reflect very poorly" on the host nation.

"Even this morning we discussed and insisted again," Gosper said. "Our concern is that the press is able to operate as it has at previous games – at games time."

Gosper said the Chinese had an obligation under the so-called "host city agreement" to open Internet access to 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists expected to attend.

"There was some criticism that the Internet closed down during events relating to Tibet in previous weeks, but this is not games time," Gosper said.

Laws that lifted most restrictions on foreign media went into effect Jan. 1, 2007. The rules are due to expire in October.

"I'm satisfied that the Chinese understand the need for this and they will do it," Gosper added.

When asked about Gosper's comments, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China's "management" of the Internet followed the "general practice of the international community."

She acknowledged that China bans some Internet content, and said other countries did the same. She declined to say if the Internet would be unrestricted for journalists during the Olympics.

Gosper spoke after Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the inspection committee, addressed his Chinese hosts. Without being specific, Verbruggen noted that China's Aug. 8-24 games had become embroiled in controversy.

The unrest in Tibet – and China's response – has heightened calls for a boycott or a partial boycott of the games. This comes in the wake of worries over Beijing's dirty air, and calls for China to increase pressure on Sudan to end fighting in Darfur.

The Darfur issue prompted Hollywood director Steven Spielberg to step down as an artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies.

The torch relay, which left Beijing on Tuesday for Kazakhstan and a monthlong global tour, is sure to draw protests and blemish an event Chinese organizers had hoped would generate positive images of the country.

"Clearly in recent times more than ever, the Beijing Games are being drawn into issues that do not necessarily have a link with the operation of the games," Verbruggen said. "We're all aware the international community is discussing these topics, but it is important to remember that our main focus during these meetings is the successful delivery of the games operations."

The IOC has refused to speak out against China's actions in Tibet, saying it is a sporting body, not a political one. It has maintained the Beijing Olympics "are a force for good" in opening up the country.

Liu Qi, president of the organizing committee, told Verbruggen the preparations were in the "final stage" but suggested the hosts would not let up.

"There's a saying in China that if you want to walk 100 steps – though you have walked 90 – you have finished only half the journey. We still have 10 steps left, and those 10 are very critical to the whole journey."

The People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, warned in an editorial Tuesday that troubles lie ahead in the four months before the Aug. 8-24 games.

"With the opening of the Games approaching, the burden on our shoulders is heavier and the task tougher," it said. "We must keep a clear head, improving our awareness of the potential dangers, and bravely facing all the difficulties and challenges." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:55 AM
India's soccer captain refuses to join Olympic torch run
04/01/2008 | 06:19 PM
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NEW DELHI – India's soccer captain, a Buddhist from an Indian region with ancient ties to Tibet, said Tuesday that he won't carry the Beijing Olympic torch on his assigned leg of the global relay in protest over China's crackdown on recent protests in Tibet.

Bhaichung Bhutia, who is from the tiny Himalayan region of Sikkim, is reported to be the first athlete to decline a role in the relay because of the Tibet crackdown. A Thai torchbearer also withdrew from the relay last month for similar reasons.

"I strongly denounce the repression and torture unleashed by the Chinese authorities in Tibet," Bhutia told The Associated Press.

Bhutia was one of several Indian athletes invited by the country's Olympic Association to carry the flame when it passes through New Delhi on April 17. He said it was "a great honor" to be chosen.

"But at the same time I am sorry to inform that it is not possible for me to take part in the torch run for personal reasons," Bhutia said from Calcutta, where he plays for a top local team.

Bhutia said he faxed his decision to India's Olympic Association on Monday.

"This time the Olympics are going to be held in China. I don't want to carry this torch," he said.

India's soccer team did not qualify for the Beijing Olympic tournament.

Last month, environmentalist Narisa Chakrabongse, one of six torchbearers chosen to carry the flame through Thailand, withdrew from the relay in protest of China's actions in Tibet.

"The slaying of the Tibetans ... is an outright violation of human rights," Narisa wrote in an open letter. "It happened two weeks before the Olympic torch leaves Athens and five months before the Olympic Games. This reflects the Chinese government's negligence of world sentiment."

French swimmer Alain Bernard, who set three world records at the European championships, told French television last month he backed a protest of the opening ceremony.

In February, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies over China's support for the Sudan government amid atrocities in the country's Darfur region.

Bhutia's home region, Sikkim, which borders Tibet, was once among a patchwork of Buddhist kingdoms that dominated the Earth's highest peaks for centuries.

Nearly all of those realms have in the past half century been taken over by larger powers – Tibet was conquered by China in 1951; Sikkim was absorbed by India in 1975 – and, to a degree, cut off from one another.

But the religious and cultural ties dating back centuries still endure, and Bhutia said: "I have many Tibetan friends and I have taken this decision to show my solidarity with them."

While nearly all the once-powerful Buddhist kingdoms – from Ladakh in the western Himalayas to Bhutan on the mountain ranges' eastern flank – face the challenge of trying to maintain their distinctive Himalayan Buddhist societies, none of have had to contend with the oppression seen in Tibet.

Frustration with Chinese rule boiled over on March 14 when Tibetans in Lhasa, the region's capital, attacked Han Chinese, the country's majority who have been encouraged by Beijing to settle in Tibet. Protests then spread to other parts of China.

The violence and ensuing crackdown have cast a spotlight on Beijing's rights record in the Himalayan region, and shattered China's hopes for a peaceful run-up to the Olympics.

The Chinese government says 22 people died in violence, while Tibetan exiles say the violence and a harsh crackdown afterward left nearly 140 people dead.

The Olympic torch arrived in Beijing on Monday after demonstrations by a pro-Tibetan group during its passage from Ancient Olympia in Greece. The flame goes Tuesday to Almaty, Kazakhstan at the start of the 20-country, 137,000-kilometer (85,100-mile) global journey with protests expected in several major cities.

Tibetan exiles in India are highlighting their opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet with their own relay torch and by staging their own version of the Olympics from May 15-25 in Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile in northern India.

Dharmsala is home to the Dalai Lama – the Tibetan spiritual leader – who fled to India in 1959. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:57 AM
Olympic torch arrives in Kazakhstan under tight security
04/03/2008 | 12:06 AM
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ASTANA, Kazakhstan – The Olympic torch has arrived in the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev carried it a short distance through Almaty, the commercial capital, on Wednesday.

Security has been tight, with thousands of policemen watching out for potential protests by Tibetan activists or those from Kazakhstan's Uighur community.

The Uighurs have a sizable population in western China, particularly in Xinjiang, an autonomous region that borders Tibet.

Radio Free Asia has reported that several hundred Uighurs have been taken into custody since demonstrating in Xinjiang on March 23. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:58 AM
IOC dismisses calls for Olympic boycott over Tibet - group
04/04/2008 | 08:20 PM
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BEIJING - The president of the International Olympic Committee has told members that China's policies toward Tibet have no bearing on this summer's Beijing Olympics and dismissed talk of a boycott, a journalists' advocacy group claimed Friday.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Jacques Rogge sent a memo dated March 17 to IOC members instructing them on how to respond to anti-government protests in Tibet that have sparked wide-ranging criticism of China's iron-fisted rule over the Himalayan region.

"In his introduction, the IOC president says the events in Tibet area are disturbing but will not jeopardize the 'success' of the Olympic Games," the group, known by its French initials RSF, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

"He also says that no 'credible' government or organization is supporting the idea of a boycott," the group said.

The existence of the memo could not be independently verified and an IOC press officer referred questions to spokeswoman Giselle Davies, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

RSF is one of a number of groups seeking to use the Beijing Olympics to bring the Communist government's human rights record under global scrutiny.

Last year, the group staged a rare public demonstration outside the headquarters of the Beijing Games organizers, saying China had failed to make good on pledges to improve human rights when it won the right to host the Olympics in 2001.

Members of the group were also among human rights campaigners and Tibet activists who interrupted last month's Olympic flame-lighting ceremony in Greece with scattered protests.

In his memo, Rogge said the IOC "shares the world's desire for the Chinese government to bring about a peaceful resolution as quickly as possible" to the violence in Tibet, according to RSF.

However, he added that the IOC does not raise such matters with host nations, the group said.

"The IOC needs to tell the Chinese authorities that they have to respect the commitments they gave in 2001 when China was awarded these games," RSF said.

China has rejected all such criticisms as attempts to "politicize" the games, while angrily denouncing critics of its Tibet policy as "anti-China."

Beijing has accused Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, and his supporters of orchestrating deadly riots that erupted in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on March 14 following several days of peaceful protests led by monks.

Earlier this week, authorities said they plan to put rioters on trial and reopen Tibet to foreign tourists by May — a tight timetable that would allow the government to put the issue behind it ahead of the August Olympics.

Both Tibet and Tibetan communities in three neighboring provinces where the protests spread, however, remain largely closed to foreign journalists. Outside of Tibet, police turned away foreign reporters at roadblocks leading into Tibetan areas, saying they were unsafe for travel.

A state media report on Friday said officials in Tibetan areas were being forced into political study sessions in a bid to make sure Beijing's dictates are followed.

The recently issued order emphasizes the need for officials to oppose Tibetan separatism, highlighting that Beijing was caught off-guard by last month's protests, the most widespread demonstrations against Chinese rule in nearly 50 years.

"The numerous party members and grass-roots officials must further launch education in opposing separatism and preserving the unity of the motherland," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said, citing a notice from the party's powerful Organization Department, which oversees personnel issues.

The notice offers a glimpse into the ways the government is dealing with the unrest.

In Washington, the Dalai Lama's special envoy told U.S. lawmakers that China must bear full responsibility for recent violence and suffering in Tibet and said his homeland is being "brutally occupied."

"The situation today is grim," Lodi Gyari said at a congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing.

Communist troops marched into Tibet in 1950 and Beijing strengthened its hold on the region after the Dalai Lama fled in a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

The current unrest has not threatened Beijing's grip on the region, although it has raised questions about the loyalty of local officials and underscored Beijing's concerns about control.

Earlier this week, Tibet's hard-line party chief, Zhang Qingli, indicated that some local officials had been insufficiently loyal during the unrest.

Since assuming the post in 2005, Zhang has ordered officials to stop attending religious events and festivals and has reportedly presided over the firing of many ethnic Tibetan officials. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:59 AM
French athletes want to wear 'better world' badge at Beijing Olympics
04/04/2008 | 11:37 PM
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PARIS – French athletes say they want to wear a badge marked "For a better world" at the Beijing Olympics, to show support for human rights in the wake of China's crackdown in Tibet.

The athletes plan to lobby the International Olympic Committee for permission to wear the badge, a symbol of their attachment to liberty, fraternity and Olympic principles they said China is not respecting.

About 20 former and current French athletes, some already qualified to compete in Beijing this August, attended the unveiling of the badge on Friday. It shows the Olympic rings below the words "France" and "For a better world."

The badge is the result of several weeks of reflection among athletes in France about how they should respond to the events in Tibet and the broader question of human rights in China.

"The situation in China is certainly intolerable. I can assure you that it is insupportable for us sports people," said two-time Olympic canoeing champion Tony Estanguet, in a brief address that was strongly applauded by the other athletes.

He said boycotting the games should not be a solution.

One of the driving forces behind the idea was pole vaulter Romain Mesnil, silver medalist at last year's world championships in Osaka, Japan.

Mesnil said China's response to recent unrest in Tibet was a turning point for him. He had initially suggested that athletes wear a green ribbon or other signs to show support for human rights. That idea evolved into the badge that the athletes unveiled together on Friday.

"The fundamental principles of the Olympic charter are among the most beautiful messages that sport has given to man. This year we will celebrate the Olympic spirit in a country that doesn't respect these fundamental principles, or at least not sufficiently," Mesnil said.

With their badge, athletes "are putting the Olympic values back into the heart" of the Beijing Games, he added.

Two-time French judo gold medalist David Douillet said Henri Serandour, president of the French Olympic Committee, supports their action and would argue for it with IOC chief Jacques Rogge. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 04:59 AM
Olympic torch expected to be jeered in Frisco
04/04/2008 | 11:50 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO - In the city of San Francisco, where protests are as much a part of the landscape as the Golden Gate Bridge, the impending arrival of the Olympic torch is drawing out thousands of activists critical of Beijing, even as many residents celebrate San Francisco's cultural ties to China.

The torch makes its only North American stop in San Francisco on Wednesday. Its globe-trotting path already has been blemished by protests against China's policies toward Tibet and Sudan, and several more demonstrations are expected worldwide before it reaches the Summer Games.

Chinese officials have dismissed the demonstrations as the actions of a few who are trying to hijack a historical event for their own purposes.

"The torch coming to this city is an honor, and makes the Chinese population here very proud," said Defa Tong, spokesman for the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. "The situation in China is at its best now. Those people who are protesting don't represent the majority."

San Francisco, which is one-third Asian, is bound to China by centuries of commerce and immigration. Many Chinese-American residents say they are looking forward to celebrating the cultural and economic connections between their city and the giant across the Pacific.

"We're very proud to welcome the Olympic torch," said Rose Pak, a Chinatown community organizer and consultant for the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. "The Chinese government has made enormous progress. All the Western countries protesting human rights, on what moral ground are they shaking their finger at China?"

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who in the past has met with Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, said he had anticipated some opposition to the torch's stop in the city, but has called the opportunity to host the relay an extraordinary honor and has insisted the flame is about sports, not politics.

Newsom said activists' calls to keep the torch away and a Board of Supervisors vote to condemn China's human rights record does not help their cause. "They're denying for someone else the same speech they're asking for," the mayor said.

Police will not detail how they are preparing for the crowds and will not estimate how many demonstrators they expect. Protesters will be able to demonstrate anywhere in the city without permits as long as they do not block public access to the area.

Rallies, vigils or news conferences related to the torch's arrival have taken place here almost daily for the past several weeks.

Outside the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, when officials passed the nonbinding resolution, protesters draped in the Tibetan snow lion flag waved placards calling for freedom. Some carried photos of compatriots allegedly killed in the violence that recently roiled the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

Others held signs in the air, denouncing China's trade policy with repressive regimes — "China's policy Burma's misery," — and China's treatment of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned and persecuted in China.

The vote "demonstrates that people in SF, one of the most liberal cities in the world, are kind, caring and supportive of Chinese, Tibetans, and Burmese People who are being suppressed by the Communist regime," said Ying Rong, with the Coalition to Investigate Persecution of Falun Gong.

After that demonstration, activists immediately turned to planning protests that will follow the torch six miles (10 kilometers) along the waterfront, where for decades the Golden Gate Bridge welcomed the Chinese immigrants who now lend the city much of its character.

Already, billboards hovering over freeway overpasses are urging San Franciscans to join in protest.

In the coming days, Tibetans from around the United States and others concerned with China's treatment of dissidents, including actor Richard Gere and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, will gather for a vigil for Tibet.

Ice-cream makers Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., also have dispatched a convoy to San Francisco to protest China's trade with Sudan and the atrocities that have taken place in Darfur.

But in this city where every cause can find a voice, the attitudes of many residents are somewhere in the moderate middle.

"There are some issues I'm concerned about with China — human rights, trade," said Ben Wong, who works with youth at the Chinatown Beacon Center. "But as a Chinese-American, I'm actually quite excited. It's a recognition of the strength of the connection China and San Francisco have." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:00 AM
IOC chief says athletes' health not in danger at Beijing Games
04/06/2008 | 11:37 AM
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SINGAPORE – Beijing's heavy pollution may hurt the performances of athletes in this summer's Olympic Games, although it will not endanger their health, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.

The IOC in recent months has acknowledged the possibility that athletes' performances may be affected by China's pollution. But Chinese leaders have made repeated assurances that Beijing's notorious smog will be solved before the Olympic Games begin.

"The health of the athletes is absolutely not in any danger," Rogge said Saturday. "It might be that some will have to have a slightly reduced performance, but nothing will harm the health of the athletes. The IOC will take care of that."

Rogge was asked to comment on the decision by Haile Gebrselassie, the world's greatest distance runner, not to run the men's marathon in Beijing because of worries over pollution.

"Haile Gebrselassie is arguably the best long–distance runner of the present generation," Rogge said, adding however, the runner is "slightly asthmatic."

Rogge was not ruling out the possibility that Gebrselassie could change his mind nearer to the date.

"He decided so far - I'm saying so far because we don't know how things will evolve – not to participate in the marathon," he said. "I would say, wait and see ... when he sees the data that we are providing for them."

Rogge had previously said outdoor events in August's games could be delayed if the air quality was too poor.

Pollution – in addition to the violence in Tibet and other human rights issues – had been a major concern for China and the International Olympic Committee in the leadup to the Aug. 8–24 Olympics. Some athletes are reportedly considering wearing masks to ward off the bad air in Beijing, while many will delay their arrival in China's capital until the last possible moment.

The Tibet protests and other human rights issues had led activists to call for boycotts of the Beijing Olympics, and some high–ranking political leaders – including French President Nicolas Sarkozy – had said they may boycott the opening ceremony.

"We are not seeing a real momentum on boycotts by governments," Rogge said. "There are talks about the potential boycotts of the opening ceremony... It is up to the heads of government to decide if they want to come to Beijing or not."

The early stages of the torch relay had attracted protests by activists, mostly concerned with Tibetan sovereignty, and more were expected as it traveled through western Europe and the United States.

"If people want to protest, we are for the freedom of speech and expression," Rogge said. "They can protest as long as it is not violent."

Rogge said the IOC executive committee would meet April 10 to examine the latest report by human rights group Amnesty International, which was critical of China's lack of progress on such issues as detention without trial, repression of human right activists and Internet censorship.

Rogge and IOC executive board member Sergei Bubka traveled to Singapore to observe preparations for the first Youth Olympic Games to be held there in 2010. The Youth Games will feature about 3,200 athletes aged 14–18 competing in 26 sports. – AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:01 AM
Sri Lanka's coach, Olympic marathon runner killed in suicide attack
04/06/2008 | 02:38 PM
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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka's national athletics coach Lakshman de Alwis and former Olympic marathon runner K.A. Karunaratne were among those killed in a suicide bomb attack Sunday.

The bomber struck at the start of a marathon, killing a government minister and 11 other people. Dozens were wounded.

Minister of Highways and Road Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who was opening the race 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Colombo, was among those killed, government spokesman Anusha Paltipa said.

Eleven other people died and more than 90 were wounded, the Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site.

Karunaratne competed in the 1992 Olympic marathon and the 1993 World Championships. He won gold in the marathon and 10,000 meters at the 1991 South Asian Games, defending his marathon title in 1993.

Karunaratne and de Alwis were confirmed dead by Lakshman Hulugalle, a government spokesman.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 for an independent homeland for ethnic minority Tamils who have been marginalized by successive governments run by majority ethnic Sinhalese. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the violence. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:02 AM
Runner Wariner aiming for Olympic gold medal, world record
04/06/2008 | 02:56 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas – His eyes hidden behind the trademark sunglasses, Jeremy Wariner spelled out his two goals for 2008 – an Olympic gold medal in the 400 meters in Beijing and that elusive world record.

The defending Olympic and world champion, Wariner exudes nothing but confidence that he can get both.

"It's in my grasp," Wariner said of the record of 43.18 seconds set by his agent, Michael Johnson, in 1999. "Once I put the perfect race together, I'll get it."

Wariner ran on Saturday at the Texas Relays, pulling his regular anchor leg for the Waco All-Stars in the invitational 4x400 relay. His team cruised to an easy win in 3 minutes, 0.65 seconds, the fastest mark in the world this year. It was one of several top marks set on a sunny and warm track.

Wariner has talked about the record before, but he surprised many when he abruptly split with longtime coach Clyde Hart in January in a contract dispute. Hart is internationally regarded as a king maker in the long sprints and tutored Johnson before he coached Wariner.

Wariner was now coached by Baylor University assistant Michael Ford and he said he was very happy with his training in the runup to the US Olympic trials this summer.

"My training is going great. I'm exactly where I want to be," Wariner said.

Ford said a big reason Wariner picked him as his coach was that he wouldn't change much during training. He thinks Wariner is ready to set the record.

"Every year is a year to shoot for a record. He's set that as his goal for this year," Ford said. "I told him when I took over, 'You put a lot of pressure on me to get that world record.' I think mentally he's there."

Wariner said Johnson regularly tells him he wants him to break the record.

"My race has to be perfect for me to the get the record," Wariner said. "A lot of people might think my race is perfect (now), but in my mind, I know it's not."

Other top Olympic champions and hopefuls for Beijing at the Texas Relays included Tyson Gay, the defending world champion in the 100 and 200. Gay didn't run an individual sprint, but anchored the USA Blue team in the men's invitational 400 relay and ran the opening leg of the 4x400 relay.

In the first race, the team of Preston Perry, Leroy Dixon, Mike Rodgers and Gay finished in 38.63 seconds, best in the world this year.

Gay said he's shooting for Olympic gold in the 100 and 200 but will leave chasing records to Wariner.

Sprint rival Asafa Powell of Jamaica holds the 100 world record of 9.74 set last year. Johnson set the record in the 200 in 19.32 in 1996.

"I'm definitely not going to chase any records. I'll take a gold medal any day," Gay said. "I want to focus on gold medals first."

Gay said he had to run through some soreness in his right foot but thinks it won't be a nagging problem.

"It's going to be OK. It's a little scary being an Olympic year," he said.

Sanya Richards, the dominant 400 meters runner in the world, just hopes she can get to the Olympics in her best event. She missed the world championships in the 400 when she was hampered by chronic illness and failed to qualify.

She won an Olympic relay gold medal in 2004. But Richards, the 2006 world female athlete of the year, is still seeking a top individual medal on the world stage.

On Saturday, she ran the anchor leg for the USA Red team that won the women's invitational 400 relay with a time of 42.25, also the fastest in the world this year. She also ran the final leg of the 4x400 relay as he team post another world's best in 3:23.49. Richards was already in the lead when she took the baton and cruised to the win.

"It was awesome to be on the track today," Richards said.

Missing the world championships "definitely humbled me," she said.

"But it also allowed me to focus on what I have to do. I'm training as hard as I can." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:03 AM
Arrests mar London's Olympic torch relay
04/06/2008 | 08:57 PM
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LONDON - Police scuffled with protesters as Olympians and celebrities carried the Olympic torch through snowy London during a chaotic relay Sunday.

Demonstrators tried to board a relay bus as five-time Olympic gold medalist rower Steve Redgrave launched the 31-mile procession at Wembley Stadium. Three people were arrested, police said.

Later, in west London, another protester tried to grab the torch, forcing police to briefly stop the procession as officers moved in to grab the man. Another demonstrator tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

A few miles down the route, dozens of Chinese supporters of the Olympics were waving large China flags outside the British Museum. Around the corner, several dozen protesters were chanting "Free Tibet."

Activists demonstrating China's human rights record and a recent crackdown on Tibet have been protesting along the torch route since the start of the flame's 85,000-mile odyssey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

In London, host of the next Olympics in 2012, dozens of dignitaries, athletes and celebrities lined the route.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he will greet the torch outside his 10 Downing Street home during its journey from Wembley Stadium in the northwest to Greenwich in the southeast.

"It is also important to recognize, when you ask the question about the Olympic torch, that the Dalai Lama himself has said that he does not want to see a boycott of the Olympics," Brown said Saturday.

The torch's global tour is the longest in Olympic history and is meant to highlight China's growing economic and political power. But it has also offered protest groups abundant opportunity to draw attention to their concerns.

"People are traveling from across the country and Europe as well to participate," said spokesman Terry Bettger of the Free Tibet Campaign.

London's Metropolitan Police said it was aware of six organizations, including the Free Tibet campaign, the spiritual group Falun Gong and a group calling for democracy in Myanmar, planning to protest. The force deployed 2,000 officers along the route.

The Chinese ambassador to Britain, whose role as a torchbearer has become a focus of protesters' ire, said the Olympics should be viewed as a sporting event.

"There's a lot more awareness about the influence of politics and there are better means for solving political problems," Ambassador Fu Ying told the British Broadcasting Corp. last week. "You don't solve them on the football ground; you don't solve them in the swimming pool."

The BBC reported Thursday that Fu had pulled out of the relay, but the Chinese Embassy said no decision had been made and declined to comment on reports that a Chinese student organization has rallied members to protect the torch as it crosses London.

Among the 80 torchbearers scheduled to take part are double Olympic gold medal-winning runner Kelly Holmes and violinist Vanessa Mae.

Several torchbearers dropped out to protest China's human rights record. Richard Vaughan, Britain's top badminton player, also said he would not participate because China was not doing enough to stop violence in the Sudanese region of Darfur.

One of London's oldest Chinese organizations said it was crucial that the event not be marred by protests. More than 80,000 people of Chinese descent live in London, making it the largest Chinese community in Europe.

"The Olympic games are very important for all Chinese. In Chinatown, everyone is very anxious to see the torch pass," said London Chinese Community Center spokeswoman Annie Wu. "We hope it goes smoothly."

The torch relay is expected to face more demonstrations in Paris, San Francisco, New Delhi and possibly elsewhere as it weaves its way across the globe on a 21-stop, six-continent tour before reaching mainland China on May 4.

The torch was flown into London on Saturday from St. Petersburg, Russia, where some of the city's most renowned athletes carried the Olympic flame. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:04 AM
Raucous UK protests greet Olympic flame
04/07/2008 | 09:05 AM
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LONDON - Demonstrators grabbed at the Olympic torch, blocked its path and tried to snuff out its flame Sunday in raucous protests of China's human rights record that forced a string of last-second changes to a chaotic relay through London.

The biggest protests since last month's torch-lighting in Greece tarnished China's hope for a harmonious prelude to a Summer Games celebrating its rise as a global power. Instead, the flame's 85,000-mile journey from Greece to Beijing has become a stage for activists decrying China's recent crackdown on Tibetans and support for Sudan despite civilian deaths in Darfur.

Demonstrators attempted to board the bus trailing the torch shortly after British five-time gold medal rower Steve Redgrave started the relay at Wembley Stadium.

Less than an hour later, a protester slipped through a tight police cordon and gripped the torch before he was thrown to the ground and arrested.

"Before I knew what was happening this guy had lurched toward me and was grabbing the torch out of my hand and I was determinedly clinging on," former children's television host Konnie Huq told British Broadcasting Corp. television.

"I do feel for the cause," she said. "I think that China have got a despicable human rights record."

Another demonstrator tried to snuff the flame with a spray of white powder from a fire extinguisher, police said. Still others threw themselves in the torch's path. They were tackled or dragged off by police. Authorities said 37 people were arrested.

London's Metropolitan police said some 2,000 officers, on foot, motorcycles, bikes, and on horseback tried to keep the procession under control.

One group of Tibetan protesters was corralled in metal barricades across from Bloomsbury Square.

"It feels like we are restrained like a sheep in a barn," said Passang Dolne, 27, a Tibetan national who works as a nurse in London. "It really hurts."

Chinese nationals about 100 yards away were allowed to move freely as they waved Chinese flags distributed by the Chinese Embassy and the Bank of China.

"We don't like the Tibet people who use this time against the Chinese. It's not a proper venue," said Ting Yan, 27.

The demonstration swelled near where Chinese Ambassador Fu Ying was expected to carry the torch. Frantic organizers shuffled the order of participants and Fu unexpectedly appeared in the heart of Chinatown, jogging unhindered with the torch before handing it to the next runner.

"Maybe on TV screens there might be some chaotic spin," Chinese embassy spokesman Liu Weimin told the BBC from the relay convoy. "I saw more smiling faces, waving hands, and thumbs-up welcoming the Olympic relay,"

But there were ugly scenes between Trafalgar Square and Big Ben, where a dozen protesters charged the torch.

"Everyone was running at (me). It was a bit weird," said Scott Earley Jr., 17, the torchbearer at the time.

About 100 demonstrators managed to briefly impede the flame's progress by surrounding it near St. Paul's Cathedral, forcing police to put the flame on a bus before continuing.

The torch was closely followed in east London by dozens of demonstrators shouting "Shame on China!" Police stopped to form a protective phalanx three or four officers deep every time the torch was handed to a new runner.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown briefly greeted the flame when it arrived outside his Downing Street residence.

Brown never handled the torch, but watched as Olympic gold medalist Denise Lewis handed it to Paralympic powerlifting hopeful Ali Jawad. Pro-Tibet demonstrators and police clashed yards away, near Britain's Parliament buildings.

The torch made it unscathed to the O2 Arena in Greenwich after more than seven fraught hours that belied the London event's theme: "Journey of Harmony."

"There was definitely a bit of an edge," British tennis player Tim Henman, one of the torchbearers, told The Associated Press.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell later said Britain was celebrating the Olympics, not China's human rights record.

"The welcome of the Olympic torch to London is not the same as condoning the human rights regime in China or condoning the treatment of Tibet," she told the BBC.

There had been scattered protests before the torch reached London, and more are expected as the flame moves on to Paris, San Francisco and New Delhi.

"They've called the torch relay a journey of harmony, but on the ground in Tibet they are shooting and killing peaceful Tibetan protesters," said Matt Whitticase, spokesman for the London-based Free Tibet Campaign. "We want to use the momentum gathered over this weekend to really press our case that the torch should not be allowed to be paraded triumphantly by China."

French torchbearers will be encircled Monday by several hundred officers, some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on skates and on foot. Three boats were also to patrol the Seine River, and a helicopter was to fly over Paris, police said.

The head of Reporters Without Borders, arrested in Greece last month for protesting during the flame-lighting ceremony there, said the group had altered its initial plans because of the heavy police turnout. Without giving away details, Robert Menard promised protests would nonetheless be "spectacular."

Two-time French judo gold medalist David Douillet said torch carriers will wear badges reading 'For a better world' — which French athletes also hope will be permitted to wear in Beijing. Paris City Hall is to be draped with a banner supporting human rights.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested he might boycott the Olympic opening ceremony depending on how the situation evolves in Tibet.

Gayle Donsky, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition, said her group did not intend to disrupt the torch relay and was not calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

Still, she said, activists see Wednesday's upcoming relay along San Francisco's waterfront as an unprecedented chance to draw attention to China's alleged complicity in the violence in Sudan. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:05 AM
Olympic committee chief 'very concerned' about Tibet
04/07/2008 | 11:51 AM
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BEIJING - International Olympic Committee head Jacques Rogge says he's "very concerned" about the unrest in Tibet and other international issues surrounding the Beijing Games.

"I'm very concerned with the international situation and what's happening in Tibet," Jacques Rogge said Monday in Beijing. He was in the Chinese capital to meet with officials from national Olympic committees.

China has faced criticism on issues ranging from its crackdown on unrest in Tibet to its diplomatic policies in Darfur. The Olympic torch relay in London on Sunday was disrupted by protesters who tried to grab the torch and snuff out the flame. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:07 AM
Beijing on Olympic torch relay disruptions: 'Sabotage'
04/07/2008 | 03:10 PM
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BEIJING - Organizers of the Beijing Olympics criticized protesters who tried to disrupt the torch relay in London, saying Monday the actions were a "disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.

Demonstrators, many of them challenging China's policies in Tibet and Darfur, attempted to grab the torch and block its path during the procession Sunday. One protester tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher.

Police said 37 people were arrested for a range of public order offenses. Security for the event was tight, with the torchbearers surrounded by an inner ring of Chinese security agents and an outer ring of British agents to shield them from repeated onslaughts.

"A few Tibetan separatists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in London, and we strongly denounce their disgusting behavior," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee.

"The act of defiance from this small group of people is not popular. It will definitely be criticized by people who love peace and adore the Olympic spirit. Their attempt is doomed to failure," he said in a telephone interview.

Hundreds along the torch route chanted "Free Tibet!" ''China, talk to Dalai Lama!" and waved placards condemning China's role in Darfur.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Monday he was "very concerned" about the unrest in Tibet and other international issues surrounding the Beijing games.

More protests were expected Monday, when the torch relay winds through Paris.

Protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa turned violent on March 14, and unrest quickly spread to other Tibetan inhabited areas of western China. Beijing clamped down with a huge mobilization of paramilitary police and has ignored international calls to hold talks with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

China's communist government said 22 have died in the violence, while supporters of the Dalai Lama have said the death toll was 140.

Activists have also taken aim at China's diplomatic policies in Sudan, saying Beijing is not doing enough to pressure its ally Khartoum into stopping the humanitarian crisis in the country's Darfur region.

China had hoped the relay — the longest in the history of the games — would highlight its growing economic and political power. But activists have been demonstrating along the torch route since the start of the flame's 85,000-mile (140,000-kilometer) journey late last month from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing.

The Summer Olympics kick off in the Chinese capital on Aug. 8. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:08 AM
Olympic torch route in Australia changed - exec
04/07/2008 | 06:48 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia - The route of the Olympic torch relay through the Australian capital on April 24 has been changed due to security concerns, a government official said Monday.

"Yes, the route has been reviewed, adjustments have been made," Australian Capital Territory chief minister John Stanhope said. He did not elaborate.

Stanhope was replying to a question from Australia's Seven television network, which also reported that China had asked that the Australian leg through Canberra be shortened.

The move came as about 3,000 French police prepared to protect the Olympic torch relay Monday as it departed from the Eiffel Tower and crisscrosses Paris amid threat of protests.

When the torch passed through London a day earlier, police repeatedly scuffled with activists angry about China's human rights record leading up to the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics. One protester tried to grab the torch, while another tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher. Thirty people were arrested.

Ted Quinlan, the Canberra relay task force chairman, said he was concerned the protests seen in London could spark a "rolling and growing movement" where activists seek to outdo each other in an effort to steal the limelight.

"My concern is that by the time it gets here, there have been a whole series of protests and that's really all everybody is expecting for the day," Quinlan said. "Of course, we're observing what's happening worldwide day by day and making appropriate plans."

Stanhope said assessment of security arrangements would be continual as the torch replay progressed.

"We have always been aware of the security requirements, but I have to say that as a result of the events in Tibet and some of the tension now in the relationship between communities in China as a result of issues around human rights in Tibet, we have been reassessing our security arrangements," he said. "And we will continue to do that."

A Canberra Tibetan community official, Tsering Deki, said her group was planning to protest during the Canberra leg of the relay, but did not support any form of violent action like that seen in London.

"We will be protesting and we plan to be loud, but peaceful," she said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:09 AM
Officials extinguish Olympic flame amid protests in Paris
04/07/2008 | 07:41 PM
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PARIS – French security officials have extinguished the Olympic flame amid heavy protests during the torch relay in Paris.

Police in jogging gear put the flame out and brought it aboard a bus, apparently to move it away from protesters. The flame was being carried down a road along the Seine River amid demonstrators carrying Tibetan flags when the relay was stopped. It is not immediately clear what police plan next, or when or where the relay will resume.

About 3,000 police – riding motorcycles, jogging or traveling on skates – are on hand to protect the Olympic torch. The flame relay started Monday at the Eiffel Tower. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:10 AM
Olympic torch relay descends into chaos in Paris
04/07/2008 | 09:09 PM
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PARIS – Chaotic protests against China's human rights policies forced security officials to extinguish the Olympic torch twice during a relay Monday through Paris that became a tortured procession of stops and starts.

Despite huge police security, with 3,000 officers deployed, at least two activists got within little more than an arm's length of the flame before they were grabbed by police. Officers tackled numerous protesters to the ground and bodily carried some away. They also squirted tear gas to disperse protesters who blocked the route.

Also taken away was a protester who threw water at the torch but failed to extinguish it.

The first time the procession was interrupted, a crowd of activists waving Tibetan flags confronted the torch on a road along the Seine River. The torch was put out and brought on board a bus to continue partway along the route.

Less than an hour later, the flame was being carried out of a Paris traffic tunnel by an athlete in a wheelchair when the procession was halted by activists who booed and chanted "Tibet." Once again, the torch was temporarily extinguished and put on a bus.

Activists angry about China's human rights record and repression Tibet managed to circumvent officers on motorcycles, in jogging gear and on inline skates. Demonstrators scaled the Eiffel Tower and hung a banner depicting the Olympic rings as handcuffs.

Police said they did not immediately have a count of the number of arrests. Mireille Ferri, a Green Party official, said she was held by police for two hours because she approached the Eiffel Tower area with a fire extinguisher. In various locations throughout the city, protesters carried Tibetan flags and waved signs reading "the flame of shame."

Riot police squirted tear gas to break up a sit-in protest by about 300 pro-Tibet demonstrators who blocked the torch route.

France's former sports minister, Jean-Francois Lamour, stressed that though the torch had been put out, the Olympic flame itself still burned in the lantern where it is kept overnight and on airplane flights.

"The torch has been extinguished but the flame is still there," he told France Info radio.

Police had hoped to prevent the chaotic protests that marred the relay in London a day earlier. There, police had repeatedly scuffled with activists angry about China's human rights record leading up to the Beijing Olympics Aug. 8-24. One protester tried to grab the torch; another tried to snuff out the flame with what appeared to be a fire extinguisher. Thirty-seven people were arrested.

In Paris, police had drawn up an elaborate plan to try to keep the torch in a safe "bubble." Torchbearers were encircled by several hundred officers, some in riot police vehicles and on motorcycles, others on skates or on foot. Boats patrolled the Seine, which slices through the French capital, and a helicopter flew overhead.

About 80 athletes were expected to carry the torch over the 28-kilometer (17.4-mile) route that started at the Eiffel Tower, heading down the Champs-Elysees avenue toward City Hall, then crosses over the Seine before ending at the Charlety track and field stadium.

Stephane Diagana, a former world hurdles champion who is now president of France's national athletics league, was the first to carry the torch, climbing down the stairs of the Eiffel Tower.

Across town, City Hall draped its building with a banner reading, "Paris defends human rights around the world."

One torch bearer, two-time French judo gold medalist David Douillet, told RTL radio that he regretted the choice of China "because it isn't up to snuff on freedom of expression, on total liberty, and of course, on Olympic values."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has left open the possibility of boycotting the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing depending on how the situation evolves in Tibet. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday that was still the case.

Activists have been protesting along the torch route since the flame embarked on its 85,000-mile (140,000-kilometer) journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing.

The torch's round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and it is meant to shine a spotlight on China's economic and political power. Activists have seized upon it as a backdrop for their causes, angering Beijing.

Beijing organizers criticized London's protesters, saying Monday that their actions were a "disgusting" form of sabotage by Tibetan separatists.

"The act of defiance from this small group of people is not popular," said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee. "It will definitely be criticized by people who love peace and adore the Olympic spirit. Their attempt is doomed to failure."

The torch relay also is expected to face demonstrations in San Francisco, New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China May 4. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:11 AM
Banner depicting Olympic rings as handcuffs hangs from Notre Dame
04/07/2008 | 11:14 PM
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PARIS - Protesters in France have hung a banner from Notre Dame cathedral that depicts the interlocking Olympic rings as handcuffs.

Protesters have strung the banner over the famous cathedral's rose window as part of protests Monday. The logo has been promoted by Reporters Without Borders. The activist group is a vocal opponent of China's human rights record leading up to the August Beijing Games. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:12 AM
End of Paris Olympic torch relay canceled amid protests
04/07/2008 | 11:51 PM
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PARIS - Paris police say organizers have decided not to run the last sections of the Olympic torch relay after chaotic protests. At least 28 people have been arrested.

A police spokeswoman says a vehicle will instead carry the torch for the last part of the route Monday to a sports stadium in the south of Paris. The French Olympic Committee says it hopes that runners still might be able to carry the torch at the very end. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:14 AM
IOC officials question value of Olympic torch relay route
04/08/2008 | 06:02 PM
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BEIJING – International Olympic Committee officials say widespread disruptions of the Olympic torch relay because of protests against China may mean the international section of the run could be dropped from future games.

Thousands of raucous protesters angry about China's hosting of the Olympics Games, its policies in Tibet and human rights record have haunted the torch relay across London and Paris this week.

More problems were expected Wednesday in San Francisco, the only North American leg of the relay.

Kevan Gosper, an International Olympic Committee member from Australia, said Tuesday he had always opposed such an extensive international route. He said he expects that the IOC "will review that template." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:14 AM
Olympic torch reaches US amid security worries
04/08/2008 | 11:17 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO – The Olympic torch arrived for its only North American stop amid heavy security on Tuesday, a day after its visit to Paris descended into chaos and activists here scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to protest China's human rights record.

Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said its executive board would discuss on Friday whether to end the international leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay because of widespread protests.

The torch's global journey was supposed to highlight China's growing economic and political power. But activists opposing China's human rights policies and a recent crackdown on Tibet have been protesting along the torch's 85,000-mile (13,700-kilometer) route since the start of the flame's odyssey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing, host of the Summer Olympics.

Rogge told The Associated Press he was "deeply saddened" by violent protests in London and Paris and concerned about the relay in San Francisco, where activists expressed fears that the torch's planned route through Tibet would lead to arrests and violent measures by Chinese officials trying to stifle dissent.

The flame arrived in San Francisco shortly before 4 a.m. and was immediately put in a vehicle to be whisked away to a secret location, San Francisco Olympic Torch Relay Committee spokesman David Perry said. Security was heightened because several protests were planned before the torch's six-mile (10-kilometer) relay on Wednesday.

"We treated it like a head of state visit," airport spokesman Mike McCaron said.

Already, one runner who planned to carry the flame during the San Francisco relay dropped out because of safety concerns, Perry said. The person was not identified, but Perry said he understood the concern.

Three people climbed the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday and tied the Tibetan flag and two banners to its cables. The banners read "One World One Dream. Free Tibet," and "Free Tibet 08." They later climbed down and bridge workers cut down the signs.

The bridge protest's organizers said they would remain faithful to their mission of nonviolence during the torch relay. They said they wanted to take full advantage of the international spotlight to get their message out.

"This is a life-or-death situation for Tibetans," said Yangchen Lhamo, an organizer of the banner-hanging who is on the board of directors of Students for a Free Tibet.

Olympic organizers canceled the final leg of the Paris run Monday after demonstrators scaled the Eiffel Tower, grabbed for the flame and forced security officials to repeatedly snuff out the torch and transport it by bus. China condemned the protests as "despicable" but vowed to continue the relay to the end.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters on Tuesday it was sad spectacle, but that protests are normal in a democratic country.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a longtime human rights activist turned diplomat, said he understood the protesters, but said that France's goal of new talks between China and Tibetan leaders was dealt a setback.

"Yesterday, the answer moved farther away," Kouchner told reporters at a news conference. "Our answer – and we French do what we can – is a resumption of dialogue between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama."

San Francisco officials said they were developing a plan that strikes a balance between protesters' rights to express their views and the city's ability to host a safe torch ceremony.

US Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth said in a statement the event was "an important moment for the city to show its character, hospitality and commitment to peace and tolerance."

"It must provide a proper forum for the peaceful expression of opinions and dissent. And it must safely and respectfully welcome the flame and honor the US athletes and other participants who will carry the torch," Ueberroth said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and the police department said they reserved the right to adjust the flame's route, slated to run along San Francisco Bay, if necessary, but a spokesman dismissed rumors the relay would be canceled. The air space above the city will be restricted during the relay, a federal aviation spokesman said.

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries. It is scheduled to enter mainland China on May 4 for the host country's portion of the relay. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:16 AM
Security tightened as San Francisco girds for protests along Olympic torch relay
04/09/2008 | 05:11 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO – Security was tightened on the Golden Gate Bridge and elsewhere around the city as officials prepared for massive protests of China's crackdown in Tibet during the Olympic torch's only North American stop on its journey to Beijing.

The Olympic flame was whisked to a secret location shortly after its pre-dawn arrival Tuesday following widespread and chaotic demonstrations during the torch relay in London and Paris. Activists are protesting China's human rights record, its crackdown in Tibet and support for Sudan despite years of bloodshed in Darfur.

The torch is scheduled to be paraded through the city Wednesday on a 9.6-kilometer route that hugs San Francisco Bay. Already, one runner who planned to carry the torch dropped out because of safety concerns, officials said.

It began its 136,800-kilometer journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing on March 24, and was the focus of protests from the start.

Hours after it arrived in San Francisco, protesters marched to the Chinese Consulate, calling on China to cease its heavy-handed rule of Tibet.

Meanwhile, a few kilometers away in Chinatown, leaders of China's expatriate community held a news conference calling for a peaceful relay, and said they were proud China was selected to host the summer games.

In Beijing, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the body's executive board would discuss Friday whether to end the international leg of the torch relay because of the demonstrations. He said he was "deeply saddened" by the previous protests and was concerned about the relay in San Francisco.

"We recognize the right for people to protest and express their views, but it should be nonviolent. We are very sad for all the athletes and the people who expected so much from the run and have been spoiled of their joy," Rogge said.

Hundreds of activists carrying Tibetan flags and wearing traditional clothes gathered in United Nations Plaza, a pedestrian area near San Francisco's City Hall, to denounce China's policy toward Tibet and the recent crackdown on protesters there. They then marched to the Chinese Consulate as part of a daylong Tibetan Torch Relay.

"This is not about us battling the torchbearers," Lhadom Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, told the crowd outside the consulate. "This is about the Chinese government using the torch for political purposes. And we're going to use it right back."

The day of protests culminated in an evening candlelight vigil for Tibet, with speeches by actor Richard Gere and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who called on President George W. Bush and other heads of state to boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

"We must tell the leaders of the world, 'For goodness sake, for God's sake, for the sake of your children, our children, for the sake of the beautiful people of Tibet, don't go!'" Tutu told the crowd of hundreds.

San Francisco was chosen to host the relay in part because of its large Asian population.

David Lee, executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee and a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, said while many Chinese agree with critics of China, on the whole, Chinese-Americans feel a tremendous sense of pride that the Beijing Olympics chose San Francisco as the only relay site in North America.

At a news conference Tuesday, business owners asked for calm.

"We are begging for five hours of peace," said Sam Ng, president of the Chinese Six Companies, a prominent benevolent association.

Some residents also expressed dismay at the protests.

Ling Li, 29, who immigrated from China's Guangdong Province eight years ago, said she was disappointed that this pivotal moment in her country's history was being marred by demonstrations. She believes that Tibet is a rightful part of China and its quest for independence should not be part of the Olympics.

"If I support the Olympics, of course I don't support the protests. This is the first time China has had the Olympics. We should be proud of this," she said.

Pro-Tibet activists and other human rights groups said they have encouraged their supporters to protest peacefully and not disrupt the relay or the torch runners.

"We can be effective without (disruption)," said Allyn Brooks-LaSure, a spokesman for Save Darfur. "Disrupting tomorrow's ceremonies couldn't possibly embarrass Beijing any more than their disastrous Darfur policy already has."

Still, law enforcement agencies prepared for the worst. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said there was a strong likelihood the relay's route would be changed. He said the ultimate decision would be made by Police Chief Heather Fong.

The Fire Department will have ambulances along the torch's route, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department will have 50 or more extra deputies on patrol, and vans will be available to haul away arrested protesters.

"We are trying to accomplish two goals here. One is to protect the right to free speech and the other is to ensure public safety, and here in San Francisco we are good at both of those things," said Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard.

The FAA has restricted flights over the city to media helicopters, medical emergency carriers and law enforcement helicopters and airplanes, such as those the California Highway Patrol will use to monitor the torch's route.

The CHP has also increased the number of officers on the ground, to guarantee the flow of traffic, protect the bridges that connect the San Francisco Bay Area and provide immediate help to police.

United States Olympic Chairman Peter Ueberroth, who met with officials at City Hall Tuesday, said afterward that his concern is for the reputation of the US.

"Everybody is always concerned when you have a big international event. My only concern is our reputation, our reputation as a country," he said. "We believe in people's freedoms, and can we still operate as a city and respect our own athletes and our people?"

San Francisco Olympic Torch Relay Committee spokesman David Perry said one of the torchbearers, who has not been identified, had pulled out of the relay over safety concerns.

The 9.6-kilometer path currently assigned for the relay is shorter than the courses in Paris and London, making it easier to secure. Newsom said the amount of time set aside for the relay's opening and closing ceremonies already had been cut, but he would not elaborate.

Security was tightened on the Golden Gate Bridge on Tuesday. On Monday, three protesters scaled the famed span and tied the Tibetan flag and two banners to its cables. Pedestrians and bike riders now must have any large bags checked before they are allowed to cross the bridge.

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries. The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China May 4. The Olympics begin on August 8.

The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to highlight China's rising economic and political power. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:17 AM
Former IOC athlete delegate O'Neill calls for torch relay to be scrapped
04/09/2008 | 05:20 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia – Retired swimmer Susie O'Neill, a former athlete delegate to the International Olympic Committee, says the Olympic torch relay has been hijacked by protesters and that it should be scrapped.

O'Neill, who won gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Games and has eight Olympic medals overall, was elected to the IOC Athletes' Commission in 2000, but family obligations forced her to resign in 2005.

She now disagrees with Australia's most senior Olympic official, IOC vice president Kevan Gosper, who has said that the torch relay that has spawned violent and widespread protests in London and Paris should continue.

On April 24, it is scheduled to visit Canberra, where officials have already shortened the route due to security concerns. Groups that support independence for Tibet have said they will hold peaceful protests during the Canberra leg.

"Everyday, everybody is talking about the Olympics but you've got bad publicity. So I'd probably just scrap it if it was me," O'Neill told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio Wednesday.

"In retrospect I suppose it was pretty obvious that it was going to happen, (but) I just get a little bit angry when people use the Olympics as their protesting forum. It's so removed from politics."

Gosper said he believes the protests will die down once the torch reaches Beijing. The IOC meets Friday to review plans for the remainder of the torch relay and consider scrapping the international portion of the event for future games.

Gosper defended China's human rights record and said if given the chance, he would vote again to give China the Games.

"Everybody understands there is emotion around Tibet," said Gosper. "But no one can condone violent interruption. It is unacceptable."

"I have to say if I had the chance to make my vote again, I would take the chance and vote for Beijing.

"It is a country that is opening up. Human rights, while still a criticism across the world, have improved dramatically."

Thousands of activists disagree, protesting China's grip on Tibet and support for Sudan despite years of bloodshed in Darfur.

Another former Australian swim great, Dawn Fraser, suggested that athletes who feel strongly enough about China's human rights record should not go to Beijing.

"That is a strong boycott within themsleves. Not that they are being asked to boycott by anyone or the Olympic federation," said Fraser, who won gold in the 100-meter freestyle in three straight Olympics – 1956, 1960, and 1964.

"But if they feel as strongly as that, they shouldn't go, because they are not going to enjoy Beijing, they are not going to enjoy the Olympic Games, they are not going to perform well."

Fraser said she would not be going to Beijing, marking only the second Olympics she has missed since 1956. "As a spectator, I am making my own statement by not going," she said.

"I would be thinking twice about it because I feel very strongly and I support the Tibetans," Fraser said. "I feel that China is not doing the right thing as far as their human rights are concerned."

Former Australian Olympic marathon runner Rob De Castella, who is scheduled to carry the torch during the Canberra leg, believes the ongoing protests have already forced an end to future international torch relays.

"The sponsors put millions of dollars into it, and I don't know whether any sponsor is going to be lining up at the door with their hands in their pockets to sign up for the next one having seen what's happened," De Castella said Wednesday.

"It's degenerated into just an international roving protest march." - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:18 AM
Hong Kong authorities may shorten Olympic torch route
04/09/2008 | 05:25 PM
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HONG KONG – Hong Kong authorities may shorten the city's leg of the Olympic torch relay because of chaotic protests at earlier stops in Paris and London, local newspapers said Tuesday.

The torch relay has been marred by unprecedented protests by activists criticizing China's human rights record, its crackdown in Tibet and support for Sudan despite years of bloodshed in Darfur.

In London, protesters nearly grabbed the torch, and in Paris, Chinese security officers extinguished its flame and hustled it to the safety of nearby buses, amid rowdy protests that prompted officials to call off the last third of the relay.

Chinese-ruled Hong Kong is a likely location for similarly aggressive protests because the former British colony enjoys Western-style civil liberties like freedom of protest. It also has liberal visa policies that grant visa-free access to citizens of major Western countries.

The torch's scheduled arrival in Hong Kong on April 30 is also symbolic because it marks the torch's return to Chinese soil after being transported across the world.

Gearing up for possible protests, Hong Kong authorities are considering shortening the torch's planned 33-kilometer relay here, newspapers Ming Pao Daily News and Apple Daily both reported.

Authorities also are considering scaling back an event to celebrate the torch run and rethinking plans to let Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang be the first torchbearer, Apple Daily reported.

Officials don't want to appear to have caved to possible protesters by shortening the route significantly, but may condense certain sections of the relay on May 2, Ming Pao reported.

They also are considering transporting the torch to its next stop, the neighboring gambling enclave Macau, by plane instead of by ferry to avoid protests at sea, Ming Pao said.

Macau is about an hour west of Hong Kong by high-speed ferry.

The reports did not identify their sources.

Chris Choy, a spokesman for Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department, one of the organizers of the local torch relay, said officials are still testing and improving the relay route but declined further comment.

Under the currently announced plan, the torch will be transported across Hong Kong's Hong Kong island, Kowloon peninsula and the suburban New Territories by torch-bearing runners, car and boat.

Officials say 150 torch bearers will participate, but the list has not been announced. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:19 AM
IOC president meets with Chinese premier
04/09/2008 | 09:07 PM
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BEIJING - IOC president Jacques Rogge met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the Beijing Games, which have been overshadowed by protests over China's human rights record and disruptions of the Olympic torch relay.

"It was a good meeting where a range of games topics were discussed between both parties," the IOC said in a statement.

The meeting lasted about an hour, and Rogge was accompanied by two IOC officials and China's two IOC members.

The IOC said Rogge would brief his executive board Thursday and give more details at a news conference Friday.

Rogge has refrained from criticizing China, saying he prefers to engage in "silent diplomacy" with the Chinese.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday on the VRT television network in his native Belgium, Rogge warned that pushing China too hard on Tibet and human rights would be counterproductive.

"If you know China, you know that mounting the barricades and using tough language will have the opposite effect," he said. "China will close itself off from the rest of the world, which, don't forget it, it has done for some 2,000 years."

Earlier Wednesday, Rogge chaired a meeting of the executive board. Members described it as a "preparatory meeting" for the official two-day board session starting Thursday and said the torch relay had not been discussed.

The meetings come amid heightened concern over the torch relay, which was hit by chaotic protests in London and Paris by activists opposed to China's crackdown in Tibet and other policies.

Tight security has been put in place for expected massive protests during the next leg of the relay in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the sensitivity of the Tibet issue was underlined when the Association of National Olympic Committees — which oversees the world's 205 national Olympic bodies — softened a statement that had urged China to resolve the conflict in the Himalayan region.

The group's original draft on Monday urged China to find "a fair and reasonable solution to the internal conflict that affects the Tibet region." But the final version Thursday changed the wording and dropped "the Tibet region" from the text.

In the new statement, ANOC states "its confidence that the government of the People's Republic of China shall strive to find, through dialogue and understanding, a fair and reasonable solution to the internal conflict for the benefit of the Games and the athletes."

The statement is expected to be debated on Thursday in a joint session of the IOC and ANOC executive boards.

"That is my mistake, I drafted the text," ANOC president Mario Vazquez Rana of Mexico said. "I was the author. It was not drafted by lawyers and in the first draft Tibet was mentioned. Then comments were made that this would be interfering in the internal affairs of the country."

Rogge expressed "deep concern" Tuesday over the violent nature of the torch protests and said the IOC board would review the plans for the rest of the relay. The IOC is also considering scrapping the international legs of future torch relays.

"We recognize the right for people to protest and express their views, but it should be nonviolent. We are very sad for all the athletes and the people who expected so much from the run and have been spoiled of their joy," Rogge said.

Rogge said in an AP interview at the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece last month that he was pursuing "quiet diplomacy" with the Chinese over human rights and other issues. He said he would meet with Wen during the current Olympic conference in Beijing.

"I have a series of points to discuss with him and I'm sure he has points to discuss with me," Rogge said then.

The torch began its 85,000-mile (136,800-kilometer) journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing on March 24, and was the focus of protests from the start. The round-the-world trip is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to highlight China's rising economic and political power.

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries. The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China May 4. The Olympics begin on Aug. 8. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:19 AM
ANOC urges China to settle 'internal conflict' through dialogue
04/09/2008 | 09:11 PM
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BEIJING - The body that governs 205 national Olympic committees backed down Wednesday on the wording of a statement that had urged China to negotiate a settlement to the conflict in Tibet.

The Association of National Olympic Committees original draft Monday urged China to find "a fair and reasonable solution to the internal conflict that affects the Tibet region."

However a draft statement released by ANOC on Wednesday removed the words "the Tibet region".

In the new wording, ANOC states "its confidence that the government of the People's Republic of China shall strive to find, through dialogue and understanding, a fair and reasonable solution to the internal conflict for the benefit of the Games and the athletes."

The draft is being submitted for inclusion in a joint statement with the International Olympic Committee.

The statement is expected to be debated on Thursday in a joint session of the IOC and ANOC executive boards.

The IOC and ANOC are meeting this week in Beijing, their last official sessions with the Chinese before the Olympics open in four months.

Rioting that broke out last month in Tibet has led to charges of human rights abuses against China, triggering large protests in London and Paris during the Olympic torch relay.

The chaos has prompted calls for the relay to be suspended, embarrassing China and the IOC. The torch is going to San Francisco on Wednesday, when more demonstrations are expected.

Mario Vazquez Rana, the president of ANOC, said the changes did not reflect a "lack of independence."

"That is my mistake, I drafted the text," the Mexican said. "I was the author. It was not drafted by lawyers and in the first draft Tibet was mentioned. Then comments were made that this would be interfering in the internal affairs of the country."

The Tibet protests, which spread to dozens of Tibetan communities across western China in the last month, is among the challenges to the rule of China's communist government. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:20 AM
Olympic torch security tightened as San Francisco girds for protests
04/09/2008 | 10:34 PM
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SAN FRANCISCO - The Olympic torch's round-the-word trip picks up Wednesday amid tight security, with its only North American stop promising more demonstrations as activists protesting China's policies in Tibet are joined by others, including nudists seeking a return to the games' ancient ways.

The torch's 85,000-mile (136,788 kilometer) journey — the longest in Olympic history — is meant to highlight China's rising economic and political power, but it has met with fierce protests at several stops. San Francisco, with its history of activism, is unlikely to be the exception.

As runners carry the torch on its six-mile (10-kilometer) route through the city, they will encounter people demonstrating against China's grip on Tibet, as well as the country's support for the governments of Myanmar and Sudan. The nudists eager for a return to the way the games were held in ancient Greece reflect the often quirky nature of a city famous for its liberalism and activism.

Local officials say they support the diversity of viewpoints, but have heightened security following chaotic protests during the torch's stops in London and Paris and a demonstration Monday in which activists hung banners from the Golden Gate bridge.

"We are trying to accomplish two goals here. One is to protect the right to free speech and the other is to ensure public safety, and here in San Francisco we are good at both of those things," said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The torch is scheduled to travel a route hugging San Francisco Bay, but security concerns could prompt a last-minute change. Already, one runner who planned to carry the torch dropped out because of safety concerns, officials said.

Ambulances were to be stationed along the torch's route, extra sheriff's deputies and state law enforcement officers were put on patrol. Vans were deployed to haul away arrested protesters, and the FAA restricted flights over the city to media helicopters, medical emergency carriers and law enforcement aircraft.

The flame was whisked to a secret location shortly after its pre-dawn arrival in San Francisco on Tuesday. It began its journey from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing on March 24, and was the focus of protests from the start.

On Tuesday, hundreds of activists carrying Tibetan flags gathered in United Nations Plaza, a pedestrian area near City Hall, to denounce China's policy toward Tibet and the recent crackdown on protesters there. They then marched to the Chinese Consulate.

"This is not about us battling the torchbearers," Lhadom Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, told the crowd outside the consulate. "This is about the Chinese government using the torch for political purposes. And we're going to use it right back."

The day of protests culminated in an evening candlelight vigil for Tibet, with speeches by actor Richard Gere and human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who called on U.S. President George W. Bush and other heads of state to boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing.

San Francisco was chosen to host the relay in part because of its large Chinese-American population. Many residents spoke out Tuesday to ask for calm and express their pride that China was chosen to host the summer games.

"We are begging for five hours of peace," said Sam Ng, president of the Chinese Six Companies, a prominent benevolent association.

Ling Li, 29, who immigrated from China's Guangdong Province eight years ago, said she was disappointed that this pivotal moment in her country's history was being marred by demonstrations. She said Tibet is a rightful part of China and its quest for independence should not be part of the Olympics.

"If I support the Olympics, of course I don't support the protests. This is the first time China has had the Olympics. We should be proud of this," she said.

In Beijing, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the body's executive board would discuss Friday whether to end the international leg of the torch relay because of the demonstrations. He said he was "deeply saddened" by the previous protests and was concerned about the relay in San Francisco.

"We recognize the right for people to protest and express their views, but it should be nonviolent. We are very sad for all the athletes and the people who expected so much from the run and have been spoiled of their joy," Rogge said.

Pro-Tibet activists and other human rights groups said they had encouraged their supporters to protest peacefully.

"We can be effective without (disruption)," said Allyn Brooks-LaSure, a spokesman for Save Darfur. "Disrupting tomorrow's ceremonies couldn't possibly embarrass Beijing any more than their disastrous Darfur policy already has."

Meanwhile Wednesday, the White House said anew that Bush would attend the Olympics, but left open the possibility that he would skip the opening ceremonies. Asked whether Bush would go to that portion of the games, White House press secretary Dana Perino demurred, citing the fluid nature of a foreign trip schedule this far out and the many factors that go into devising it.

"I would again reiterate that the president has been very clear that he believes that the right thing for him to do is to continue to press the Chinese on a range of issues, from human rights and democracy, political speech freedoms and religious tolerance, and to do that publicly and privately, before, during and after the Olympics," she said.

After San Francisco, the torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries before arriving in mainland China May 4. The Olympics begin on Aug. 8. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:21 AM
Olympic torch begins shortened route
04/10/2008 | 04:57 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO - The Olympic torch relay got under way in San Francisco — and the flame promptly vanished.

With thousands of protesters gathered to condemn China's human rights policies, protesters had lined the streets Wednesday waiting for the torch relay to begin.

As the ceremony began, the first torchbearer took the Olympic flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before running into a warehouse. A motorcycle escort departed, but the torchbearer was nowhere in sight.

Buses and vans later left the warehouse, but it was unclear where the Olympic flame would reappear.

Shortly before it began, San Francisco officials cut the original six-mile route nearly in half. The flame's only North American stop has drawn thousands of demonstrators gathered to praise and condemn China during the flame's journey to Beijing.

Authorities did not offer an immediate explanation for the change, but city officials had warned they might truncate the route at the last minute for security reasons. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:22 AM
Olympic torch rerouted for US relay
04/10/2008 | 05:52 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO - The Olympic torch was rerouted away from thousands of demonstrators and spectators who crowded the city's waterfront Wednesday to witness the flame's symbolic journey to the Beijing Games.

The first torchbearer took the flame from a lantern brought to the stage and held it aloft before running into a warehouse. A motorcycle escort departed, but the torchbearer was nowhere in sight.

Then officials drove the Olympic torch about a mile inland and handed it off to two runners away from protesters and media.

Less than an hour before the relay began, officials cut the original six-mile route nearly in half. The flame's only North American stop has drawn thousands of demonstrators gathered to praise and condemn China during the flame's journey to Beijing.

Chi Zhang, a software engineer from Sunnyvale, waited to see the torch since 10 a.m. He shook his head sadly four hours later when he heard the route had been changed.

"That's surprising," he said. "We were very excited about this. This was supposed to be the only stop in the United States. I took a day off work to be here."

There were signs of tension even before the torch relay began. Pro-Tibet and pro-China groups were given side-by-side permits to demonstrate, and representatives from both sides spilled from their sanctioned sites across a major street and shouted at each other nose to nose, with no visible police presence to separate them.

"A lot of Tibetan people are getting killed," said Kunga Yeshi, 18, who had traveled here from Salt Lake City. "The Chinese said they'd change if they got the Olympics, but they still won't change."

Farther along the planned route, about 200 Chinese college students mobbed a car carrying two people waving Tibetan flags in front of the city's Pier 39 tourist destination. The students, who arrived by bus from the University of California, Davis, banged drums and chanted "Go Olympics" in Chinese.

"I'm proud to be Chinese and I'm outraged because there are so many people who are so ignorant they don't know Tibet is part of China," Yi Che said. "It was and is and will forever be part of China."

The torch's 85,000-mile, 20-nation global journey is the longest in Olympic history, and is meant to build excitement for the Beijing Games. But it has also been targeted by activists angered over China's human rights record

Hundreds of pro-China and pro-Tibet demonstrators blew whistles and waved flags as they faced off near site of the relay's opening ceremony. Police struggled to keep the groups apart. At least one protester was detained, and officers blocked public access to bridge leading to the ceremony site across McCovey Cove from the ballpark.

Among the people selected to carry the torch were ex-football star and former Olympic bobsledder Herschel Walker, 46; former Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh, 29; and swimmer Natalie Coughlin, who holds the world record for the 100-meter backstroke.

Zhou Wenzhon, 62, China's ambassador to the U.S. also was scheduled to participate.

One of the runners who planned to carry the torch dropped out earlier this week because of safety concerns, officials said. The torch bearers will compete not only with people protesting China's grip on Tibet, but its support for the governments of Myanmar and Sudan.

Three blocks from the waterfront torch route, a few dozen activists with the Washington-based Save Darfur group, sought to get their message out. Among them were Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry's ice cream fame, who stood near a van sporting a six-foot-tall stainless steel torch — complete with gas-fired flame — resembling the Olympic torch.

"We're asking China to extinguish the flames of genocide in Darfur," Cohen said. "China is the one country that has enough influence with Sudan to end the genocide. They really have no choice but to use that influence."

Local officials say they support the diversity of viewpoints, but have tightened security following chaotic protests during the torch's stops in London and Paris and a demonstration Monday in which activists hung banners from the Golden Gate bridge.

Vans were deployed to haul away arrested protesters, and the FAA restricted flights over the city to media helicopters, medical emergency carriers and law enforcement aircraft. Law enforcement agencies erected metal barricades and readied running shoes, bicycles and motorcycles for officers preparing to shadow the runners.

The Olympic flame began its worldwide trek from Ancient Olympia in Greece to Beijing on March 24, and was the focus of protests right from the start.

San Francisco was chosen to host the relay in part because of its large Chinese-American population.

IOC president Jacques Rogge met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the games, and "a range of games topics were discussed," the IOC said.

Rogge is to give more details at a news conference Friday, when the IOC's executive board is to discuss Friday whether to end the remaining international legs of the relay after San Francisco because of widespread protest. The torch is scheduled to travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries before arriving in China on May 4. The Olympics begin Aug. 8.

Rogge has refrained from criticizing China, saying he prefers to engage in "silent diplomacy" with the Chinese.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday on the VRT television network in his native Belgium, Rogge warned that pushing China too hard on Tibet and human rights would be counterproductive.

"If you know China, you know that mounting the barricades and using tough language will have the opposite effect," he said. "China will close itself off from the rest of the world, which, don't forget it, it has done for some 2,000 years."

Meanwhile Wednesday, the White House said anew that Bush would attend the Olympics, but left open the possibility that he would skip the opening ceremonies. Asked whether Bush would go to that portion of the games, White House press secretary Dana Perino demurred, citing the fluid nature of a foreign trip schedule this far out and the many factors that go into devising it.

"I would again reiterate that the president has been very clear that he believes that the right thing for him to do is to continue to press the Chinese on a range of issues, from human rights and democracy, political speech freedoms and religious tolerance, and to do that publicly and privately, before, during and after the Olympics," she said. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:23 AM
San Francisco closing torch ceremony canceled
04/10/2008 | 06:36 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO - Officials say the planned closing ceremony for the Olympic torch at the San Francisco Bay waterfront is canceled and another one will take place at an undisclosed location.

The ceremony had been slated to take place Wednesday at Justin Herman Plaza, where thousands had gathered to support and protest the Beijing-bound flame's visit to the city.

Just before the relay began, the torch was rerouted about a mile away from the demonstrators and spectators. Officials say they changed the path because of security concerns.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom tells The Associated Press that a closing ceremony will still take place, but he would not specify where. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:24 AM
Torch concludes topsy-turvy tour of SF
04/10/2008 | 07:26 AM
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SAN FRANCISCO - The Olympic torch has concluded its topsy-turvy tour of San Francisco, and officials say the closing ceremony will be at San Francisco International Airport.

Mayor Gavin Newsom tells The Associated Press that canceling the planned closing ceremony at the San Francisco Bay waterfront was part of the contingency plan if it appeared too difficult to safeguard the torch and its runners.

The ceremony had been slated to take place Wednesday at Justin Herman Plaza, where thousands had gathered to support and protest the Beijing-bound flame's visit to the city. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:24 AM
Indonesia to shorten Olympic torch route after protests
04/10/2008 | 01:36 PM
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JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia will significantly shorten its leg of the Olympic torch relay after noting the anti-Chinese protests that have hit the relay elsewhere, officials said Thursday.

The relay, scheduled for April 22, was originally planned to follow a 15-kilometer (10-mile) course, passing down a main street in the capital, Jakarta.

It will now only occur in the vicinity of the city's main sports stadium, Sumohadi Marsis, the head of the organizing committee, was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Post.

"We are watching the progress in some countries and although we have not received any information about mass rallies here, we are preparing for the worst-case scenario," Marsis was quoted as saying.

Firmansyah Gindo, a spokesman for Indonesia's National Sport Committee, confirmed the route had changed based on security considerations, but declined to give more details.

Protesters angry at China's human rights record or demanding Tibetan independence have attempted to disrupt the torch relay in Greece, the United Kingdom and France. The Olympic Games are being held in Beijing, China, in August.

The chances of large protests during the relay in Indonesia appeared slim. There is no Tibetan community here and Indonesians rarely take to the streets unless they feel the issue directly affects them or their faith. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:25 AM
UK's Brown won't attend Beijing Olympics opening
04/10/2008 | 05:37 PM
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LONDON – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will skip the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, a spokeswoman said.

Wednesday's confirmation from Downing Street puts Brown on a growing list of world leaders who have said they will not attend the ceremony. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said they plan to stay away, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.

The White House left open the possibility Wednesday that US President George W. Bush might also skip the opening ceremonies, which some world leaders have suggested would serve as a signal of displeasure over China's crackdown in Tibet.

However, Brown's Downing Street office said he was not boycotting the Olympics and would attend the closing ceremony.

Brown has been under intense pressure from human rights campaigners to miss the Aug. 8 opening. However, Brown's decision not to attend was not aimed at sending a message of protest to the Chinese government, the spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

She said the decision had been made weeks ago and was not a stand on principle.

"He had never planned to attend," she said. "There is absolutely no change in our position."

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said in February that he expected many heads of state – including Bush, Merkel and Sarkozy – to attend the opening ceremony.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg withdrew in February as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies, saying China had not done enough to halt the bloodshed in Darfur. China buys much of Sudan's oil and supplies many of the weapons used in the Darfur conflict.

Brown's spokeswoman played down the decision, saying Downing Street had made it clear at a briefing on March 19 that Brown would not attend the opening ceremony. She referred The Associated Press to the official briefing notes on the Downing Street Web site as evidence.

However, the briefing notes do not mention plans to stay away from the opening ceremony.

At the briefing Brown's spokesman was asked if the prime minister agreed with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's comments that the crackdown in Tibet meant there was a case for not attending the opening ceremony.

"Our position in relation to the Olympics had not changed," the spokesman answered, according to the briefing notes.

When asked specifically about the closing ceremonies when the Olympic torch will be passed to the organizing committee of the 2012 London Olympics, the spokesman said Brown would attend the closing.

Three days later, Britain's former Sports Minister Kate Hoey urged Brown to follow the lead of Prince Charles – who supports the Dalai Lama – and not attend the opening ceremony.

On March 27, Brown said he did plan to attend the games – without specifically mentioning the opening ceremony – at a news conference with a visiting Sarkozy, who said at the time he was debating not attending the opening ceremony.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Brown "seems to do the right thing late in the day when he is forced to do so because of public opinion."

Since London is hosting the next Olympics in 2012 British officials were expected to be prominent at events throughout the games.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell will represent the British government at the opening of the Beijing games. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:26 AM
Torch relay chaos puts Olympics in 'crisis' – IOC chief
04/10/2008 | 05:39 PM
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BEIJING – IOC president Jacques Rogge said Thursday the turmoil surrounding the Beijing torch relay and the politically charged buildup to the Summer Games posed a "crisis" for the Olympic movement.

Rogge urged China to respect its "moral engagement" to improve human rights and to fulfill promises of greater media freedom. He reaffirmed the right of free speech for athletes at the Beijing Games.

At the same time, the International Olympic Committee expressed relief that the San Francisco leg of the torch relay passed off without major incident and declared that the rest of the international route would not be cut short or canceled.

"This scenario is definitely not on the agenda," Rogge said at a news conference. "We are studying together with (Beijing organizers) to improve the torch relay, but there is no scenario of either interrupting or bringing (the torch) back directly to Beijing."

Rogge said the San Francisco relay had "fortunately" avoided much of the turmoil and disruptions that had marred the legs in London and Paris.

"It was, however, not the joyous party that we had wished it to be," he said at the opening of a two-day IOC executive board meeting in Beijing. "Athletes in many countries are in disarray and we need to reassure them. Our major responsibility is to offer them the games they deserve... We have 120 days to achieve this."

The San Francisco parade route was changed and shortened to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters. The planned closing ceremony at the waterfront was canceled and moved to San Francisco International Airport, where the flame was put directly on a plane and not displayed.

Still, IOC officials were grateful that there had been no violence.

"I'm very, very happy because there was no injuries," IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg of Norway said. "We were afraid of that. That didn't happen, so this was a very good result."

The turmoil over the torch relay and the growing international criticism of China's policies on Tibet and Darfur and overall human rights record have turned the Beijing Games into one of the most contentious in recent history and presented the IOC with one its toughest tests.

"It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that," Rogge said. "But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms."

He cited the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the boycotts of the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Games.

"The history of the Olympic Games is fraught by a lot of challenges," Rogge said. "This is a challenge but you cannot compare to what we had in the past."

Rogge was asked whether he had second thoughts about awarding the games to Beijing seven years ago.

"I've said that it is very easy with hindsight to criticize the decision," he said. "It's easy to say now that this was not a wise and a sound decision."

But Rogge insisted that Beijing had "clearly the best bid" and offered the strong pull of taking the Olympics to a country with one-fifth of the world's population.

"That was the reasoning for awarding the bid to Beijing."

When Beijing was bidding for the games, Rogge noted, Chinese officials said the Olympics would help advance social change, including human rights. He called it a "moral engagement" and stressed there was no "contractual promise whatsoever" on human rights in the official host city contract.

"I would definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement," Rogge said.

Asked about the comment, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said IOC officials support adhering to the Olympic Charter and "not bringing any irrelevant political factors into the Beijing Olympics."

"I hope the IOC officials will continue to adhere to the principles set by the Olympic charter," Jiang Yu said.

Rogge reported having "very frank and open discussions" with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on a range of Olympic issues Wednesday, but declined to give details.

The IOC leader insisted that "a number of important points have been met" on human rights, including a new Chinese law enacted on Jan. 1, 2007, that removed many restrictions on foreign journalists. But he said the law had not been fully implemented and he was urging Chinese officials to do so "as soon as possible."

Rogge refused to be drawn on the prospect of top world leaders snubbing the Beijing opening ceremony. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be attending the opening, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering staying away. US Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have called on President Bush to boycott the ceremony.

"Politicians have to make their decisions themselves," Rogge said. "The IOC will not intervene in this matter."

The torch is headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then to a dozen other countries. The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop, six-continent tour before arriving in mainland China on May 4. The Olympics begin August 8.

Rogge sought to reassure athletes that they are free to express their political opinions – as long as they do so away from official Olympic venues in Beijing.

Rogge said free expression has been enshrined in the Olympic Charter for more than 40 years as a "basic human right." However, the charter also forbids any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" in any Olympic sites or venues.

"I'm very clear on the fact that athletes have ample opportunities to express themselves without hindrance, but just by respecting the sacred environment of the Olympic village, the Olympic venues the podium and so forth," he said.

Rogge said athletes should use "common sense" in complying with the rules.

"There is absolutely no problem for an athlete to express his or her views in an interview with media people," he said. "This can be done in his or her own country before the games. This can be done in the host country of the Olympics during the games and, of course, after the games. The only thing we ask is there should be no propaganda or demonstrations of political, religious and racial origin."

At the news conference, Rogge suggested that athletes would be free to speak on political issues at news conferences at the main media center and the "mixed-zone" areas at the venues where reporters have access to athletes as they leave the field of play. - AP

stonecold316
04-11-2008, 05:27 AM
China breaks up terror ring plotting to kidnap Olympic athletes
04/10/2008 | 05:47 PM
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BEIJING – China said Thursday it had uncovered a criminal ring planning to kidnap athletes and others at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The ring was based in the restive western Xinjiang region, Ministry of Public Security Spokesman Wu Heping told a news conference. He also gave more details on a second alleged ring that had been uncovered in January.

Wu says 35 people were arrested between March 26 and April 6 for plotting to kidnap athletes, foreign journalists and other visitors to the August Olympics.

"We face a real terrorist threat," Wu said. He urged residents to raise their awareness and to contact the police about anything they think is suspect.

He said police had also confiscated almost 10 kilos (22 pounds) of explosives and eight sticks of dynamite and "jihadist" literature in the latest raids in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

Wu also provided further details on those arrested in the January case, saying they had been manufacturing explosives and were plotting to attack hotels, government offices and military targets in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities.

Wu said the gang had been acting on orders from a radical Islamic Xinjiang independence group, East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror hijackings, China has tried to portray the simmering separatist rebellion in Xinjiang as being fueled by terrorist organizations in Central Asia and the Middle East. But evidence made public has often been scanty.

Western embassies asked Beijing for more information after authorities said they broke up an attempt to hijack a plane in western China last month but so far no evidence has been provided, diplomats have said.

While the United States has labeled the East Turkestan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization, the State Department alleges widespread abuses of the legal and educational systems by the communist authorities to suppress Uighur culture and religion. - AP

stonecold316
04-12-2008, 02:54 AM
Greece promises tougher doping laws amid weightlifting scandal
04/11/2008 | 06:52 PM
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ATHENS, Greece – The government has promised to introduce tougher anti-doping laws, reacting to a drug scandal that has jeopardized the Greek weightlifting team's participation at the Beijing Olympics.

Culture Minister Michalis Liapis, who is in charge of sport, said Friday an amendment would be submitted to parliament within 10 days to "to create ... a legal arsenal to ensure that sport is healthy and athletes are clean."

He gave no details on the proposed measures.

Greek authorities are awaiting confirmation of test results announced April 4 that found 11 Greek weightlifters had used banned substances. - AP

stonecold316
04-12-2008, 02:55 AM
New suit may help US swimmers break Olympic records – coach
04/11/2008 | 06:57 PM
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MANCHESTER, England – The Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit is making such a splash in the pool that US head coach Mark Schubert believes every record in the sport could fall at the Beijing Olympics.

Since the suit was unveiled in February, 19 long-course world records have been set and four short-course marks. The new Speedo suit has been worn in all but one of the 23 records.

At this point in 2004 – the last Olympic year – five world records had been set.

Swimming's world governing body decided last weekend not to ban the new high-tech suit, despite claims of buoyancy and "technological doping" by some critics.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see every world record broken at the games, and hopefully we'll get a big percentage of those," said Schubert, one of the most outspoken supporters of the new swimsuit.

Jessica Hardy of the United States became the latest record-holder in the women's 50-meter breaststroke at the short-course world championships on Thursday.

NASA had a hand in designing the LZR, and Speedo claims it makes swimmers go two percent faster.

"They say that the suit is rocket science, but the stats are not rocket science," Schubert said. "The proof is in the performance."

Schubert said he will go so far as to recommend that every American wear the Speedo suit at the US Olympic trials in June – even if they are sponsored by another company.

"I would strongly advise them to wear the suit at trials, or they may end up at home watching on NBC," Schubert said. "Do you go for the money or for the gold? These athletes have been dreaming about winning an Olympic medal since they were eight or 10 years old and nobody can afford to give up two percent."

Four prominent Americans are sponsored by Nike – Brendan Hansen, Aaron Piersol, Jason Lezak and Kaitlin Sandeno.

The Italians wear Arena and the Japanese use Mizuno.

FINA is due to meet with swimsuit manufacturers on Saturday, and there are no plans to ban the LZR. Other companies are clearly behind.

"I feel very sorry for them," Schubert said. "Get with it."

Italy head coach Alberto Castagnetti has said wearing the LZR amounts to "technological doping."

Massimiliano Rosolino, an Italian who has won 17 medals in Olympics and world championships, said something needs to be changed "right away."

"It's not a matter of technology," Rosolino said. "The matter is one suit has much more flotation. If I were to go out there in a scuba suit it wouldn't be fair either. There's something not right about it.

"It has to be fair for everyone."

Rosolino is using a new Arena suit that was supposed to compete with the LZR, but he said it hasn't changed much.

"I have the new one, but it's just lighter than the old one," Rosolino said.

Alessia Filippi, another prominent Italian, agreed.

"We're at a big disadvantage," she said. "I think we all need to have the same (type of) suit at the Olympics, and Arena is working on it. But they've got to hurry. We're behind."

In an open letter published in Friday's editions of the Daily Telegraph, Arena Group CEO Cristiano Portas called for "urgent" action due to the "firestorm of publicly expressed concern" over the new suits.

Portas said the sport faces an "irrecoverable loss of credibility, just a few months before the Olympic Games."

"As a consequence, a reliable and transparent analysis of these materials, as well as a careful assessment of approval procedures, is urgent," Portas wrote. "Such action is in the supreme interest of the sport."

The letter was dated April 4, the day before FINA issued a statement saying it will not ban the suits because there is no scientific evidence supporting claims of buoyancy.

Speedo is a top sponsor of US swimming and Schubert made his comments while wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with the English manufacturer's logo.

"I'm not saying this just because they pay part of my salary," Schubert said. "I'm all about performance and I believe in the product."

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe used the LZR to set a world record in the 400 individual medley on Wednesday. On Thursday, she picked up her second gold of the championships by breaking her own meet mark in the 100 backstroke.

"It's definitely good for the sport but the bottom line is you still have to swim hard," Coventry said. "All suits for me are mental." - AP

stonecold316
04-12-2008, 02:55 AM
Olympic flame to go through street fiesta in Argentina
04/11/2008 | 07:15 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The Olympic torch dodged China foes in Europe and played hide-and-seek with crowds in San Francisco. Now the flame is making its only Latin American stop on a five-continent tour amid cloak-and-dagger secrecy after recent turmoil.

Handlers let no one publicly view the arrival of the flame in Buenos Aires, on its latest leg en route to Beijing. The lantern bearing the flame departed San Francisco and arrived at its second and final stopover in the Americas late Thursday on its 84,000-mile journey.

Argentina is billing Friday's Olympic torch run as an easygoing street fiesta launched by a tango orchestra. But officials are worried enough about anti-China protests to mobilize thousands of police after protesters warned of a Buenos Aires "surprise."

The torch was met by major demonstrations in San Francisco, London and Paris this week on its relay around the world. Thousands of protesters angry at China's human rights record, its harsh rule in Tibet and its friendly ties with Sudan scuffled with police and attempted to block the torch's passage.

Taken to its hideaway after the long flight from San Francisco, the flame is to emerge Friday afternoon for a nearly three-hour crossing of 8½ miles of streets. Among 80 invited torchbearers, soccer great Diego Maradona remained in doubt, but former tennis star Gabriela Sabatini confirmed she'll be the last runner.

Asked where the torch was being sheltered overnight, local security officials said even they did not know.

"That's a state secret," quipped a city sports organizer, Francisco Irarrazabal, one of the few to briefly glimpse the flame on the airport runway.

Turning more serious, he said security concerns were so tight after Paris and San Francisco that the Chinese delegation had requested that a planned photo opportunity on the airport tarmac with news agency photographers be hastily scrapped.

Meanwhile, Liu Qi, head of the Beijing organizing committee, met Friday with senior International Olympics Committee officials and tried to reassure them of further security steps in the wake of the protest-filled relays in San Francisco, Paris and London.

The organizing committee "today did underline to us that they have taken steps to make sure any risk, if there is any, is mitigated and we're very confident and comfortable with that," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.

Organizers in Argentina bravely boast of hopes of holding a warm South American-styled street fiesta. But the weather could bedevil the flame: forecasts call for plunging temperatures and afternoon rain storms in the early southern hemisphere autumn. Organizers assured that the aluminum torch, fired by propane, wouldn't go out in a storm – but could be put on a bus in event of heavy rain.

Buenos Aires organizers are anxious to show a brighter face than the city did during ugly 2002 street riots that marked a chaotic descent into a huge debt default of a past economic meltdown. Mayor Mauricio Macri urged protesters to stay away and not make "politics" of a sporting relay.

Authorities are deploying 1,300 federal police, 1,500 naval police and some 3,000 traffic police and volunteers – enough to ensure security "without going to the extreme that nobody will be able to see the torch," Irarrazabal said.

Activists were already preparing protests. One, Jorge Carcavallo, unfurled a giant banner along the torch route reading "Free Tibet."

Falun Gong member Axel Borgia said the spiritual movement banned by China would protest as well, but he wouldn't give details. "The Olympic Games and crimes against humanity cannot coexist in China," Borgia said.

Surprisingly, the torch relay has generated little of the attention garnered on other stops. Flame-snuffing incidents in Paris and protesters by climbers on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco were buried deep inside most newspapers.

One capital shopkeeper, Thomas Briega, said he was paying attention to the relay and hoped the torch would get through Buenos Aires unscathed after the chaos elsewhere.

"I hope to God nothing bad happens," he said.

Also on Friday, the chairman of Japan's National Public Safety Commission said Japan will not accept Chinese security guards when the city of Nagano hosts the torch relay on April 26.

"We should not violate the principle that Japanese police will maintain security," Shinya Izumi said at a press conference. "I do not accept the idea that they will run in Japan as they did in other countries."

The Chinese runners, who wear bright blue tracksuits, ran to protect the torch in London and Paris, where chaotic torch protests interrupted the relay. Beijing has said only that the unit's mission was to guard the flame.

Members of the unit were picked from special police units of the People's Armed Police, China's internal security force.

In Kenya, Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai said Friday that she has pulled out of the torch relay's Tanzania leg.

"From the very beginning I thought the torch will be a symbol of unity, peace and harmony, but as it moved around the world it has become a symbol of disunity. Then I decided to pull out completely," Maathai, an environmentalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, told The Associated Press on Friday. - AP

stonecold316
04-12-2008, 02:56 AM
Kenya's Nobel laureate withdraws from Olympic torch relay
04/11/2008 | 07:17 PM
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NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai said Friday she has pulled out of the Olympic torch relay this weekend in Tanzania to protest human rights abuses.

The torch has been met by major demonstrations on its relay around the world to the Beijing games, with thousands of protesters angry at China's human rights record, its harsh rule in Tibet and its friendly ties with Sudan.

"From the very beginning I thought the torch will be a symbol of unity, peace and harmony, but as it moved around the world it has become a symbol of disunity. Then I decided to pull out completely," Maathai, an environmentalist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Beijing torch relay has turned into a public relations disaster for Chinese organizers, who were hoping the event would be a good-natured lead-up to the long-anticipated August 8-24 Games. Organizers are strengthening security around the remainder of the beleaguered Olympic torch relay.

Maathai said China should help defuse tensions in Darfur, Tibet and Myanmar.

"In all of these issues China can make a difference and that is what the world is urging them to do," she said. - AP

stonecold316
04-12-2008, 02:57 AM
China's security runners not welcome in Japan for Olympic torch relay
04/11/2008 | 07:19 PM
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TOKYO – Japanese official says will not accept Chinese security guards when Nagano hosts the Olympic torch relay.

The chairman of Japan's National Public Safety Commission Shinya Izumi says Japanese police will maintain security and that he was not open to letting Chinese security guards run in Japan like they did in other countries.

HE stated this position at a press conference Friday.

The torch will arrive in the central Japanese city on April 26.

The Chinese security guards ran in London and Paris, where chaotic protests interrupted the relay.

Members of the unit were picked from special police units of the People's Armed Police, China's internal security force. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:34 PM
Bush unlikely to boycott Olympics despite protests vs China
04/12/2008 | 10:30 AM
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WASHINGTON - For President George W. Bush, it seems a small gesture would make a big point: Staying away from the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics would send a clear signal of U.S. anger over China's crackdown against anti-Beijing Tibetan protesters.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not attend the opening ceremonies. John McCain, the Republican senator Bush has endorsed as his successor, says he would go only if China improved its rights record. And the two Democratic presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, are urging Bush to miss the ceremonies.

Yet Bush is giving no indication that he will skip the event. Too much may be at stake for him to do so.

Any Olympic protest by the United States would deeply offend a proud Beijing leadership that hopes the games will show China's emergence as a new world power. It also would run the risk of hindering a host of international efforts the Bush administration needs China's help to solve, including efforts to confront Myanmar's military junta and North Korean and apparently Iranian nuclear programs. China holds a veto on the U.N. Security Council, and the U.S. and Chinese economies, as well as many of the countries' political efforts around the world, are increasingly intertwined.

Pressed repeatedly by reporters this week, the White House said Bush is attending the Olympics but would not announce his specific schedule so far ahead of the games, which begin Aug. 8. The administration did not rule out the possibility of Bush missing the opening ceremonies.

On Friday, Bush repeated his position that the Olympics are for sports, not politics. He told ABC News that his decision to attend the games is not affected by pleas from activists who want world leaders to skip the opening ceremony to protest violence in Tibet. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States will "press the Chinese on human rights issues before, during and after these upcoming Olympic Games."

Bush maintains his presence at the games will allow him to raise human rights problems directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao while watching the best athletes in the world compete.

That position could change if Beijing were to stage a crackdown reminiscent of the one against pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

But Michael Green, Bush's former Asia adviser, says the president probably will attend the opening ceremonies.

"The problem with a boycott is you end up taking 1.3 billion Chinese — who have different views of democracy, of the U.S., of human rights, but all want the Olympics to be successful — and you turn them all against the U.S.," said Green, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. "It's a crude and blunt instrument to just boycott."

Bush, he added, is "stubborn when he thinks he's got the right decision."

Green said he thinks the administration is using decisions by world leaders to skip the opening ceremonies to push Beijing to work with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who Beijing accuses of pushing for independence from China.

On Friday, Rice again urged China to talk with the Dalai Lama. "China would really do itself a great service, and not to mention the people of Tibet, if it were willing to have a more open attitude toward responsible Tibetan cultural and religious authorities," she said.

Bush has been outspoken in his support of the Dalai Lama and presented the monk with a Congressional Gold Medal last year over strong Chinese protests.

But U.S. lawmakers are urging Bush to take a stand on Tibet at the Olympics.

Clinton and two other Democratic senators sent Bush a letter this week saying the crackdown in Tibet "should be unacceptable to anyone who believes in basic human freedoms."

Bush's attendance of the opening ceremonies, they wrote, "would send the implicit message to the world that the United State condones the intolerance that has been demonstrated by these actions of the Chinese government."

China is working hard to contain violence in Tibet ahead of the games. It has sent thousands of police and army troops to the region to maintain an edgy peace, hunt down protest leaders and cordon off Buddhist monasteries whose monks led protests that began peacefully on March 10 before turning violent four days later.

Victor Cha, director of Asian studies at Georgetown University and another former White House adviser, said Bush is a "sports purist" who sees "the games as sport only, not politics."

"He will go and will not call for a boycott," Cha said in an e-mail. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:34 PM
German leader nixes Olympics boycott; open for talks with Dalai Lama
04/13/2008 | 11:45 AM
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OSLO, Norway - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday rejected the idea of boycotting the Beijing Olympics as ineffective, but said she was open to another meeting with the Dalai Lama despite China's protests against her meeting the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader last year.

Merkel, in Oslo to attend the opening of the new national Opera House, said she would not attend the opening of the 2008 Summer Games in China because it had never been on her schedule.

"I do not think we should boycott the whole Olympics, we have seen that did not work," said Merkel, whose comments in German were translated into Norwegian by an interpreter. The chancellor said Western nations' decision to stay away from the 1980 games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had little impact.

"And I never planned to participate in the opening," she said, adding that the minister of sports was designated to represent Germany in Beijing. She said countries needed to find other ways to discuss issues such as human rights and Tibet policy with China.

China harshly criticized Merkel for receiving the Dalai Lama at her chancellory in September. Beijing broke off several meetings with German diplomats, and more normal relations were restored only after several months of behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

Merkel stood by her decision to become the first German leader to receive the Dalai Lama, defending the visit as that of a foreign religious leader.

Merkel said she was ready to meet the Dalai Lama again, but was scheduled to be on a trip to LatinAmerica during the religious leader's next planned visit to Germany.

Though she has not set plans to meet the Dalai Lama again, she said "if I met him one time, I would meet him again. It was not a once in a lifetime thing."

Merkel appeared with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at a brief news conference at the Munch Museum in Oslo, which the chancellor said she had asked to visit because she enjoys the work of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

Stoltenberg and Merkel said they discussed ways to combat climate damaging emissions, their alliance through NATO, efforts to bring peace and order to Afghanistan and industrial cooperation during a meeting ahead of the museum visit.

Merkel is to return to Germany late Saturday, after the opening gala for the opera house. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:34 PM
Davao athletes gear up for Beijing Olympics
GRACE S. UDDIN, Davao Today
04/14/2008 | 12:18 AM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us DAVAO CITY, Philippines - Two Davao athletes who bagged the gold in the 24th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Thailand in December last year will fight it out for the qualifying rounds in Shenzhen, China, for the 2008 Beijing Olympics slated in August.

Shiela Mae Perez, 22, earlier made the city proud by bagging three gold medals in diving during the 23rd SEA Games in 2005. She’s making the city proud again by winning gold in women’s three-meter springboard category in December last year. She and Rexel Ryan Fabriga, 22, who won gold in men’s ten-meter platform synchronized diving during the event, will fight it out in the Shenzhen qualifying rounds for Beijing.

Both Perez and Fabriga also won, apart from their golds, silver in women’s one-meter springboard and in men’s ten meter platform categories, respectively.

They were among the 21 Davao athletes that the city government honored on an April 3 ceremony at the Marco Polo Hotel.

“The game was good and I really prepared for the competition," said Fabriga of kilometre 10 in Sasa. He said he practiced three times a day to prepare himself for the event.

Perez said she was happy to win gold despite the tough competition. She had to go to Canada and the US for another game before trying out for the Beijing’s qualifying game.

“After we come back, we will start our training," Perez said.

Anticipating the competition to be tough, Perez said it’s the spirit of winning that matters. She said she was hoping to be on the top twelve in the next Olympics.

“If you would dream, dream big," Perez said.

The city government hosted a treat to 21 Davao athletes who bagged different prizes from the 24th SEA games in December. Among them, Ruditha Poralan belonged to the 10- member team that won the bronze in the 1,000-meter traditional boat race for women. Her mother Omicita Poralan, 56, said she was very happy with her daughter’s winning.

Although the rigorous training oftentimes kept them apart, she said she didn’t mind because it was the good of her daughter.

Other Davao SEA games medalists included Jho Ann Banayag, who won silver in the women’s marathon; Edmer del Socorro and Ruel Batuto, whose team won silver in baseball; Jhonnel Ababa, whose team also won silver in golf; Amina Anuddin, whose team won silver in a 500-meter traditional boat race for women; Sanita Kasim, whose team won bronze10 in the 1,000-meter traditional boat race for women; Jaime Asok, who won gold in a 10-meter platform synchronized diving for men; Zardo Domenios and Niρo Carog who both won silver in the three-meter synchronized diving for men; Zardo Domenios, who won bronze in the three-meter springboard diving for men; Lee Vann Corteza, who won silver in the nine-pool single, billiards and snookers for men; May Ann Basas, who won silver in the six-red snooker and billiards for women; George Vilog, who won silver in men’s triathlon; Richly Magsanay, whose 25-member team won silver in sailing; Ruth Dugaduga who won bronze in the 78-kilogram half heavy judo for women; Frazier Alamara, Norton Alamara and Monsuito Pelenio, whose water polo team won the silver and and Luvelyn Maganda who bagged the gold in team softball.

Cash gifts amounting to 15,000 pesos were given to those who won the gold, to 10,000 pesos to those who won silver and five thousand to those who won bronze. - Grace S. Uddin/ davaotoday.com

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:35 PM
Olympic torch arrives in Oman amid tight security
04/14/2008 | 05:18 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us MUSCAT, Oman - The Olympic torch has arrived in Oman amid tight security and expectations of a smooth relay of the flame on the Middle Eastern leg of its twenty-nation tour that has been marked by chaos and protests.

Oman officials say the flame arrived at Oman International Airport from Tanzania at 4:30 GMT Monday and was received by Omani sports minister Ali Masoud al-Sunaidy.

Oman is a Muslim country at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula with a booming tourism industry.

It has promised a trouble-free torch relay with a party-like atmosphere, including musical performances and traditional dances to be held along the planned 20-kilometer relay route throughout the streets of the capital of Muscat and along its scenic water front. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:35 PM
French Olympic chief nixes badges for French athletes in Beijing
04/15/2008 | 04:32 PM
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PARIS – The head of the French National Olympic Committee has ruled out allowing athletes from France to wear a badge at the Beijing Olympics that reads "For a Better World."

French athletes came up with the idea of a badge after China's repression of protests in March in Tibet. However, Henri Serandour told L'Equipe TV on Monday night that the Olympic Charter must be respected, riling those who saw the badges as a way for athletes to show their attachment to Olympic values and human rights.

The Olympic Charter rules out any kind of "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" at all "Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Serandour's announcement irked some in France, including Sports Minister Bernard Laporte.

"First off, I don't find the badge very aggressive. It attacks neither China nor anything," he said Tuesday on Radio Classique. "The badge was the expression of French athletes and I find it regrettable that they be forbidden to wear this badge."

Some French athletes have been strongly critical of the crackdown in Tibet and China's human rights failings. They argued that wearing a "Better World" badge would be their way of showing their attachment to Olympic values, values they accused China of not respecting.

The head of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said the decision announced by Serandour represented a slap in the face for athletes.

"What a lack of courage," Robert Menard said on France-Info radio.

"We saluted this initiative, stressing that they could have gone further... But even this minimum isn't accepted by the Olympic movement," said Menard. Reporters Without Borders has been pushing for a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Aug. 8-24 games. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:35 PM
French Olympic chief nixes badges for French athletes in Beijing
04/15/2008 | 04:32 PM
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PARIS – The head of the French National Olympic Committee has ruled out allowing athletes from France to wear a badge at the Beijing Olympics that reads "For a Better World."

French athletes came up with the idea of a badge after China's repression of protests in March in Tibet. However, Henri Serandour told L'Equipe TV on Monday night that the Olympic Charter must be respected, riling those who saw the badges as a way for athletes to show their attachment to Olympic values and human rights.

The Olympic Charter rules out any kind of "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" at all "Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

Serandour's announcement irked some in France, including Sports Minister Bernard Laporte.

"First off, I don't find the badge very aggressive. It attacks neither China nor anything," he said Tuesday on Radio Classique. "The badge was the expression of French athletes and I find it regrettable that they be forbidden to wear this badge."

Some French athletes have been strongly critical of the crackdown in Tibet and China's human rights failings. They argued that wearing a "Better World" badge would be their way of showing their attachment to Olympic values, values they accused China of not respecting.

The head of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said the decision announced by Serandour represented a slap in the face for athletes.

"What a lack of courage," Robert Menard said on France-Info radio.

"We saluted this initiative, stressing that they could have gone further... But even this minimum isn't accepted by the Olympic movement," said Menard. Reporters Without Borders has been pushing for a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Aug. 8-24 games. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:35 PM
Olympic judo champion to boycott Beijing opening ceremony
04/15/2008 | 11:13 PM
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FRANKFURT, Germany – Olympic judo champion Yvonne Boenisch plans to boycott the opening ceremony at the Beijing Games.

"I want to send a signal and I will not take part in the opening ceremony," the Boenisch told German television network ZDF.

Boenisch said she would also wear a wrist band in protest over China's crackdown in Tibet, but ruled out skipping the games themselves.

"For every athlete taking part in the games is the biggest thing. If there were a boycott, thousands of dreams would be ruined," she said.

German Olympic officials have pledged to send a team to China.

Boenisch became the first German woman to win a judo gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:36 PM
Greek weightlifters to testify as suspects in drugs probe
04/15/2008 | 11:17 PM
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ATHENS, Greece – Eleven members of Greece's scandal-tainted weightlifting team will testify Wednesday before a prosecutor investigating their alleged use of banned substances.

Court officials said Tuesday the athletes would be testifying as suspects, in a preliminary stage before charges can be pressed.

The weightlifters tested positive for unspecified banned substances during an out-of-competition test in Athens on March 7. Greek authorities are awaiting confirmation of test results announced April 4.

The names of the male and female athletes – 11 of the 14 members of the national team – have not been published and none have publicly commented on the scandal.

National weightlifting coach Christos Iakovou, who has been suspended, insisted a faulty batch of diet supplements from China was to blame for the test results.

But a court official said Tuesday that a former member of the Greek team, Christos Constantinidis, accused Iakovou of pressing him to use banned substances in 1997.

Constantinidis initially made the claims in 1997 before retracting them, and repeated them in testimony Monday before prosecutor Andreas Karaflos, according to the official, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity. Constantinidis said he had been forced to recant the initial accusations a decade ago "after pressure was exerted on him," the official said.

On Tuesday, the head of Greece's National Organization for Medicines, Vassilis Kondozamanis, told reporters the organization would soon release a full report on drugs seized last week at an Athens pharmacy as part of the investigation headed by Karaflos.

Iakovou and the entire team of weightlifting coaches and doctors, have been summoned to testify to Karaflos on Thursday.

The scandal has shaken Greek sport, and threatens to prevent the country from sending weightlifters – traditionally strong medal hopefuls – to Beijing.

Sports minister Yiannis Ioannidis said last week it was "not likely" Greek weightlifters would compete in the Beijing Olympics, but that the International Weightlifting Federation would make the final decision.

Iakovou, 60, is one of Greece's most successful coaches with his athletes winning five Olympic gold medals, along with five silver and two bronze, since the 1992 Barcelona Games. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:36 PM
Olympic torch to arrive in China-friendly Pakistan
04/15/2008 | 11:53 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan prepared Tuesday to welcome the Olympic torch for what its pro-China government hopes will be a festive and trouble-free leg of its world tour.

Protests against China's human rights record have marred the torch's passage through Western cities, and Pakistan has gone to great lengths to avoid any repeat during its short stay en route to Beijing.

Officials including the sports minister plan to receive the torch when it arrives at Islamabad airport shortly after midnight on a flight from Oman. Only state media are allowed to cover the event.

Later Wednesday, about 60 Pakistani athletes will take turns to carry it to a ceremony featuring folk music and dancing at the city's biggest sports complex before guests including President Pervez Musharraf.

But instead of carrying the torch in relay along a 3-kilometer route from the white marble parliament building in Pakistan's grid-plan capital, as originally planned, the athletes will run only around the grounds of the Jinnah Stadium.

Col. Baseer Haider, an army official helping organize the event, said the change was made because of the "overall security environment" and the risk of bad weather. A violent hailstorm hit Islamabad on Tuesday.

The Pakistan Olympic Association has urged broadcasters using state TV coverage of the torch to avoid "negative comments" and make "no mention" of the conflict in Tibet.

Pakistan has strong and long-standing defense and economic links with China. Both are rivals of neighboring India. Musharraf is expected to return from a six-day official trip to China in time for the torch ceremony.

There have been no indications that rights groups are planning to repeat in Pakistan their protests against China, which disrupted torch relays in Paris, London and San Francisco.

The torch's stops in Argentinian, Tanzania and Oman have been trouble-free.

However, rioting in two Pakistani cities in the past week has raised tension in a country permanently on guard against attacks by Islamic militants based its border with Afghanistan. Chinese workers were targeted in two deadly attacks last year.

"We have to take care that there is no infiltration by some elements who are bent on disrupting our understanding and great relationship," Musharraf said in China on Monday.

The turmoil over the torch relay and the growing international criticism of China's policies on Tibet and Darfur have turned the Beijing Olympic Games – which begin August 8 – into one of the most contentious in recent history.

The flame, which began its worldwide six-continent trek from ancient Olympia in Greece on March 24, is due in India on Thursday.

Pakistani sports stars chosen to carry the torch include Hassan Sardar, a field hockey gold-medallist in the 1984 Los Angeles games and squash legend Jahangir Khan. - AP

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:36 PM
RP Olympic bets get $ 398 travel subsidy
By NICK GIONGCO

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) will spend $ 398 for the airfare of athletes and officials (economy class) for the 2008 Beijing Olympics this August.

Former basketball man Moying Martelino, given by the POC a special role in the country’s preparation for the Aug. 8 to 24 Games, revealed that the organizing committee has approved that amount.

"That’s the subsidy from the organizing committee," said Martelino yesterday, noting that the Philippine delegation is free to choose which airline to take although tops on the priority is flag-carrier Philippine Airlines.

If the POC gets a lower rate, it will be set aside as savings, but if some of them decide to upgrade or take a different airline, they will have to fork out their own money.

POC treasurer Julian Camacho said the entire delegation will number between 20 to 30 people and the per diem of the athletes as well as other expenses will be finalized by next month.

"I don’t see any problems right now because the delegation is small so we are just trying to meet other requirements like the submission of entries to the organizing committee," said Camacho.

Martelino said he beat the April 15 deadline for the submission of names for accreditation and that his next assignment will be to determine the itinerary of the officials.

"I have been told to finalize the arrival and departure details of the NSA presidents and that’s not going to be easy because most of them will tell me they haven’t made up their minds yet on the dates," said Martelino.

Martelino said the Olympics is completely an affair of the POC unlike in the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games wherein it is the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) which handles not only the funding but the training as well.

But in the Olympics, it is the POC which calls the shots and the PSC is relegated to the granting of financial backing to the athletes’ training and overseas exposure.

Swimming has the most qualifiers at the moment with five, while :"kwondo and diving has two, boxing, archery and shooting has one each. Athletics will also send two bets, one male and one female, regardless of the result of long jumpers Henry Dagmil and Marestela Torres’ qualifying events in the US.

Judo, weightlifting and fencing are also vying for slots.

Meanwhile, Martelino said the Olympic organizing are giving each delegation a 15 day-notice for the selection of their respective flag-bearer.

"That’s not a big concern right now because we are given 15 days before the opening to name the flag-bearer," said Martelino.

stonecold316
04-17-2008, 06:37 PM
Olympic torch arrives as India braces for protests
04/17/2008 | 12:31 PM
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NEW DELHI - Chinese cheerleaders and Tibetan protesters greeted the Olympic flame Thursday as it arrived in India, the heart of the world's Tibetan exile community, amid massive security for the next leg of the torch relay.

The flame arrived from Pakistan at a New Delhi airport, where Chinese officials handed it over to the head of the Indian Olympic Association. Flag-waving traditional Indian dancers and Chinese cheerleaders performed in welcome.

Some two dozen Tibetan exiles protested along a busy highway as the torch made its way into town, chanting anti-China slogans. Several were forcibly detained by police and taken away in police vans.

Thousands of police have been deployed across New Delhi with India desperate to avoid the chaos that has disrupted the torch runs in London, Paris and other Western cities — fearing a similar fiasco would harm India's attempts to forge closer ties with China after decades of frosty relations.

But the protest at the torch's arrival promised to be the first of many against the relay as the Olympic flame reached the home of India's 100,000-member Tibetan exile community, the world's largest. They have staged almost daily protests in New Delhi since demonstrations first broke out in Tibet in March and were put down by Chinese officials.

In recent weeks, Tibetan exiles here have stormed the Chinese Embassy, which is now surrounded by barricades and barbed wire, gone on hunger strikes and shaved their heads to protest China's crackdown on protests in Tibet.

The exiles say the torch run through the city is a perfect opportunity to make their point, despite the fact that the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, says he supports China hosting of the Olympics.

Protests were expected to continue all day before the 4 p.m. (6:30 a.m. EDT) start of the relay.

Thousands of Tibetans reportedly were heading to New Delhi to protest and will take part in their own torch run to highlight the Tibetan struggle against China. Exiles also have urged Indian athletes to boycott the torch relay and asked residents to wear "Free Tibet" T-shirts and fly Tibetan flags.

"By speaking out when the Chinese government brings the Olympic torch to India, you will send a strong message to Tibetans, to the Chinese government, and to the world, that Indians support the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people's nonviolent struggle for freedom and justice," according to Students for a Free Tibet, a strident exile group.

Some exiles have said they plan to make a more dramatic statement, possibly trying to douse or steal the Olympic flame, although activists were sketchy about their plans.

Tenzin Tsundue, a Tibetan activist with a re:"tion for publicity stunts, said he didn't want to talk about specific plans in a telephone interview Wednesday because he fears his phone is tapped — a not uncommon practice in this part of the world.

"But be at India Gate," he said, referring to a monument in New Delhi that the torch will pass.

Activists disrupted torch relays in Paris, London and San Francisco. However, stops in Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan have been trouble-free.

In Pakistan, runners carried the Olympic flame around the outside of the Jinnah Stadium in the capital of Islamabad on Wednesday — an invitation-only event in front of a sparse crowd with heavy security.

The public could watch live TV accounts of the relay, which looked almost like a practice run because of the lack of people and the location.

President Pervez Musharraf handed the torch to the first runner and later said the Pakistani people stood with China "in this glorious event you host for the entire world."

The Pakistan Olympic Association urged broadcasters using state TV coverage of the torch to avoid "negative comments" and to make "no mention" of the Tibet disturbances.

For India, a Paris-style disruption, where officials were forced to douse the flame amid protests, would be a political disaster.

India and China are forging their closest ties since they fought a 1962 border war. Last year, two-way trade reached $37 billion. However, India is still wary of China, whose economic, diplomatic and military clout in has grown in recent years.

Public sympathy in India lies with the Tibetans, who have sought refuge in the country since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Beijing in 1959, setting up his government-in-exile in the northern town of Dharmsala.

While India needs to bow to popular sentiment and allow some Tibetan protests, it must ensure it does not jeopardize its important relations with China, analysts say.

"This is a fine balance that is being maintained," said New Delhi-based analyst C. Uday Bhaskar. "It is about seeing the big picture. Indo-Sino relations have a depth and implications for both countries, policy review cannot be done on an emotive issue." - AP

stonecold316
04-18-2008, 04:25 PM
Olympic torch run in India under tight security
04/17/2008 | 07:29 PM
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NEW DELHI – Runners are carrying the Olympic torch through the sealed-off streets of central New Delhi amid a massive security clampdown.

India is home to the world's largest Tibetan exile community, leading organizers and government officials to fear major protests during the run. The torch's route was cut back because of those fears, and the current run is less than 3 kilometers long.

There have been scattered Tibetan protests Thursday in New Delhi and other Indian cities, but police have kept them largely under control. - AP

stonecold316
04-18-2008, 04:26 PM
Thais set fluid route to secure Olympic torch run
04/17/2008 | 08:09 PM
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BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai authorities said Thursday they may shorten or change the route of the Olympic torch relay here if protesters threaten to disrupt it as they have in other cities.

Some 1,000-2,000 policemen will guard a 10.5-kilometer (6.3-mile) route through the Thai capital Bangkok on Saturday afternoon, said Gen. Yuttasak Sasiprapha, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.

The torch is supposed to arrive in Thailand early Friday morning from India, where its relay was run on a shortened route amid a massive security clampdown.

Thailand's Crown Princess Sirindhorn will preside over a welcoming ceremony for the flame after its Bangkok arrival.

Protests over China's repression of Tibetan pro-independence activists have dogged the torch relay at various stops on its worldwide journey to Beijing for this year's Olympic Games.

The heavy security planned by Thai authorities highlights the concerns of the government and its desire to avoid the type of chaos that occurred during the torch relays in London, Paris and San Francisco.

However, stops in Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan have been trouble-free.

"If things go wrong, we have a Plan B to change the route or shorten it," Yuttasak said at a news conference.

Thai military units will be monitoring the event, he said, without elaborating.

"Supporters of the Tibetan cause have the right to express their views but not to thwart the relay. We will not tolerate that," Yuttasak said.

A police helicopter will be patrolling the area and several police motorcycles will be riding alongside the torch runners, he added.

Police cars and vans will also be following the torch bearers to bring them to safety in case of violence.

Eighty runners will be participating in the two-hour, 45-minute relay, which will start from the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown and end at the Royal Plaza, a large square in the heart of the old official section of Bangkok.

The torch is scheduled to leave Thailand for Malaysia on Saturday night. - AP

stonecold316
04-18-2008, 04:27 PM
Thais set fluid route to secure Olympic torch run
04/17/2008 | 08:09 PM
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BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai authorities said Thursday they may shorten or change the route of the Olympic torch relay here if protesters threaten to disrupt it as they have in other cities.

Some 1,000-2,000 policemen will guard a 10.5-kilometer (6.3-mile) route through the Thai capital Bangkok on Saturday afternoon, said Gen. Yuttasak Sasiprapha, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.

The torch is supposed to arrive in Thailand early Friday morning from India, where its relay was run on a shortened route amid a massive security clampdown.

Thailand's Crown Princess Sirindhorn will preside over a welcoming ceremony for the flame after its Bangkok arrival.

Protests over China's repression of Tibetan pro-independence activists have dogged the torch relay at various stops on its worldwide journey to Beijing for this year's Olympic Games.

The heavy security planned by Thai authorities highlights the concerns of the government and its desire to avoid the type of chaos that occurred during the torch relays in London, Paris and San Francisco.

However, stops in Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan have been trouble-free.

"If things go wrong, we have a Plan B to change the route or shorten it," Yuttasak said at a news conference.

Thai military units will be monitoring the event, he said, without elaborating.

"Supporters of the Tibetan cause have the right to express their views but not to thwart the relay. We will not tolerate that," Yuttasak said.

A police helicopter will be patrolling the area and several police motorcycles will be riding alongside the torch runners, he added.

Police cars and vans will also be following the torch bearers to bring them to safety in case of violence.

Eighty runners will be participating in the two-hour, 45-minute relay, which will start from the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown and end at the Royal Plaza, a large square in the heart of the old official section of Bangkok.

The torch is scheduled to leave Thailand for Malaysia on Saturday night. - AP

stonecold316
04-18-2008, 04:27 PM
Olympic torch arrives in Thailand amid tight security
04/18/2008 | 11:25 AM
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BANGKOK, Thailand - The Olympic flame arrived under tight security in Thailand on Friday for the latest leg of its round-the-world relay and was quickly taken to a luxury hotel to await an official welcome by the country's crown princess.

The military and thousands of police have been ordered to secure Saturday's torch relay in Bangkok to prevent disruptions from protesters of China's human rights record that have plagued the flame on other stops.

Chinese security officials escorted the torch on a charter flight that landed Friday morning at a military airport outside Bangkok before dawn after leaving India, where some 15,000 police helped keep Tibetan protesters away from the flame.

A pro-China gathering greeted the torch at the airport, according to The Bangkok Post, which reported that 30 Thais of Chinese descent waved Chinese and Olympic flags as the plane landed at 2:40 a.m. local time.

The torch was then driven to a downtown luxury hotel.

Crown Princess Sirindhorn was scheduled to preside over a welcome ceremony Friday afternoon ahead of a 10.5-kilometer (6.3-mile) relay starting in Bangkok's Chinatown on Saturday.

Up to 2,000 police will guard the route, which authorities say could be changed and shortened at the last minute if protesters try to disrupt the relay, said Gen. Yuttasak Sasiprapha, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.

The Thai military will also be monitoring the event, Yuttasak told a news conference Thursday. He declined to detail the military's involvement.

Authorities have warned that any foreign activists involved in efforts to disrupt the relay will be deported.

A police helicopter will follow the relay overhead as police motorcycles ride alongside torch runners along with police vans in case the athletes need to jump inside for safety, he said.

Protests over China's suppression of Tibetan demonstrations against Chinese rule have dogged the torch relay at various stops on its worldwide journey to Beijing for this year's Olympic Games.

"We have been tightening security plans and adjusting them accordingly, following the chaos in London, Paris and San Francisco," Yuttasak said.

Stops in Kazakhstan, Russia, Argentina, Tanzania, Oman and Pakistan have been trouble-free.

"Supporters of the Tibetan cause have the right to express their views but not to thwart the relay. We will not tolerate that," Yuttasak said.

Eighty runners will take part in the two-hour and 45-minute relay, which will start from the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown and end at the Royal Plaza, a large square in the heart of the historic section of the city.

The torch is scheduled to leave Thailand for Malaysia on Saturday night. - AP

stonecold316
04-18-2008, 04:28 PM
Japanese temple refuses to host Olympic torch relay - report
04/18/2008 | 11:43 AM
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TOKYO - Kyodo News agency reports that a major Japanese Buddhist temple is refusing to host the Olympic torch relay.

The report says Zenkoji Temple has pulled out of the relay plans, amid speculation that monks there sympathize with anti-Chinese government protesters in Tibet.

The report on Friday follows a series of protests of the torch relay as it has circled the globe over China's crackdown on anti-government demonstrations in Tibet.

Zenkoji originally was scheduled to be the starting point for the relay in Japan in the mountainous Nagano region. - AP

stonecold316
04-20-2008, 04:05 AM
Thai leg of Olympic torch relay festive, with small protests
04/19/2008 | 10:13 PM
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BANGKOK, Thailand - China supporters and pro-Tibet demonstrators heckled each other Saturday as thousands of people followed the Olympic torch through Bangkok's sweltering streets amid tight security.

Thousands of people waved Chinese and Thai flags at a send-off in the city's Chinatown. A sole dissenter, a Western woman, carried a picture of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. Some members of the crowd shouted at her to "get out!"

Along the route, about 100 human rights demonstrators faced off across a road against a similar number of China supporters. Tempers flared as the torch passed, with the protesters shouting at each other, but police kept the groups apart.

Protests over China's crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet have dogged the torch relay in San Francisco, Paris and other stops on its way to the Olympics' opening ceremony in August in Beijing.

Growing criticism of China's human rights record has turned the Olympics into one of the most contentious in recent history.

Eighty runners took part in the nearly three-hour relay, with the torch carried home by Pawina Thongsuk, a Thai weightlifter who won an Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

Thai authorities had deployed about 2,000 police and barricades to protect the Olympic torch along the relay's 6.3-mile route. Hundreds of crowd control and security personnel also were on duty.

Police kept a cautious watch for provocative anti-China signs or banners, as well as protesters possibly emerging from small alleyways when the torch passed. Thai authorities warned earlier that any foreign activists who tried to disrupt the relay would be deported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej lashed out at potential protesters.

"Whoever tries to destroy the flame is crazy and unreasonable," he said. "Why would anyone protest in Thailand? Why don't they protest in China?"

A coalition of human rights and other activist groups staged a loud but peaceful protest in front of the U.N.'s Asian headquarters along the relay route in Bangkok.

"We want to show the Chinese government that the crackdown in Tibet did not spark outrage only in the Western world," said Pokpong Lawansiri, coordinator of the Free Tibet Movement.

They waved placards and chanted "Free Tibet" and "Shame, shame Hu Jintao," referring to China's president.

They were countered by an equal-sized, mostly Chinese-speaking crowd across the street yelling "One China!" and other pro-China slogans.

Before the torch passed, police made a modest effort to disperse the pro-Tibet demonstrators, with one officer on a loudspeaker imploring them to "think of the reputation of the country and not be opportunistic." Police also videotaped the protesters.

The torch passed by many of Bangkok's historical sites, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the ceremonial Grand Palace and Chitralada Palace, the residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The torch was scheduled to leave for Malaysia on Saturday night.- AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:11 AM
Japan chooses new Olympic torch relay route - report
04/21/2008 | 11:26 AM
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TOKYO - Japanese officials chose a new starting point for the upcoming Olympic torch relay Monday after a major temple pulled out of the plans over security concerns and sympathy for Tibetan protesters, news reports said.

Nagano city officials will now start the April 26 leg of the relay, which has been dogged by anti-China protests as it has worked its way around the world, at a city-owned parking lot, Kyodo News and national broadcaster NHK reported.

On Friday, Buddhist monks at the centuries-old Zenkoji temple refused to host the start of the relay. Vandals over the weekend spray painted the temple with white paint, though officials would not say whether the two events were related.

Since the torch relay started in Greece on March 24 it has been a magnet for critics of China's human rights record and its crackdown in Tibet on sometimes-violent demonstrations against Chinese rule. Protesters disrupted the torch's stops in London, Paris and San Francisco.

In Malaysia on Monday, a thousand police were ready to guard the relay Monday against protests. A Buddhist group held special prayers at a Kuala Lumpur temple for a trouble-free torch run and a peaceful Olympics in August.

In Japan, about 80 runners, including Olympic gold medal swimmer Kosuke Kitajima and gold medal female wrestler Saori Yoshida, were scheduled to carry the torch along Nagano's five-hour, 18.5-kilometer (11.5-mile) route. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:13 AM
Chinese heckle Olympic torch run protesters in Malaysia
04/21/2008 | 07:34 PM
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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A crowd of Chinese onlookers heckled and hit a Japanese family with inflated plastic batons Monday after the three unfurled a Tibetan flag before the start of the Malaysian leg of the Olympic torch relay.

The family, comprising two adults and a boy, was detained by police, who also took a Buddhist monk and a British woman wearing a "Free-Tibet" T-shirt into custody. The woman and monk were later released.

About an hour later, the president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, Imran Jaafar, set off with the torch, jogging a short distance before handing it to the next runner in the relay covering 10 miles through downtown Kuala Lumpur.

"I am very excited, very honored to be the first runner. The honor is not just for myself, but also for the country," Imran said.

The relay, which started in blistering sun, ended about four hours later in blinding rain at the iconic Petronas Twin Towers after passing through the hands of 80 runners.

Criticism of China's human rights record has turned the Olympics into one of the most contentious in recent history.

Protests have dogged the torch relay during its stops in Paris, London and San Francisco, with demonstrations over China's crackdown in Tibet where it forcefully put down anti-government riots.

Witnesses said the adult couple and the boy were heckled by Chinese bystanders during the confrontation at Independence Square where the 10-mile relay began.

Scenes captured by a television cameraman showed some of the Chinese supporters striking the family members with plastic blow-up batons that they were carrying to celebrate the occasion.

Some shouted "Taiwan and Tibet belong to China" during the confrontation.

Police intervened and took the Japanese family away.

The supporters carried Chinese flags and waved banners that read: "The Torch will spread around the world," and "No one can split China."

Kuala Lumpur police chief Muhammad Sabtu Osman said the family was detained "only for documentation," and said he had no information that they were beaten by others in the crowd.

Muhammad Sabtu, the police chief, said the monk, whose nationality was not known, and the British women wearing a "Free Tibet" T-shirt were detained because they were not carrying their passports. Both were freed a few hours later, he said.

Japanese Embassy officials meanwhile were negotiating with police for the release of the family.

A group of Chinese lion dancers and drummers heralded the run through a secure corridor guarded by some 1,000 policemen and commandos.

As the runners passed through Chinatown, hundreds of schoolchildren and other Chinese supporters cheered and waved small Malaysian flags. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:14 AM
Indonesia prepares for shortened, invitation-only Olympic relay
04/21/2008 | 08:59 PM
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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia will stage a shortened, invitation-only Olympic torch relay under heavy security on Tuesday to thwart any anti-China protests, organizers said.

The steps were taken after pressure from the Chinese Embassy, organizing committee head Sumohadi Marsis told a media conference Monday.

The event was originally scheduled to follow a route through the center of the capital, Jakarta, but will now take place on streets outside a sports stadium, he said.

Marsis said around 5,000 guests would watch the 7-kilometer (4-mile) relay, but that members of the public would be barred. "We have to make it limited," he said.

The relay will not be televised live, apparently because no station was prepared to pay for the rights, said Marsis.

Protesters angry at China's human rights record or demanding Tibetan independence have attempted to disrupt the torch relay in Greece, Britain, France and the United States.

On Monday, police arrested three members of a Japanese family during the relay in Malaysia after they waved a Tibetan flag, police and witnesses said.

The only other country to make the event invite-only so far was Pakistan, which cited security fears.

Police in Indonesia had warned of possible protests by pro-Tibet activists, Falun Gong spiritual movement practitioners and others. Marsis said 2,500 police officers will be on duty. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:14 AM
Unions criticize sportswear industry in runup to Olympic games
04/21/2008 | 09:09 PM
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BRUSSELS, Belgium – A global trade union group is criticizing sportswear companies and the International Olympic Committee for not doing enough to make sure labor rights are respected in the run-up to the Beijing Games.

The group says workers are still exploited in China where it claims some have to glue sports shoes for less than $2 (€1.30) a day.

A report published Monday says that workers are paid poverty wages and have to work for excessive hours while multinationals reap the benefits. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:15 AM
Pro-Tibet protesters greet Olympic torch in Jakarta
04/22/2008 | 05:32 PM
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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian police say a Dutch citizen is among eight people arrested during pro-Tibet protests in Jakarta as the Olympic relay torch arrived for an invitation-only ceremony.

About 5,500 officers with water cannon guarded the capital's main sports stadium where the relay has been taking place, said deputy police chief Herri Wibowo.

The torch arrived Tuesday under rainy skies at Jakarta's Bung Karno Stadium, where around 100 demonstrators had turned out.

Jakarta's governor started the relay by 80 torchbearers circling the stadium five times instead of running through the streets of Jakarta as originally planned.

The relay has attracted little interest in Indonesia, perhaps because the Olympics themselves are not very popular. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:15 AM
Australian torch bearer pulls out of Olympic relay due to human rights concerns
04/22/2008 | 05:33 PM
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SYDNEY, Australia – An Australian torch bearer said Tuesday she was pulling out of this week's Olympic relay in her country's capital because of concerns over China's human rights record.

Social justice advocate Lin Hatfield-Dodds said she still supports the Olympics and the athletes, but the symbolism of the relay had changed in the wake of China's crackdown in Tibet.

"For a lot of people it still carries the meaning of harmony, but for an increasing number of the global community watching, it's carrying a lot of meaning around human rights," Hatfield-Dodds told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Hatfield-Dodds was chosen for the relay because she was named Australian of the Year in her territory for her work with low-income and disadvantaged Australians.

"I hope it doesn't send any particular message to Australia's athletes," she said. "I hope that it sends a message to the world at large that human rights matter."

Criticism of China's human rights record has turned the Olympic torch run ahead of the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics into one of the most contentious in recent history.

Protests dogged the relay during its stops in Ancient Olympia, Greece, Paris, London and San Francisco, with demonstrators protesting China's crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet.

Security concerns prompted authorities elsewhere to change their routes.

A strengthened force of hundreds of police will guard the torch when it's run through Canberra on Thursday. Security officials have erected metal barricades along the 16-kilometer route.

Organizers have predicted several protest "hot spots" and said the route could be changed if protests get out of control.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Monday that any violent protests would be severely dealt with.

"What I can say loud and clear, that if any protester, irrespective of their political point of view, engages in unruly disruptive, violent, unlawful behavior, then the police will come down on them like a ton of bricks," Rudd told ABC television. "Peaceful protest, yes. Violent protest, under no circumstances." - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:18 AM
Olympic torch arrives in Australia, quickly whisked away
04/23/2008 | 04:18 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia - The Olympic flame arrived in Australia on Wednesday for the next leg of the torch relay and was immediately whisked away to a secret location to avoid anti-China protesters.

Meanwhile in Nepal, authorities forced a mountain climber with a "Free Tibet" banner in his bags off Mount Everest, which Chinese climbers carrying the Olympic torch plan to ascend next month.

Criticism of China's human rights record has turned the torch relay into one of the most contentious in recent history. Anti-Chinese protests have dogged stops in Greece, Paris, London and San Francisco. Many countries, including Australia, have responded by modifying routes and boosting security.

Yard-high fences were being erected along the route through the Australian capital, Canberra, where 80 runners will carry the torch on Thursday. The torch will thread along a 10-mile route that passes Parliament House and within 200 yards of the Chinese Embassy.

Hundreds of police will guard the torch to prevent the type of interruptions that have marked the relay in other cities in the flame's global journey to the Beijing Olympics in August.

The flame arrived at an air base in Canberra from Indonesia and was greeted by government and Olympic officials and Aboriginal elder Agnes Shea, who said she hoped the torch's stay would symbolize "good will for all mankind."

A group of four people waved Chinese flags outside the gate of the base; there was no sign of protesters.

Officials said the flame's location was being kept secret between its arrival and the relay Thursday because of the threat of protests.

"I don't know, and I don't want to know," Australian relay organizer Ted Quinlan told reporters. "Originally, it was going to a hotel but there's a distinct possibility it's going to go to the embassy."

The climber on Mount Everest, whose identity has not been released, was caught with the banner at Everest's base camp, said mountaineering officials in Nepal's capital, Katmandu. The officials did not want to be named because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.

The climber is the first to be stopped by soldiers and policemen stationed on the Nepalese side of the world's highest mountain to prevent anti-China protests during the planned torch run to the summit of the world's tallest peak in the first days of May.

The officials said they were awaiting additional details due to communication problems.

In Sydney, police Wednesday stopped two people from unfurling a banner on the city's landmark Sydney Harbor Bridge that demanded freedom for Tibet from Chinese rule. They were handed on-the-spot fines of $95 and released.

Police in Canberra sought to end lingering confusion about the role of Chinese security agents in the relay. Police chief Mike Phelan said three blue-clad Chinese "flame attendants" will always be near the torch but will have no official security role.

Chinese ambassador to Australia Zhang Junsai told Channel Nine television news Tuesday that Chinese security officials still may intervene, saying: "If the flame is attacked I believe they will use their body."

However, Australian officials said Wednesday that all security would rest with them. "I don't know if I can be any clearer than that," Phelan said.

One torchbearer withdrew from the relay earlier this week, saying the symbolism of the relay had changed after China's Tibet crackdown last month.

Other torchbearers said the Olympics were the wrong place to make political protests. Ian Thorpe, a five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer who will carry the torch Thursday, said the protests "shouldn't be centered around a specific event."

Pro-Tibetan and pro-Chinese demonstrations were expected Thursday. Both sides say they want the event to be peaceful.

Simon Bradshaw, campaign coordinator of the Australia Tibet Council, expected about 500 supporters for what he said would be peaceful protests in Canberra. Events would start with an evening candlelight vigil outside the Chinese embassy.

"This is not an attempt to mar the Olympics, and it's certainly not an attack on the Chinese people. It's a message of support for Tibet," Bradshaw told The Associated Press.

About 4,000 Chinese students are expected in the capital to support the torch relay.

At a news conference of relay officials that was dominated by questions about security, Qu Yingpu, a spokesman for the Beijing Games organizing committee traveling with the torch, conceded there had been some problems said it had been a success so far.

"Definitely," he told a news conference. "Like everything else, we have ups and downs, but we are quite easy with that." - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:24 AM
Olympic tickets sales online again
04/23/2008 | 05:30 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing organizers will try again to sell Olympic tickets online.

The final batch of domestic-market tickets – 1.38 million – will go on sale beginning May 5, organizers announced Wednesday. Tickets will be sold at Bank of China outlets and on an official Web site, with sales closing June 9. The Beijing Olympics open on August 8.

Overwhelming demand for tickets caused a computer system to crash after just a few hours when the previous sales phase opened six months ago, forcing organizers to revert to a lottery system.

The lottery system was also used in the initial phase of domestic ticket sales.

"Well, we have only 100 days to go before the opening ceremony. We don't have enough time for a lottery draw," said Zhu Yan, director of the ticketing center for the Beijing organizing committee. "We don't have time for that to be done."

Zhu tried to give assurances that "fake or counterfeit tickets" would be difficult to produce and would be detected. Forgeries could present a problem in China, where counterfeiting of goods from DVDs to heart medicine is widespread despite repeated crackdowns.

Ticket-scalping is also widespread in China. Tickets to high-profile events often sell out quickly, frequently into the hands of scalpers planning to resell the tickets for a profit.

"In the process of designing the tickets, we have incorporated a series of anti-counterfeiting technologies to make faking tickets rather difficult," Zhu said. "We are sure that fake tickets will be created, but they will be low quality."

Zhu said buyers would be limited to three tickets for two sessions – a maximum of six tickets – and once those were paid for, the same buyer could apply to purchase six more.

A year ago, organizers said about 7.2 million tickets would be available for domestic and foreign sales. On Tuesday, Zhu said that number had fallen to 6.8 million. He did not elaborate.

Overall, organizers have said the Beijing Games will generate about 9 million tickets, but a large chunk is set aside for the International Olympic Committee, sponsors, dignitaries and TV broadcasters.

Heads of national Olympic committees have been pressuring organizers for months for more tickets. National Olympic Committee officials at meetings earlier this month in Beijing said they were more satisfied with their ticket allotments. However, some athletes say they are unable to obtain tickets for close family members – even parents.

Domestically, China's population of 1.3 billion has pushed demand far beyond supply.

Zhu said there had been no let up in demand despite growing discord surrounding the games.

Protests by pro-Tibet groups along the torch relay – or routes shortened drastically to avoid demonstrators – prompted IOC president Jacques Rogge to say the Olympics were in "crisis" during meetings earlier this month in Beijing.

Beijing's poor air quality has also caused concerns, although organizers have pledged that much of the area's heavy industry and construction will be halted by July 20. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:25 AM
Olympic torch relay goes unimpeded in Australia
04/24/2008 | 09:02 AM
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CANBERRA, Australia - Runners carried the Olympic torch along crowd-lined streets of Australia's capital Thursday, unimpeded by pockets of protest by supporters and detractors of China's government that left several people detained.

Thousands lined the Canberra relay route on the cool and sunny autumn day as police manned crowd-control barriers and vowed that nothing would stop the torch from completing its three-hour journey.

The event began without major incident as a half-dozen officers — in jogging pants, T-shirts and baseball caps — formed a loose cordon around the runner. Overhead, an airplane sky writer wrote the words "Free Tibet" in white letters.

Minutes into the relay, a man leaped out from the crowd and sat cross-legged about 35 feet in front of the runner. Police quickly hauled him away and the runner didn't stop.

Away from the route, three Tibetan women blocked the street in front of Parliament. Police also took them away. Another protester shouted "stop killing in Tibet," and he was led off.

Police presence was heavy and security around the torch bearers tight amid organizers' concerns that chaotic demonstrations that marred the event elsewhere could be repeated.

Protests of China's human rights record and its crackdown on anti-government activists in Tibet have turned the relay into a contentious issue for the Olympic movement. Many countries have changed routes and boosted security along the flame's six-continent journey to the Aug. 8-24 games in Beijing.

People carrying Chinese flags strongly outnumbered those carrying Tibetan flags or placards criticizing Beijing's human rights record. At some places, chanting of "One China" broke out. At others, eager supporters waving Chinese banners tried to keep up with the relay.

Shortly before the start of the relay, television footage showed dozens of China supporters facing off against a group carrying blue-colored flags representing the China's Muslim minority Uighurs. Minor scuffling broke out as officials sought to separate the groups. Police said at least one person was arrested. Soon afterward, Tibetan activists set alight a Chinese flag. Police led away one person.

Security to guard the 80 torchbearers has been boosted — officials say the expense doubled in recent weeks to $1.9 million — although the several hundred police expected to be deployed is far fewer than the thousands who guarded the flame in India and Indonesia.

Pro-Tibet groups said they had expected about 500 people in Canberra for peaceful protests. In response, Chinese student groups organized bus trips from Sydney and other cities for those wanting to support the relay.

"We didn't expect this reaction from the Chinese community which is obviously a well-coordinated plan to take the day by weight of numbers," Ted Quinlan, the chief organizer of the Australia relay, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "We have assurances that it will be done peacefully."

Three-foot-tall crowd-control barriers lined the relay circuit, which has been shortened out of security concerns. But it still threads along a 10-mile path past Parliament House and within 200 yards of the Chinese Embassy.

"We are determined that this torch will run its full route," Police Chief Mike Phelan told reporters.

He said three Chinese torch officials allowed near the flame have no security role. Australian officials have sought to play down the role of the Chinese security team that has surrounded the flame on the relay.

There were small protests Wednesday.

In Sydney, activists unfurled a banner over a prominent billboard for relay sponsor Coca-Cola that urged China to open talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader. Police charged four people with trespassing.

Earlier, police stopped two people from unfurling a pro-Tibet banner on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. They were fined.

In Canberra, about 150 people attended a vigil outside the Chinese Embassy and spelled out "Free Tibet" with candles.

George Farley, chairman of the Australia Tibet Council, urged the crowd not to be violent, even if provoked, because it could only harm their cause.

"The world believes the cause of Tibet is moral," Farley said. "If they spit on you, just wear it. If they attack you, run away. Do not approach the Chinese, do not interact with them."

In Nepal, authorities forced an American mountaineer with a "Free Tibet" banner in his bags off Mount Everest. Chinese climbers carrying the Olympic torch plan to ascend their side of the world's tallest peak in the early days of May.

The climber, who was identified by a guide company as William Brant Holland, was caught with the banner at Everest's base camp, said Nepalese Tourism Ministry officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The climber is the first to be stopped by soldiers and police stationed on the Nepalese side of Everest during the torch relay. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:39 AM
Kitajima set to renew rivalry with American Hansen in Beijing
04/24/2008 | 05:14 PM
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TOKYO – Double Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima is looking forward to renewing his long-running rivalry with American Brendan Hansen at the Beijing Olympics.

Kitajima has been upstaged by his main rival since winning the Olympic title in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events four years ago in Athens and is anticipating another showdown in Beijing.

"We've had many great competitions over the years," Kitajima said Thursday. "He's my rival and has become the standard to shoot for. All I can see in front of me is him."

Hansen holds the world record in both events and recent history shows he has the momentum heading to Beijing.

Kitajima has lost to Hansen four consecutive times, starting with the 100 at the 2005 world championships in Montreal. Hansen won the 100 and 200 over Kitajima at the Pan Pacific championships in 2006 before claiming victory in Melbourne in the 100 last year.

"I'm working my hardest to overtake him," said Kitajima. "He's been the leader in our discipline for a while now so I have to do my best in Beijing."

In Athens, American swimmer Aaron Peirsol suggested Kitajima used an illegal butterfly-style 'dolphin' kick in his 100 victory over Hansen, a claim Kitajima had no comment about at the time.

Kitajima looks to be in form ahead of the Olympics. He set a national record of 2 minutes, 8.84 seconds in the 200 at the Japanese national championships on Saturday and that has given him a boost heading to Beijing.

"Any time you set a record or clock a personal best it gives you confidence," said Kitajima. "I feel like I'm heading to Beijing in better shape mentally and physically than I was before Athens."

In Beijing, the expectations for the 25-year-old swimmer will be huge.

"Since I did well in Athens the expectations are big," said Kitajima. "But I can't worry about that too much and just have to stay focused on my training."

Japan won three gold medals, one silver and four bronze medals in the Athens pool four years ago. If Japanese swimmers are to repeat that impressive haul, they'll need another strong performance from Kitajima.

"Along with myself, we have a lot of swimmers who have the potential to win in Beijing," said Kitajima. "I'm confident we can perform well." - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:40 AM
Beefed up smoking ban set for Olympics
04/24/2008 | 05:20 PM
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BEIJING – It's called the "Patriotic Health Campaign Committee." This is the Beijing municipal body charged with enforcing the city's beefed up no-smoking rules, and it's sure to be popular with the 500,000 foreigners expected to visit the Beijing Olympics.

It'll be a different story for Beijing's 5 million smokers.

New smoking restrictions begin May 1, part of a commitment officials made for a smoke-free Olympics. That date will also send officials scrambling, trying to figure out how to enforce new rules in a city famous for incorrigible smokers – and a country with 350 million of them – who flagrantly ignore no-smoking bans in public places.

Beijing's municipal government began implementing partial bans in 1995, covering large public venues such as schools, sports arenas and movie theaters. The total ban will include those areas, plus offices, hospitals and train stations. All Olympics venues are included, of course.

"The Olympics are a good opportunity to accelerate the whole thing, but we would do it anyway even without the Olympics," said Li Lingyan, deputy director of the city's legal affairs office. "The new regulations won't be abolished when the Olympics are over."

However, the most problematic change is partial bans in restaurants and bars. Customers are supposed to be provided with no-smoking areas, but the fine for violating the rule is a paltry 10 yuan ($1.45).

"The fine definitely is too low and we can't even enforce it," Li said Thursday. She said officials hoped to create a smoke-free city by 2011, at which time fines would probably be raised.

Li said fines between 1,000-5,000 yuan ($145-$725) could be levied against public places that didn't follow the new guidelines, with the Patriotic Health Campaign Committee to be in charge of enforcement and inspection.

"If they (the management of public places) don't do enough work to stop smoking, the Patriotic Health Campaign Committee can fine them the amounts I mentioned. For citizens, we mainly want to educate or scold them."

Li said no-smoking signs installed around the city would also have a telephone number to call if the rules are not followed. Enforcement could be difficult in a country where 2 trillion cigarettes are sold yearly, and prices are as low as 1.50 yuan (US 20 cents) for a pack of 20.

"It's the restaurants' responsibility to tell customers not to smoke, or to only smoke in smoking areas," Li said. "If customers don't listen, the owners can complain to the Patriot Health Campaign Committee."

The smoking ban is among the initiatives designed to improve behavior before the Olympic games. China's Communist Party, hoping the games will create a positive image of a modern country, has backed campaigns to teach people to line up, stop spitting and swearing, stop littering and improve driving habits.

Last October, Beijing banned smoking in the city's 66,000 taxis, threatening drivers with a 200 yuan ($28) fine if they are caught.

"When we made the draft of the new smoking regulations, we expected there would be some unhappy smokers," Li said.

Sun Xianli, vice director of the Patriotic Health Campaign Committee, said enforcement would be limited to about 2,000 so-called inspectors. He said a further 60,000 people have already been assigned to educate people in work areas about good health habits and the dangers of tobacco.

"Only the 2,000 inspectors will be authorized to fine people," he said.

That's not many for a city of 18 million. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:47 AM
Marion Jones' teammates to raise money in attempt to keep Olympic medals
04/24/2008 | 06:01 PM
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Marion Jones' relay partners are raising money to pay legal fees in the fight to retain the 2000 Olympic medals they've been ordered to return.

Jones teamed with Jearl-Miles Clark, Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander-Richardson and Andrea Anderson to win gold in the 4x400-meter relay, and with Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry, and Passion Richardson to win the bronze in the 4x100.

But Jones had her medals stripped last year after she admitted to doping during the Sydney Games. This month, the International Olympic Committee disqualified the other seven athletes, while conceding none of the athletes broke any rules. The runners had refused to give up their medals, saying it would be wrong to punish them for Jones' violations.

A news release sent on Wednesday from the athletes' attorney, Mark Levinstein, said the athletes have until May 1 to appeal the IOC decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Hennagan said the athletes want to fight the IOC decision.

"However, the cost of fighting the IOC with all of its resources and paying for legal proceedings before the court in Switzerland is more than our combined resources," she said.

With Levinstein's help, the athletes established The Innocent Olympic Athletes' Legal Defense Fund.

The US Olympic Committee offered to pay for the athletes' defense should they choose one of three attorney's the federation has agreed to provide for them, spokesman Darryl Seibel said.

He said the offer to pay for the USOC-chosen attorneys remains on the table. One of the three attorneys the USOC is willing to pay for is Maurice Suh, who represents Floyd Landis and Justin Gatlin in their pending doping cases. - AP

stonecold316
04-25-2008, 02:49 AM
RP sending lean-and-mean team to Olympics
04/25/2008 | 02:04 AM
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BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Rep. Monico Puentevella said in the other day's PSA Sports forum in Manila that the country will be sending a contingent that is "lean and mean" to the August 2008 Beijing Olympics while at the same time he admitted pinning his hopes on combat events like taekwondo and boxing.

Puentevella, who is the RP chief of mission to the Beijing Olympiad, is also first vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee and head of the weightlifting national association.

"Our best chances are in taekwondo and boxing," the former commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) said, also admitting that with fewer athletes the going will just get tougher.

Puentevella earlier challenged the country's boxing leaders to join hands in helping the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines discover fresh and promising talents from the grassroots following the elimination of top RP boxers in the Asian Olympic qualifying events.

Puentevella is batting for an intensive regular competition among Filipino amateur boxers in order to discover talents who may be fielded in the 2010 London Olympics.

The lawmaker has successfully kicked off an inter-barangay boxing competition for upcoming Bacolod boxers last December billed as Monico Golden Gloves and staged in cooperation with the Negros Amateur Boxing Association (NABA) which has produced the likes of 15th Asian Games bantamweight gold medalist Joan Tipon of Barangay Banago, Bacolod City and 24th Southeast Asian Games lightly bronze medalist Albert Pabila of Barangay Handumanan, Bacolod City, among others.

Puentevella has also suggested that one of the two Cuban boxing coaches tapped by the government to oversee the country's amateur boxing program be based in Bacolod in order to help implement NABA's ongoing grassroots development program as well as help neighboring provinces in Visayas and Mindanao do the same. - Sun.Star Bacolod

stonecold316
04-28-2008, 03:38 AM
New Olympic sport: 'Put out the torch'
JIM LITKE, AP Sports Columnist
04/25/2008 | 05:45 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Instead of a run, the Olympic torch relay has become a grim march, stomping out what little goodwill remains in its path. Instead of easy profits for sponsors and prestige for the Beijing organizers, it's become an embarrassing, increasingly expensive cat-and-mouse game between security officials and demonstrators around the globe.

If this is the walkthrough, I can't wait to see the show.

Australia on Thursday became the 18th nation to play host to the torch and the latest to wonder how it got bamboozled into serving as a waystation along its 130-day, 85,000-mile relay.

Officials in Canberra estimated they spent $2 million to keep sneaky protesters embedded among the locals from engaging in what Slate.com columnist Anne Applebaum dubbed the newest Olympic sport: "Put out the torch!"

That figure didn't include the cost of a so-called "flame security team" provided gratis by the Chinese and made up of members of the same paramilitary unit that has been used with great effect to help crush dissent in Tibet.

But just to be sure disruptions were kept to a minimum, as many as 20,000 members of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association were bused in from Sydney and Melbourne to help drown out and intimidate anyone with designs on protesting their homeland's record on human rights.

Small wonder then, that despite a handful of arrests and all the scorn heaped on authorities, a spokesman for the Australian Capital Territory government crowed, "The most important thing is the flame was never in danger, from start to finish, and that's an enormous credit to our federal police."

The cops in London, Paris and San Francisco should have been so lucky.

Despite detailed preparations and a security budget approaching $1.5 million in London, the torch relay had to be detoured several times and hustled onto a bus at one point.

By the time it was over, there were 37 arrests, the mayor described the "flame security team" as "thugs," and Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would join German Chancellor Angela Merkel in declining an invitation to attend the opening ceremonies. Right after that, organizers of the 2012 London Olympics said they were considering limiting their torch relay to British soil.

Things hardly improved when the flame went to France. There, too, the torch wound up making part of its journey on a bus to avoid protesters, which was still better than the fate that befell it in San Francisco. After playing hide-and-seek for several hours, city officials moved the farewell ceremony to a private location, whispered "good riddance" and sent it on its way.

Any ideas that demonstrations might be limited to liberal Western lands soon were scotched. In Islamabad, Pakistan, security concerns were cited for canceling the relay altogether and replacing it with an indoor ceremony and a lap in Jinnah Stadium.

Indonesian officials borrowed a page from the same playbook, shut down a planned parade through Jakarta and went straight to the city's main stadium for an abbreviated celebration. In New Delhi, after a handful of planned torchbearers pulled out, the relay was cut to less than 1.5 miles.

An informal count shows six dozen arrests so far. The next stop is scheduled Saturday in Nagano, Japan, and potential disruptions have already prompted a new starting point and who-knows-how-much extra security.

At this point, it seems fair to ask what possible benefits can be reaped from continuing. To be sure, it's a question that would have stumped the founders of the ancient and modern Olympics. The idea of a torch relay didn't originate with them.

It's generally considered the invention of German filmmaker and propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, who then filmed the torch relay for a movie called Olympia with the blessing of the Nazi regime.

Organizers of the 2004 Athens Games were the first to stage a global relay and the event turned a reported $15 million profit. Their counterparts in China and the sponsors they enlisted along the way likely envisioned making several times that amount this time around. But that wasn't their only miscalculation.

Unlike Greece, China is an empire, and with that comes plenty of enemies and provocations. So far the Chinese have relied on old-school methods – force, threats and outright denial – to run the torch relay and even if the campaign is influencing people back home, it isn't winning them any friends abroad.

The International Olympic Committee, meanwhile, finds itself having to defend the decision to award Beijing the games on an almost-daily basis. Participating nations, as well as an IOC panel made up of athletes and charged with representing them, are warning competitors against making political statements.

Less than four months remain before the Summer Olympics begin, and the outlook for peaceful games couldn't be much bleaker. At the rate the torch relay is going, there might not be enough of a flame left to toss in a cauldron. - AP

stonecold316
04-28-2008, 03:41 AM
Protesters, cops greet Olympic flame in Japan
04/25/2008 | 08:02 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us NAGANO, Japan – Riot police, protesters and Chinese well-wishers converged on Nagano in the mountains of central Japan on Friday as the embattled Beijing Olympic torch arrived on one of its final international stops before moving on to China.

Dozens of protesters surrounded by hundreds of riot police marched through the city, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, carrying Tibetan flags and banners saying "Stop the Torch" as the flame arrived. Police helicopters buzzed in the air.

Police arrested a man claiming to be a monk for allegedly possessing a knife at the starting point of Saturday's torch relay, a local police official said on condition of anonymity, citing policy. He was carrying a statement saying "I protest the torch relay," Kyodo News agency said.

The torch has been met with protests and intense security at many of its stops on its worldwide journey, and Japan was gearing up for yet another game of cat-and-mouse between police and demonstrators demanding better human rights in China and condemning Beijing's crackdown on Tibetan protests last month.

In a last-minute change, the 18.7-kilometer torch relay was to begin in a parking lot Saturday instead of an ancient temple. Zenkoji temple declined last week to host the start of the relay, citing security concerns and sympathy among monks and worshippers for their religious brethren in Tibet.

The 1,400-year-old temple also announced it would co-host a prayer ritual for Tibet on Saturday.

Five tracksuit-clad riot police will run alongside the torchbearers, who will also be followed by two Chinese officials. Phalanxes of 50 riot police will surround the torch on the right and left. About 3,000 police have been assigned to security.

Groups including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have announced plans to protest.

About 2,000 Chinese exchange students, meanwhile, were expected to arrive in Nagano by bus to show their support.

Japanese officials called for calm.

"In a festive environment where everyone can celebrate, we hope the Olympic torch relay will proceed smoothly," Chief Cabinet Secretary Notubaka Machimura told reporters in Tokyo.

Besides the protests in Nagano, a handful of young people raised the flag of Tibet's exiled government Friday at a highway rest stop when the caravan carrying the torch pulled over. There were no confrontations.

After Nagano, the Olympic torch heads to Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday and then to Pyongyang, North Korea, on Monday.

A US-based group, Human Rights Watch, urged South Korea on Friday to use the torch relay to highlight the plight of North Korean refugees in China.

Thousands of North Koreans are believed to be hiding in China after escaping their impoverished communist homeland. If caught, China sends them back to North Korea, where they face imprisonment in conditions that are often life-threatening.

The torch next travels to Vietnam, which expelled an American citizen of Vietnamese origin who planned to disrupt the relay there, state media reported Friday.

Vuong Hoang Minh, 34, was put on a flight back to the United States on Thursday, the Vietnam News Agency said. It said Minh told authorities he planned to snatch the torch.

A spokeswoman at the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City confirmed that Minh was sent back to the United States, but was unable to say why he was deported.

From Vietnam the torch heads to Hong Kong. - AP

stonecold316
04-28-2008, 03:43 AM
Baseball, softball, golf among 7 sports considered for 2016 Olympics
04/25/2008 | 08:17 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us LONDON – Softball, baseball and golf are among seven sports under consideration for inclusion at the 2016 Olympics.

Softball and baseball, which were cut from the Olympic program for the 2012 London Games, will get a chance for reinstatement at the IOC assembly in Copenhagen, Denmark, in October 2009.

Golf, rugby, squash, karate and roller sports will also be considered for the two openings on the 2016 schedule. All five had failed to win admission into the London Olympics in 2005.

The International Olympic Committee has sent letters to the world governing bodies of the seven sports notifying them that they are on the list for consideration, IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said Friday.

Softball and baseball have been lobbying hard for a return to the Olympics since being voted off the program by the IOC in Singapore in 2005. Both sports will be played at this summer's Beijing Olympics but will be absent in London.

In Singapore, softball missed out by one vote and baseball by three. After they were dropped, the IOC then rejected golf and the four others hoping to get into the games, leaving London with only 26 sports rather than the usual 28.

Under a new formula approved last year, it will take a simple majority for a sport to be voted onto the program. Previously, a two-thirds majority was needed.

The sports program is fixed seven years in advance of each Olympics. The IOC will also select the 2016 host city during the Copenhagen session, with Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro among the leading contenders.

The same 26 sports on the London program will be put forward for 2016 in Copenhagen. The IOC has set a ceiling of 28 sports, meaning there will be room for only one or two new additions.

Moreau said the IOC will send out questionnaires to the seven sports federations in December, with replies to be returned by March 2009. The IOC program commission will prepare a report assessing the seven sports in April 2009.

For the first time, leaders of the seven sports will make presentations to the IOC executive board in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June 2009. The executive board will then submit proposals to the full IOC in Copenhagen on which sports to include.

The procedure has been streamlined following widespread criticism of the arduous procedures at the IOC session in Singapore, where members voted individually on each of the 28 sports.

Softball, a women's sport in the Olympics, joined the games in Atlanta in 1996. Baseball debuted as a medal sport in Barcelona in 1992.

Golf, which was last played in the Olympics in 1904, got a boost earlier this month when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem endorsed the sport's bid to get back into the games.

Rugby, last played at the 1924 Olympics, has proposed a Sevens tournament rather than the traditional 15-a-side competition. - AP

stonecold316
04-29-2008, 05:32 PM
Pistorius' appeal to be heard this week in bid to overturn Olympic ban
04/28/2008 | 11:21 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Double amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius takes his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Tuesday in a bid to win the right to compete at the Beijing Olympics.

The 21-year-old South African is seeking to overturn a ruling by the IAAF in January that bans him from racing against able-bodied runners because his prosthetic blades give him a competitive advantage.

The IAAF based its decision on studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who concluded that the "Cheetah" j-shaped blades are energy efficient and give Pistorius a mechanical edge.

Pistorius' manager, Peet Van Zyl, told The Associated Press his legal team would not comment before the hearing, which is expected to last two days.

"This case is important not just to me, but to all disabled persons who just ask for the chance to compete fairly on the sporting field with able-bodied athletes," Pistorius said earlier this month.

Pistorius is expected to use independent test results, conducted by a team of experts led by Prof. Hugh M. Herr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that will show he doesn't gain any advantage over able-bodied runners.

Even if the panel of CAS lawyers rules in his favor, Pistorius would still need to qualify for the South African team to race at the Aug. 8-24 games.

He finished second in the 400 meters at the able-bodied South African national championships last year, and has set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters in Paralympic events.

Pistorius was born without fibulas – the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle – and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee. - AP

stonecold316
04-29-2008, 05:33 PM
Countdown to politically charged Olympics reaches 100 days
04/29/2008 | 04:30 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – With 100 days to go, the battle has been lost to keep politics out of the Beijing Olympics.

Shimmering venues and billions spent to remake Beijing into a modern city have been dulled by pro-Tibet protests, chaos on the torch relay and an anti-Western backlash by angry Chinese who sense their coming-out party is being spoiled.

A year ago former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch predicted Beijing would be the "best in Olympics history." A few weeks ago his successor Jacques Rogge said the games were "in crisis."

The shine is off, and the question is this: Can China's communist government and the IOC return some luster by squeezing sports and goodwill back into the games? The Olympics have been visited by politics before – Berlin '36, Mexico City '68, Munich '72 to name a few – but these are the most contentious since the boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics.

"The Chinese leadership has a major international public relations problem on its hands," said David L. Shambaugh, a political scientist and director of the China policy program at George Washington University.

"The Chinese government and citizenry are now involved in fighting a propaganda war with the West and the Western media in particular," Shambaugh said. "This stance, taken together with hyper Chinese nationalism, has all the makings of a public relations disaster for the Olympic Games."

There's a rancorous atmosphere in Beijing these days.

Deadly riots in Tibet last month spurred anti-Chinese government protests in several cities of the torch relay, forcing the last-minute rerouting of many legs. In Pakistan, India and other countries, organizers shortened routes, tightened security, and turned the relay into invitation-only events that kept out the general public."

The coverage has been met with a propaganda war by China's state-run media, accusing the Western media of orchestrated bias – particularly CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp.

There have been nasty outbreaks of Chinese nationalism, fueled by the attack on a young Chinese woman in a wheelchair who defended the Olympic torch during the Paris leg. Claiming an insult to national pride, protesters have gathered outside the French retailer Carrefour in a dozen Chinese cities with scuffles erupting between Chinese and foreigners.

The Beijing Olympics were political from the moment seven years ago when the IOC chose the one-party state. These are not just Beijing Olympics, but China's Olympics and unprecedented spending on every phase has been aimed at showcasing the country's growing economic and political power.

There's time to rescue the games, but Beijing must get lucky.

A tiny turnaround may begin with several low-key events Wednesday as the countdown clock in Tiananmen Square hits 100 days: a mini-marathon race around the two iconic Olympic venues – the new National Stadium known as the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube where the swimming and diving will be held – and the finals of a four-year contest to pick official Olympic songs.

This week's arrival of the torch to mainland China could signal the worst is over, with the domestic portion of the relay likely to have few pro-Tibet protesters. English-speaking Chinese volunteers may also soften the edge. At test venues, they've swarmed foreign reporters, helping with translation, or simply stood at attention wearing yellow, smiley face buttons.

A draconian plan should temporarily rid the city of its noxious air, the most menacing problem until deadly rioting broke out on March 14 in Tibet. Beijing's nightlife might also help. Even a doping scandal – as long as Chinese aren't involved – could distract from politics.

"I believe the image of China's Olympics is still good," said Jin Yuanpu, a political scientist and executive director of the Humanistic Olympic Center at Renmin University in Beijing. "It's just the Western media and some Westerners who are taking this opportunity to attack us. Chinese are trying their best to be a good host."

Of course, potential flash points loom.

Despite security clampdowns and tightened visa restrictions to keep out troublesome foreigners, disruptions could occur during the torch relay in mainland China, particularly in Tibet or the western region of Xinjiang. Any partial boycott of the opening ceremony – a response to the crackdown in Tibet – would stir more anti-Western sentiment.

Protests during the games against Chinese policies in Tibet and Darfur could attract wide coverage by 30,000 journalists, and any heavy-handed policing would be flashed on TV worldwide. High-profile Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola, General Electric and Volkswagen could be dragged in and sullied if their logos wind up in the midst of a protest.

A few weeks ago in Beijing, Rogge said with the exception of venues "there is absolutely no problem for an athlete to express his or her views" at the games. He spoke just days after a dissident Hu Jia was sent to prison for inciting "to subvert state power." His charges weren't linked to the Olympics, but he had been critical of the games and published an essay called "The Real China and the Olympics."

China and the IOC have always said the games are about sports, not politics. However, at a news conference earlier this month with top-ranking IOC officials, the first comment from Wang Wei, the executive vice president and general secretary of the Beijing organizing committee, was a long defense of China's Tibet policy.

Wang sat alongside IOC member Hein Verbruggen, who gave an impassioned defense of the IOC, saying it should avoid taking sides on political issues.

At several sports venues during test events, politics were on the table. A 180-page government-published book in English was available to reporters explaining Chinese foreign policy, defense policy, religious freedom and human rights.

"The Chinese are not prepared for the kind of press freedom that happens at every Olympics and produces insult and bad feelings," said John MacAloon, an Olympic historian at the University of Chicago. "Everything that gets written will be instantly fed back to the students and the Internet community in Beijing. I'm at least as worried about student protests over these perceived insults against China as I am about anything the state is going to do."

A year ago, a state-published magazine wrote that "Chinese security experts expect no serious problems" for the Olympics. Now government officials are warning terrorism is the biggest threat and they've been promised cooperation from Interpol to thwart any attack.

A several-year effort by the IOC to bring in foreign experts to run game venues has been rebuffed, leaving hollow the game's slogan: "One World, One Dream." Two months ago Beijing organizers announced that all 28 competition managers would be Chinese nationals who are more likely to listen to the dictates of Chinese officials over the objections of the IOC or others.

"To me these games remain a mystery that could go various ways," said David Wallechinsky, an Olympic historian who has covered 12 Olympics and opposed choosing Beijing. He's the author of the "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics."

"I thought it was a big mistake. I'm not surprised it's going the way it's going. I don't think it's going to change China, or at least the control of the Chinese Communist Party," he said. "The main result is that it's a black eye for the Olympics, and an unnecessary black eye." - AP

stonecold316
05-01-2008, 07:14 PM
Olympic torch begins first-ever relay in North Korea
04/28/2008 | 09:40 AM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea - The Olympic torch has begun its first-ever run through North Korea.

An attentive and peaceful crowd of thousands watched the start of the relay Monday, some waving Chinese flags. The event was presided over by the head of the country's rubber-stamp parliament who often acts as a ceremonial state leader, Kim Yong Nam.

The flame was assured of a trouble-free trip on its 20-kilometer (12-mile) route through Pyongyang, where the city streets were lined by thousands more people waving paper flowers. North Korea is one of the world's most tightly controlled nations. - AP

stonecold316
05-01-2008, 07:16 PM
Olympic torch arrives in Hong Kong
04/30/2008 | 03:26 PM
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HONG KONG - The Olympic torch returned to Chinese soil Wednesday after a turbulent 20-nation tour, landing in the bustling financial capital of Hong Kong, where officials deported at least seven protesters before the flame's arrival.

A marching band and flag-waving children in red and white tracksuits greeted the torch at the airport, where it arrived from Vietnam. The flame was driven away to a welcoming ceremony at a cultural center.

About 3,000 police planned to guard the torch Friday during its relay through this former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule 11 years ago.

The relay is a high-stakes event for the local government because it follows a global tour marred by protests against Beijing's human rights record and its recent crackdown on protests in Tibet.

Even before the torch arrived, authorities were busy deporting at least seven protesters who were considered a threat to the relay.

Human rights groups accused the government of squashing free speech to avoid the political embarrassment of any demonstrations involving the torch. Although Hong Kong is part of China, it's supposed to enjoy a wide degree of autonomy and greater freedom under a "one country, two systems" model of governance.

The deported activists included three pro-Tibet protesters who were kicked out of the territory as they arrived at the airport Tuesday. A fourth activist — an organizer for an independent Chinese writers' group — also was turned away on Tuesday. Three Danish activists were deported over the weekend.

Mia Farrow was due to arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday to raise awareness about fighting in Sudan's Darfur region. Activists such as the 63-year-old actress want China to press Sudan to let U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. - AP

stonecold316
05-01-2008, 07:17 PM
Olympic torch arrives in Hong Kong
04/30/2008 | 03:26 PM
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HONG KONG - The Olympic torch returned to Chinese soil Wednesday after a turbulent 20-nation tour, landing in the bustling financial capital of Hong Kong, where officials deported at least seven protesters before the flame's arrival.

A marching band and flag-waving children in red and white tracksuits greeted the torch at the airport, where it arrived from Vietnam. The flame was driven away to a welcoming ceremony at a cultural center.

About 3,000 police planned to guard the torch Friday during its relay through this former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule 11 years ago.

The relay is a high-stakes event for the local government because it follows a global tour marred by protests against Beijing's human rights record and its recent crackdown on protests in Tibet.

Even before the torch arrived, authorities were busy deporting at least seven protesters who were considered a threat to the relay.

Human rights groups accused the government of squashing free speech to avoid the political embarrassment of any demonstrations involving the torch. Although Hong Kong is part of China, it's supposed to enjoy a wide degree of autonomy and greater freedom under a "one country, two systems" model of governance.

The deported activists included three pro-Tibet protesters who were kicked out of the territory as they arrived at the airport Tuesday. A fourth activist — an organizer for an independent Chinese writers' group — also was turned away on Tuesday. Three Danish activists were deported over the weekend.

Mia Farrow was due to arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday to raise awareness about fighting in Sudan's Darfur region. Activists such as the 63-year-old actress want China to press Sudan to let U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. - AP

stonecold316
05-01-2008, 07:17 PM
WADA expects high level of drug-testing at Beijing Olympics
04/30/2008 | 06:27 PM
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SYDNEY, Australia – The World Anti-Doping Agency is urging China to ensure its standards for intercepting banned substances matches its testing facilities for drug cheats at the Beijing Olympics.

WADA officials, meeting in Sydney to discuss cross-border investigation powers in the anti-doping fight, have asked Chinese authorities to increase customs and immigration checks to prevent performance-enhancing drugs reaching the Olympics.

The global anti-doping agency was again close to an agreement with international police body Interpol, WADA president John Fahey said.

"We believe that we've got some commonalities, some common purpose... sometimes there's a belief that those performance enhancing drugs may emanate from the same places as illegal drugs," Fahey said.

Interpol pulled out of an information-sharing agreement with WADA last November, months after proposing a collaboration, although WADA Director-General David Howman said at the time that talks were continuing with Interpol secretary general Ronald K. Noble.

Howman said cases like that of disgraced sprinter Marion Jones – uncovered by investigations – showed anti-doping enforcement should extend beyond testing.

"Do we have full confidence in an analytical process relying on collecting samples and analysing urine and blood? No, we don't have full confidence because Marion Jones got away with 160 samples," Howman said. "There are other ways of detecting the cheaters and Marion Jones is a good example.

"We can see now that for little money those who are already carrying out their jobs (police and customs)... can gather evidence, share it with sport and make sure that those who are cheating are sanctioned."

Jones was stripped of her Olympic medals after admitting last year that she was doping at the time of the Sydney 2000 Games.

After long denying she ever had used performance-enhancing drugs, Jones admitted in the US federal court in October that she used the designer steroid "the clear" from September 2000 to July 2001. She began serving a six-month prison sentence last month for lying to investigators about doping and her role in a check fraud scam.

Testing would be more stringent than ever in Beijing, Fahey said.

He said he was impressed by the "advanced state of readiness" of the Beijing laboratory to conduct more tests on a wider range of banned substances.

"There will be a much more effective outcome in dealing with anyone who seeks to cheat," Fahey, who inspected the Beijing lab in mid-April, told a news conference here Wednesday before the third WADA symposium ahead of the 2008 Olympics.

WADA has announced the Beijing lab will be able to implement advanced tests for human growth hormone (HGH) before and during the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

"There is certain news about certain drugs that allowed athletes to believe that if they cut it out in the days or the weeks leading up to the Games they could get away with it – they shouldn't be sure of that any more," Fahey said.

"We are better now at detecting over longer periods and those that believed in certain things there, if they wish to continue to believe in that, they will do so at their peril."

The WADA Symposium on Investigatory Powers of Anti-Doping Organizations in Sydney will follow up issues from earlier meetings in Colorado Springs in 2006 and in London last year. - AP

stonecold316
05-01-2008, 07:41 PM
Olympic flame's Everest ascent is grand but so far a secret
05/01/2008 | 02:08 AM
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BEIJING - Chinese mountaineers made final preparations Wednesday to take the Olympic flame up Mount Everest in a grand but contentious feat that is being accorded an unusual mixture of fanfare and secrecy.

As China marked 100 days before the start of the Olympics, state-run television began the first of what were billed as elaborate and technically difficult live broadcasts from Everest's base camp for the journey up the world's tallest peak.

Mountaineers were completing the setup of a staging point at 27,390 feet for the final assault on the 29,035-foot summit, Chinese Central Television reported.

There was no word on the flame's whereabouts or those of the 31-member team that would go to the summit. Nor was there any news on which members would ascend to the peak or when.

The Web site of Beijing Daily likened the lack of information to a "mysterious veil that has surrounded base camp."

Some media reports had speculated that the climb could come as early as Wednesday — when the countdown clock in Beijing marked 100 days to the Aug. 8-24 games — or Thursday — the May Day holiday.

A brewing storm made a climb in the next three days unlikely, the Xinhua News Agency reported late Wednesday, citing Yang Xingguo, the expedition's weather expert at base camp.

To commemorate the 100-day mark, Beijing held a mini-marathon outside the nearly completed National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, and a song gala, where actor Jackie Chan joined other celebrities to sing "Beijing Welcomes You," which was written for the event.

Senior Communist Party leader Jia Qinglin urged all Chinese "to pool our patriotic passion to accumulate a mighty force that could overcome all difficulties to in a bid to hold a successful Olympics."

Meanwhile, the Chinese and foreign reporters at Everest base camp wait.

Still billed as a spectacular event, the Everest climb is being given mixed treatment. With the torch relay dogged by protests and Beijing's oft-criticized rule in Tibet drawing heated scrutiny after demonstrations this spring, organizers have placed a premium on security.

The Everest flame was specially designed to burn in frigid, windy, oxygen-thin Himalayan air. It is a sister flame to the one that made its way around the world and reached Hong Kong on Wednesday, returning to Chinese territory after a contentious month abroad.

Free speech is protected in Hong Kong, the British colony that returned to China's rule 11 years ago, but Chinese leaders and Olympic organizers hope the worst is behind them.

While it may face some protests when it is run through Hong Kong and neighboring Macau on Friday and Saturday, the torch then moves to less-contested territory for a three-month journey across China.

In a sign of the Hong Kong government's determination for a smooth relay, border control officials have turned away at least seven people, among them a Danish human rights activist and three Tibet independence supporters, apparently suspecting they were coming to Hong Kong to stage protests.

Mia Farrow was expected to arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday to raise awareness about fighting in Sudan's Darfur region. Some are wondering whether the government will try to bar the 63-year-old actress, who is headlining the call for China to press Sudan to let UN peacekeepers into ravaged African region.

Chinese officials did not publicize the flame's travel to the Everest base camp, apparently to avoid protests. Beijing has also exercised its diplomatic clout, persuading Nepal to bar climbers from border-straddling Everest's southern face to keep potential protesters from reaching the peak and spoiling the torch's moment.

But the secrecy has also dented plans by organizers and CCTV, which spent heavily on special broadcast facilities, to promote a torch run that is physically challenging but that has been criticized by Tibetan activists as a symbol of Chinese domination of Tibet.

"It's a challenging mountain, not because of technical problems. It's easy technically. But because of the height, it's difficult and dangerous," said Pierre Maina, a Danish surgeon and mountaineer who is preparing to scale Everest from Tibet next year.

Oxygen bottles are a must above 25,750 feet, the Tibet Mountaineering Training School said. Everest's northern face is said to be subject to harsher, windier weather than the Nepal side, with usually just two chances to make the summit in May, the choice season for climbing.

The head of the China Mountaineering Association, Wang Yongfeng, has said he nearly died in a 1993 Everest expedition in part because he used up his oxygen bottle near the summit and emergency supplies were at camps below. "Regardless of the weather, we must get the sacred flame of the Olympics to shine over Mount Qomolangma," state media has quoted Wang as saying, using the Chinese name for Everest.

Maina, the Danish climber, was at the base camp of nearby Cho Oyu in September 2006 and saw Chinese security shoot at Tibetans fleeing over the Nangpa pass to try to reach Nepal. A Buddhist nun was killed, and the experience colored Maina's views about the Olympic flame's Everest trek.

"What I experienced in Tibet makes feel bad about what they are doing with the Olympic Games," he said by phone from Denmark.

State media and Olympic officials have gushed that the Everest climb would symbolize universal Olympic ideals and have largely omitted talk about Chinese dominance. A newspaper in Hubei province said the ascent would "create a peak for Olympic history and give expression to the acme of the Olympic spirit."

CCTV's coverage is believed to be the fourth broadcast of an Everest climb and the most extensive. Broadcast equipment has been placed at four camps, from 21,450 feet to the highest staging base at 27,390 feet, and a camera will accompany the final assault, the broadcaster has said. A dress rehearsal with a crew of 86 was held in May 2007.

Despite the grand plans, the 10 foreign journalists at base camp said the carefully controlled information they were given seemed designed to ensure that any mishaps went unreported.

"Having invited us here to cover the ascent of the flame, the Chinese appear to have taken fright. It now seems that they only want us to report the victorious summit moment," the BBC's Jonah Fisher said in an online diary. "We may never know if there were failed attempts, or indeed if someone hurt themselves trying for the top. The only fact we possess is that the flame is somewhere in the area." - AP

stonecold316
05-01-2008, 07:42 PM
Beijing smoking restrictions go into effect ahead of Olympics
05/01/2008 | 03:57 PM
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BEIJING – Beijing's battle to ban smoking in most public areas began in earnest Thursday as part of the government's commitment to hold a smoke-free Olympics.

The measures, which took effect May 1, completely ban smoking in schools, hospitals and government offices, as well as at all Olympic venues including indoor and outdoor stadiums. Hotels, restaurants and bars face a partial ban, with smoking and no-smoking areas required.

China has an estimated 350 million smokers – a quarter of the country's population and nearly a third of the total number of smokers in the world.

According to Ministry of Health figures, about 1 million people die each year from smoking-related diseases in China.

Beijing's city government began smoking restrictions in 1995 but expanded them this year to additional public areas, including fitness centers, cultural sites and government offices.

More problematic will be enforcement of the rules. Individual violators will be fined only $1.40 while enterprises and institutions that violate the ban face fines of $142 to $714.

Chinese officials have said enforcement powers will be limited to 2,000 inspectors. Another 60,000 people have already been assigned to educate people about the dangers of smoking.

The smoking restrictions are part of a commitment officials made for a smoke-free Olympics.

The smoking ban is also among a series of initiatives designed to improve public behavior before the Olympics. China's Communist Party, hoping to create a positive image for the country, has promoted civility campaigns to teach citizens to line up, stop spitting, stop littering and improve driving habits.

Not everyone believes the new regulations are a good thing. Guo Wei, a 37-year-old construction worker who has smoked two packs a day for the past two decades, said he's doubtful the law can change his behavior.

"I'm completely addicted to smoking and I cannot quit. With all the millions of Chinese who smoke, this law doesn't seem to be fair," he said as he lit up a cigarette on a Beijing street corner. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:10 PM
Crowds gather early for Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong
05/02/2008 | 08:51 AM
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HONG KONG - Soaked by a morning drizzle, people began gathering hours before the Olympic torch relay began Friday in Hong Kong, with some waving red Chinese flags and others holding signs demanding democracy in China.

The eight-hour relay through canyons of skyscrapers was expected to be a big challenge for Hong Kong's leaders and police. The torch is finally back on Chinese soil, and Beijing wants no repeat of the protests and chaos that dogged the flame during its 20-nation overseas tour.

Everyone was encouraged to wear red to show their support for the torch, and about 3,000 police were deployed to defend the flame.

But if there was to be any more trouble it was likely to happen in Hong Kong, a place with civil liberties unrivaled in the rest of China.

Two hours before the relay began, people started lining up along the streets near the start of the event in the bustling tourist shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

As a light rain fell, some spectators had big Chinese flags, while others carried protest signs. One woman had an orange sign that said, "Olympic flame for democracy," while a man carried a poster with a tank and the slogan "One world, two dreams." A female university student wore a skirt made of the Tibetan snow lion flag.

Hong Kong was a British colony until the city was handed back to China in 1997. Although Beijing makes all the big political decisions, Hong Kong was promised a wide degree of autonomy under a formula called "one country, two systems."

Media in Hong Kong are allowed to criticize the territory's leaders. There have been massive street protests demanding greater democracy. English is still the official language in the courts, where judges wear British-style wigs.

But for special events like the Olympic torch relay, Hong Kong leans more toward the "one country" part of the formula than the "two systems."

In the past week, authorities used a blacklist to stop seven pro-Tibet and human rights activists at the airport. They were questioned and deported.

It is a tactic the authorities have used before for other events, especially those involving high-ranking Chinese leaders. They decline to explain the deportations, saying it's a private matter.

But actress Mia Farrow was allowed into Hong Kong Thursday to give a speech critical of China's cozy ties with Sudan. However, Farrow said that immigration officials asked her for assurances that she wouldn't disrupt the torch relay. She said she wouldn't.

It was all part of Hong Kong's delicate balancing act — pleasing political masters in Beijing while trying to be a free society and a freewheeling global financial capital.

Some have criticized Hong Kong's list of 120 relay runners for not having enough athletes and being overloaded with political and business figures.

The first runner will be Hong Kong's sole Olympic gold medalist, Lee Lai-shan, who won the women's windsurfing event at the 1996 Atlanta Games. But other runners include 21 tycoons and 13 politicians. Pansy Ho, a daughter of casino magnate Stanley Ho, will carry the flame, along with Victor Li Tzar-kuoi, son of Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:10 PM
Olympic gold medalist judoka Kosei Inoue retires
05/02/2008 | 05:42 PM
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TOKYO – Olympic gold medalist Kosei Inoue announced his retirement Friday after failing to earn a place in Japan's judo team for the Beijing Games.

Inoue, who won gold at Sydney in 2000 in the 100-kilogram class, lost in the quarterfinals of the All Japan Judo championship Tuesday and was not selected for the Japanese Olympic team for Beijing.

"I had a long career in judo and am satisfied with what I achieved," said the 29-year-old Inoue. "Obviously the gold medal in Sydney was the highlight."

Inoue, who is also a three-time world champion, defeated Canada's Nicolas Gill in the final in for one of four gold medals Japan won in judo at the Sydney games.

In Athens, Inoue was upset by Elco van der Geest of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals and finished a disappointing fifth.

Keiji Suzuki will represent Japan in the 100 at Beijing. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:10 PM
China's Chen tops women's 10-meter diving qualifiers
05/02/2008 | 05:46 PM
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MONTREAL – World Cup champion Chen Ruolin of China topped the six women's 10-meter platform final qualifiers in the Canada Cup on Thursday, scoring 401.45 points.

Twelve divers from the morning prelims advanced to the semis and were divided into two groups. The top-three from each group advanced to Saturday's final.

In Chen's group, Australia's Alexandra Croak (329.00) and Canada's Roseline Filion (327.25) also advanced. World champion Wang Xin of China topped the other group at 380.454, followed by Canada's Emilie Heymans (372.25) and Australia's Melissa Mu (337.90).

The meet is the fourth stop on the FINA Grand Prix circuit. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:12 PM
Olympic torch arrives on safer terrain in mainland China
05/04/2008 | 01:55 AM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us SANYA, China - After a much-protested journey, the Olympic torch reached this southern Chinese seaside resort Saturday night, beginning what organizers and Chinese citizens promised would be a trouble-free national tour.

The protests and last-minute route changes that haunted the torch along its international relay route were expected to be over. Instead, locals talked excitedly about welcoming the Olympic flame.

"Even if no police were here, we would protect the torch with our bodies!" said an 18-year-old vendor who gave his family name as Zhao. He was selling Chinese flags near the stage where the torch was to be lit Sunday morning.

Actor Jackie Chan and basketball star Yi Jianlian were to be among the 208 people carrying the torch Sunday along palm tree-lined roads looking out over the South China Sea.

Organizers and police said security measures were being taken but refused to give details. Media access to the torch's arrival was limited to three Chinese outlets, organizers said.

Criticism of China's human rights record has turned the torch relay into one of the most contentious in recent history. Protests dogged stops in Greece, Paris, London and San Francisco.

The torch's three-month run across mainland China was likely to be less troubled than elsewhere, although disruptions could occur during the relay in Tibet or the western region of Xinjiang.

Its Saturday leg in Macau went smoothly, but the relay Friday in Hong Kong was disrupted by Chinese shouting down supporters of Tibetan independence. The territory, a former British colony, enjoys broader freedom of expression than the rest of China.

The runners in Macau carried the torch past the glitzy Las Vegas-style casinos that have revived the once seedy, listless port city's economic fortunes.

Columns of paramilitary police in sportswear jogged beside the torch bearers. The crowd seemed intent on celebrating China, sometimes more so than the Olympics, chanting, "Go China!"

The Chinese government now will have a chance to quiet some of the controversy that has surrounded the Olympics in recent weeks. A broad uprising among Tibetans against Chinese rule and a resulting clampdown led to protests during several legs of the torch relay overseas and highlighted China's tight control on dissent, religion and the media — issues the government hopes Olympics will deflect.

The torch protests left many Chinese furious.

"Those things won't happen here because we have class," said a man who gave his name as Li, as he erected crowd barriers around the torch lighting site in Sanya.

But not many Sanya residents were excited about the upcoming torch relay, despite the Olympics banners and constant propaganda on television. One vendor in the city's best known street for pirated goods shrugged and offered a souvenir lighter for just over a dollar.

"Like a small Olympic torch," Sun Ruihai said, flicking it to life. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:13 PM
Chinese cheer on as Olympic torch starts mainland leg
05/04/2008 | 05:56 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us SANYA, China - Cheering Chinese stood on their chairs and waved flags as the Olympic torch started its mainland leg Sunday on the tropical island of Hainan — the first stop in what is expected to be a peaceful three-month journey to Beijing.

Protests followed the torch overseas, but organizers in the seaside resort of Sanya promised a trouble-free national tour that will wind through every Chinese province and region before arriving in Beijing before the Olympics start on Aug. 8.

Some Chinese, including the torch bearers, seemed to be relieved the flame was safely home.

"Being Chinese, it's not easy," said Zhang Chaoyang, the CEO of major internet portal Sohu.com, at a news conference after the relay started.

Zhang criticized the Western media's recent coverage of China and of the international leg of the relay, which was marked by protests against China's policies and its treatment of Tibetans.

"Foreigners don't understand China," said torch bearer Fu Shenfeng before the relay started. "They still think we're stuck in the past. They still think we're poor. This is our chance to show them the real China."

The Olympic flame went out briefly at the beginning of the ceremony as it was being passed among local leaders on stage and given to the first runner, former Olympic speedskating gold medalist Yang Yang. A member of the team of paramilitary police that has followed the torch around the world quickly relit the flame. The torch seemed to go out again several minutes later with another runner, but it was quickly exchanged.

Basketball star Yi Jianlian was one of the first torch bearers and actor Jackie Chan was set to be one of the day's last. Overall, 208 people were lated to carry the torch Sunday along palm tree-lined roads looking out over the South China Sea.

At the lighting ceremony, echoes of China's recent troubles were almost absent. A few people wore T-shirts with slogans saying Tibet was and will always be a part of China. One couple wore T-shirts that said "Go China" in Chinese on the front.

"We just want the Western media's reporting to be fair," said 16-year-old Ryan Wang.

After three days on Hainan island, the torch moves to Guangdong province in southern China, where millions of migrant workers labor in what has become the world's factory floor, making everything from Honda cars to Nike sneakers. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:14 PM
Final batch of domestic tickets on sale for Olympics
05/05/2008 | 06:22 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – Unlikely to be as disruptive as pro-Tibet protests during international legs of the torch relay, Beijing Olympic organizers still faced problems Monday with the last batch of domestic ticket sales.

The final batch of domestic-market tickets – 1.38 million – went on sale Monday at Bank of China branches and on an official Web site. Buyers reported waiting several hours to buy at Bank of China outlets. Attempts to buy online were slow and purchases difficult to complete. Beijing organizers said four competition sessions sold out in the first 30 minutes.

Six months ago when organizers attempted to sell online, overwhelming demand in the first few hours crashed the system. Embarrassed organizers reverted to a lottery system and demoted the director of ticketing.

Organizers promised several weeks ago that the online sales system would work this time. Several calls to the ticket office of the Beijing organizing committee went unanswered on Monday. Organizers promised a statement on the ticket situation later in the day.

Sales at banks seemed to start smoothly with buyers waiting for several hours for a chance to purchase tickets.

Hundreds lined up at bank offices around Beijing, hoping to accomplish their mission.

"I bought tickets for the track and field finals," said a man who called himself Mr. Liu, in line at a bank in central Beijing. He said he got lucky, purchasing tickets for the same day that Liu Xiang is expected to defend his title in the 110-meter hurdles.

Liu and basketball star Yao Ming are China's two most famous athletes.

A year ago, organizers said about 7.2 million tickets would be available for domestic and foreign sales. However, a few weeks ago a Beijing official said the number had dropped to 6.8 million. He did not elaborate.

"We have made sufficient preparation this time including the tests of our network, our credit card operation and our system for the acceptance of purchase applications," said Xu Zheng, Olympic affairs director for the Bank of China. "The preparation work was done in a very careful way because we had lessons to learn in last year's experience."

Despite political discord surrounding the Games, evident in the international legs of the torch relay, ticket demand from China's domestic population of 1.3 billion has far outstripped supply.

Organizers have said they are taking precautions against fake tickets and scalping, both of which are problems in China. Counterfeiting of goods – from heart medicines to DVDs – is widespread in China despite repeated crackdowns. Ticket-scalping is also common, with tickets for high-profile events often getting into the hands people who resell at a profit.

The Olympic torch returned Sunday to mainland China, greeted by cheering Chinese on the tropical island of Hainan. The domestic portion of the relay is expected to be trouble-free, winding through every province and region before arriving in Beijing on August 6. The Olympics begin August 8. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:15 PM
Beijing tightens Tiananmen Square security ahead of Olympics
05/05/2008 | 06:25 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – China's capital is tightening security around the highly symbolic Tiananmen Square ahead of this summer's Olympic Games.

New rules issued by the city government ban dangerous articles, including guns, explosives, knives and "other items that affect social order and public safety."

The rules, enacted last month but announced only Monday, also allow random searches of people and vehicles in the area around the vast plaza in the heart of Beijing. They also permit authorities to take unspecified emergency measures to disperse crowds.

The rules don't specifically mention the Olympics, but come amid an overall tightening of security in and around Beijing ahead of the games. While security in the square is routinely stepped up on sensitive dates, the rules give authorities a legal basis for more clearly defined measures and a mandate to carry them out for an indefinite period.

Tiananmen Square is China's most politically charged public space and authorities are desperate to avoid embarrassing incidents that could tarnish the Olympics, which the Communist leadership sees as a crowning achievement and source of massive national prestige.

The square sits in front of the ceremonial legislature and has been the site of anti-government protests, including the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement that was crushed by the People's Liberation Army.

Underscoring sensitivity about the square, China has told broadcasters it will bar live television shots from Tiananmen during the games – disrupting the plans of NBC and other international networks that have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast the Aug. 8-24 games and were counting on eye-pleasing live shots.

The move was apparently linked to recent unrest among Tibetans and a wave of passionate protests by critics of the Communist government that followed the Olympic torch on its journey around the world last month.

Other aspects of Beijing's Olympic security regime have not been announced, although there is a marked increase in the number of police and paramilitary troops in the center of the city.

China also has tightened visa restrictions and monitoring of residency permits for foreigners. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:23 PM
Clothing, gestures will be scrutinized at Beijing Olympics
05/06/2008 | 04:04 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us DENVER – Waving the Tibet flag or paying tribute to the Dalai Lama during the medals ceremony will be against the rules at the Beijing Olympics, though the penalties for those infractions remain unknown.

With fewer than 100 days until the Beijing Games, the International Olympic Committee clarified its protest rules Monday, saying that athletes' external appearance, clothing and gestures would be scrutinized at Olympic venues.

The IOC sent a six-point letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, to the national Olympic federations in response to their request for interpretations of Rule 51.3 of the Olympic charter.

That rule states "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

The letter expanded on the rule, saying: "The conduct of participants at all sites, areas and venues includes all actions, reactions, attitudes or manifestations of any kind by a person or group of persons, including but not limited to their look, external appearance, clothing, gestures, and written or oral statements."

But there were no guidelines about possible punishment, which kept in step with IOC president Jacque Rogge's stance. Asked about Rule 51 last month, he said, "I'm not in a sanction mode, definitely not."

The IOC has long relied on Rule 51.3 as its guiding principle for Olympic participants, but has been pressed of late to offer more guidance in light of recent protests over Tibet and China's crackdown on dissenters.

The US Olympic Committee was studying the new guidelines. Spokesman Darryl Seibel said the USOC has a disciplinary board at every Olympics, and that group would likely decide if discipline was warranted should an American athlete break Rule 51.

He said all the world's athletes are expected to follow the rule, "and that will be the case with our delegation as well."

"We're not going to deal with hypothetical situations," Seibel said. "As has been the case with previous games, Rule 51 is the guide. We expect every member of our delegation to comply with Rule 51. We don't intend to introduce guidelines that would be any more restrictive than Rule 51."

Last month, Rogge said IOC officials will use common sense to decide whether athletes are simply celebrating victories or using them to make political statements.

"Freedom of expression is something that is absolute. It's a human right. Athletes have it," Rogge said.

Seibel said the new guidelines would be passed onto leaders of the individual sports, who would be asked to tell their athletes about them.

"Freedom of expression is something we value and respect," Seibel said. "As with previous games, our athletes will be perfectly free to express themselves, so long as it is done in a manner consistent with Rule 51."

The IOC letter said that, indeed, Olympic athletes are free to express their opinions, so long as those expressions are in compliance with the Olympic charter.

It gave athletes permission to answer questions on any topic in media interviews and said the rule relied on the "common sense of all athletes and other participants in showing respect for the dignity of all fellow athletes, including those of the host country."

The letter reiterated the IOC's oft-stated position that the Olympics are a "great sports festival."

"They are not a stage for different kinds of political statements about issues such as armed conflicts, regional differences, religious disputes and many others," it said.

This position differs with the actual history of the games, which have been marked by political gestures, boycotts and violence over the past four decades.

One of the iconic pictures of the 20th century was that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medals stand in 1968, raising their black-gloved fists and bowing their heads during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Both were expelled from the games.

That type of display would also presumably be forbidden in Beijing. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:24 PM
China bares final team for Mt. Everest leg of Olympic torch run
05/06/2008 | 07:00 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – China has picked a final 36-strong team to carry the Olympic torch to the top of Mt. Everest, mountaineering officials said Tuesday.

Snow and high winds have delayed the final assault on the world's highest peak, but the weather has since improved, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. No final date for the summit attempt has been chosen, it said.

"The snowfall in the past couple of days had some impact upon our schedule but everything is under control," Zhang Zhijian, spokesman for the Chinese Mountaineering Team, was quoted as saying. While it wasn't clear exactly where the climbers were on the mountain face, Zhang said they were struggling to repair damage to their camp and rope lines.

The 36-member team is a boiled down version of a 50-member group picked just a few days ago.

"The final 36-man squad is picked up on basis of the climbers' performance in training and test runs," Zhang said.

"They must be physically strong, passionate and willing to make a contribution to the Olympic movement," he said.

Zhang said the team included 24 Tibetans and three women and were being led by Chinese alpinist Wang Yongfeng.

The flame's ascent up the world's highest peak is billed as a highlight of the grandiose but controversial torch relay in the buildup to August's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Security surrounding the event is tight, with all of Tibet sealed to foreigners since anti-government riots broke out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 14. Climbing from the Nepal side has also been suspended as authorities seek to head off any of the protests that have so far chased the flame on its around-the-world relay. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:25 PM
China bares final team for Mt. Everest leg of Olympic torch run
05/06/2008 | 07:00 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – China has picked a final 36-strong team to carry the Olympic torch to the top of Mt. Everest, mountaineering officials said Tuesday.

Snow and high winds have delayed the final assault on the world's highest peak, but the weather has since improved, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. No final date for the summit attempt has been chosen, it said.

"The snowfall in the past couple of days had some impact upon our schedule but everything is under control," Zhang Zhijian, spokesman for the Chinese Mountaineering Team, was quoted as saying. While it wasn't clear exactly where the climbers were on the mountain face, Zhang said they were struggling to repair damage to their camp and rope lines.

The 36-member team is a boiled down version of a 50-member group picked just a few days ago.

"The final 36-man squad is picked up on basis of the climbers' performance in training and test runs," Zhang said.

"They must be physically strong, passionate and willing to make a contribution to the Olympic movement," he said.

Zhang said the team included 24 Tibetans and three women and were being led by Chinese alpinist Wang Yongfeng.

The flame's ascent up the world's highest peak is billed as a highlight of the grandiose but controversial torch relay in the buildup to August's Olympic Games in Beijing.

Security surrounding the event is tight, with all of Tibet sealed to foreigners since anti-government riots broke out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 14. Climbing from the Nepal side has also been suspended as authorities seek to head off any of the protests that have so far chased the flame on its around-the-world relay. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:27 PM
Olympic torch nears Everest summit
05/07/2008 | 06:14 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – The Olympic torch moved to within striking distance of the summit of Mount Everest on Wednesday, with the flame likely to reach the top of the world's tallest mountain in the next several days.

A spokesman for the climbing team said a base camp at 7,790 meters (25,560 feet) had been rebuilt after heavy snowfall last weekend destroyed several base camps and delayed the assault on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak.

Beijing Olympic organizers are hoping the dramatic image of the torch reaching the highest spot on earth will make up for damaging publicity during protest-ridden stages of international legs of the relay.

The flame waiting to ascend Everest is separate from the main Olympic torch, which on Wednesday toured the southern city of Guangzhou, the heart of Chinese manufacturing. Cheering crowds lined Guangzhou's streets without reports of disruptions. The flame ended its 10-hour journey at a sports stadium in the city's financial district.

The main flame will cross every region and province of China, returning to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days ahead of the opening ceremony for the games.

After a difficult weekend in the Himalayas, calm, sunny weather the last three days has lightened the mood surrounding the historic ascent, which is being conducted under heavy security in both Nepal and China – on guard against pro-Tibet activists.

"The snowfall several days ago had some impact upon the ascent, now our climbers are busy fixing the damaged facilities," Zhang Zhijian, a spokesman for the climbing team, told Xinhua. "Yesterday, I heard that they have fixed the 7,790-meter-high camp, but I'm not sure whether or when they will take further action."

"If the weather looks good all the time these days, I think I will bring you good news as soon as possible."

A 36-member team was announced Tuesday to take the torch to the summit, composed of 24 Tibetans and three women and led by Chinese alpinist Wang Yongfeng. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:28 PM
Olympic domestic tickets sold out in Beijing, Hong Kong
05/07/2008 | 10:46 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – The final batch of domestic-sale tickets for Olympic venues in Beijing and Hong Kong sold out Wednesday, the third day of sales for 1.38 million tickets.

The final tranche of domestic tickets went on sale on Monday at Bank of China branches and online.

Wang Hui, a spokeswoman for the Beijing organizing committee, said tickets remained for other venues in co-host cities, which include Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin and Qinhuangdao.

Wang said fans have until May 14 to pay for the booked tickets.

"If they didn't pay by that date, the tickets will be taken back," she said.

Large numbers of people went online on Monday, attempting to book tickets. - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:28 PM
Olympic torch enjoying a smooth relay in China
05/08/2008 | 01:15 AM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us HAIKOU, China - Paramilitary police donned Hawaiian shirts and pink buses shuttled in more cops in camouflage. Security was heavy but officers were markedly relaxed as jubilant crowds, apparently free of protesters, helped kick off the Olympic torch's tour of China.

"Of course I'm happy, but I can't talk to you," one officer said with a smile as the torch was carried through the tropical port city of Haikou on Tuesday. Up to a million people squeezed along the route. "Go China!" they screamed as the flame bobbed by.

Wednesday was apparently another trouble-free day before cheering crowds as the torch made a 10-hour tour through the southern city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton, in China's prosperous manufacturing center.

So far, the Olympic torch seems to be having a smooth relay in China, uninterrupted by the protests over Tibet and human rights that followed parts of its international tour.

Relieved corporate sponsors like Samsung and Coca-Cola, whose logos were seldom seen along the torch relay outside China, now are splashing their names everywhere.

How China handles the torch, and the crowds, is a hint of how it will manage the Beijing Olympics. While most of the more than 100 stops across China should go smoothly, legs through Tibet and the largely Muslim province of Xinjiang — areas with recent protests against Chinese rule or policies — could test security and crowd control.

If a protest were to happen during the flame's three-month journey to Beijing in August, it might be impossible to tell. Foreign media are not allowed in the convoy that follows the torch, which is restricted to state media. When the torch went out at the start of its Sunday run in the seaside city of Sanya, the live national broadcast cut away as guards rekindled the flame.

Police and paramilitary forces by the dozens jogged on either side of the torch. Others were posted every few feet along the route. The rest waited in reserve, along with a bomb disposal truck and armored vans lined with tiny windows and gun portals.

The few thousand people invited to the opening and closing ceremonies for each day's run have had to pass through security checkpoints with metal detectors.

Even torch bearers were told to leave watches, cell phones, cameras and other items behind before their leg of the relay, said torch bearer Derrick Cope. The American businessman in Shanghai was among 10 people chosen in a Chinese television reality show called "You are the Torch Bearer."

Crowds in Haikou were friendly to foreigners, showing little of the angry, anti-Western sentiments of recent weeks after protests in London, Paris and San Francisco that some Chinese saw as an attack against China and the Olympics.

"Welcome to China!" university students called out, some sporting face paint and tooting plastic horns as the convoy streamed by.

Others following the torch were celebrating that many in China have left the hard life behind after 30 years of free-market economic reforms.

In a dusty field outside the closing ceremony in Haikou, 64-year-old retiree Ren Anqing stood out from the young crowd in his old-style undershirt, shorts and sandals. "When I was young, I raised cows," he said, smiling. "These kids? They have everything."

Ren has a computer now so he can e-mail his son, who's about to earn a doctorate after studies that included a year in Singapore — all unimaginable when his father was growing up.

"If I was young again in China? Wah!" Ren said, his smile getting wider. "That would be a great thing." - AP

stonecold316
05-08-2008, 02:30 PM
Beijing Olympic flame reaches peak of Everest
05/08/2008 | 10:11 AM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us (Updated 11:20 p.m.) BEIJING - An Olympic flame reached the top of the world Thursday. Live television footage showed a Chinese mountaineering team holding up a specially designed torch along with Chinese and Olympic flags Thursday on the top of Mount Everest.

"One World, One Dream," team captain Nyima Cering yelled as he was passed the torch on the final icy incline leading to the peak, repeating the slogan for the Beijing Olympics. "We have lit the torch on top of the world," another climber said.

Organizers hope the dramatic image of the torch atop Everest will counter some of the damaging publicity from protests during the international leg of the torch relay.

Criticized from the outset because of China's often harsh rule over Tibet — where Everest is located — the relay drew more intense scrutiny after Tibetans across western China erupted in anti-government protests in March.

The Everest torch is separate from the main Olympic flame, which was not taken up the mountain because of weather concerns. A delay due to bad weather would have thrown the schedule off for the whole torch relay.

The 19-member team, dressed in red parkas emblazoned with Olympic logos, broke camp before dawn and reached the top of the 29,035-foot mountain a little more than six hours later.

The Olympic flame had been carried in a special metal canister during the ascent. As the team neared the top, they used a wand to pass the flame from the canister to the torch, which had been designed to withstand the strong winds and low oxygen levels at the top of Everest.

The climbers could be heard struggling for breath as five torchbearers each inched a few feet before passing on the flame to the next person. A colorful Tibetan prayer flag lined the path and fluttered in the wind.

The final torchbearer, a Tibetan woman named Cering Wangmo, stood silently on the peak with her torch while other team members unfurled flags Chinese and Olympic flags. They then clustered together, cheering "We made it," and "Beijing welcomes you."

One person was heard breathing heavily, murmuring "not enough oxygen."

The head of the Everest leg of the relay, Li Zhixin, was overcome with emotion as the flame reached the top. "It's so hard," he said at the CCTV studio set up at base camp, choking on tears.

The Everest leg has largely unfolded amid secrecy, in part to deter protesters who have criticized the event as symbolizing China's domination over Tibet.

The 19-member final assault team was comprised of both ethnic Han Chinese and Tibetan members and also included university students. The team captain, Nyima Cering, is a Tibetan, while deputy Luo Shen is Han Chinese, CCTV and the Xinhua News Agency said.

The main Olympic torch is on the opposite side of China. The relay leg scheduled for Thursday, in the boomtown of Shenzhen, was postponed until the afternoon to allow for the Everest ascent. The main flame will cross every region and province of China, returning to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days ahead of the opening ceremony for the games.

The main torch seems to be having a smooth relay through China. After the tour kickoff Sunday, the flame has been greeted by jubilant crowds in such places as the port city of Haikou and the southern city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton.

Relieved corporate sponsors like Samsung and Coca-Cola, whose logos were seldom seen along the torch relay outside China, now are splashing their names everywhere.

While most of the more than 100 stops across China should go smoothly, legs through Tibet and the largely Muslim province of Xinjiang — areas with recent protests against Chinese rule or policies — could test security and crowd control.

Crowds in Haikou were friendly to foreigners, showing little of the angry, anti-Western sentiments of recent weeks after protests in London, Paris and San Francisco that some Chinese saw as an attack against China and the Olympics.

"Welcome to China!" university students called out, some sporting face paint and tooting plastic horns as the convoy streamed by. - AP

jkad
07-02-2008, 08:22 AM
Half-Pinay Natalie Coughlin first woman under 59 secs in 100meter Backstroke, destroys the field in the US Olympic Trials.

stonecold316
08-07-2008, 05:42 PM
Manila mayor flies to Beijing for Olympics
08/07/2008 | 04:57 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim flew on Thursday to China to attend the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Games, which opens on Friday.

Lim is not with the entourage of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but went to China on invitation of Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong.

It was not known if Lim would meet with Arroyo in Beijing, Lim's chief of staff Ric De Guzman said on Thursday.

In a letter to Guo, Lim said: "It will be another great opportunity for us to review acquaintances with the leaders of your flourishing city and to promote the widening and mutual friendship among our people. We look forward to a pleasant journey to the world of sports inside Beijing, certainly a rare one we would mark significantly for posterity."

De Guzman said Lim left for China on an official trip via a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight early morning of Thursday morning. He had no other details of Lim's flight or itinerary.

He said Lim will be back in Manila on August 12.

De Guzman said no business negotiations would be conducted between the two cities, as the purpose of Llim's trip would only be to attend the Olympics.

The Beijing government spent for Lim’s plane fare and hotel accommodations. Lim was accompanied by one of the consultants of the Manila City Hall, Niňo de la Cruz, but the expense of his companionwas not shouldered by Beijing.

Beijing is a sister city of Manila.

The Manila tourism office showed a reply letter to reporters on Thursday about Lim’s acceptance to the Beijing’s invitation to attend the ceremonial opening of the Beijing Olympics.

Lim had written to Guo on May 19, 2008 accepting the Beijing government’s invitation.

The "Friendship Affiliate Agreement," citing the sisterhood between the two cities, was signed on June 7, 2002, during the administration of then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, and Beijing government authorities. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 05:54 PM
Thai boxing Olympic medalist banned for doping
05/08/2008 | 05:09 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BANGKOK, Thailand – Olympic bronze medalist Suriya Prasathinphimai has been suspended for one year by Thailand's boxing authorities after a positive doping test.

Suriya won bronze in the middleweight division at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

He tested positive during last year's Southeast Asian Games, when he won gold in the 75-kilogram division. Suriya, 28, was stripped of that gold after testing positive.

General Taweep Jantararoj, president of the Amateur Boxing Association of Thailand, was quoted to say by the Bangkok Post newspaper Thursday that Suriya claimed his innocence but ABAT had no choice but to enforce a ban.

Suriya was one of five SEA Games medalists to be stripped of their medals after positive doping tests. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:00 PM
Brazilian attacked in Athens marathon likely to miss Beijing Games
05/08/2008 | 11:07 PM
SAO PAULO, Brazil – Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the Brazilian who was tackled by a protester while leading the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is unlikely to run in the Beijing Games.

Lima could not recover from a muscle injury in time for this weekend's Prague Marathon, the last chance he had to improve his time and qualify for Beijing, Lima's spokesman Ricardo D'Angelo said Thursday.

Lima has the fourth best time among Brazilian runners, and only the top three will go to Beijing.

Hailed as a hero in Brazil after continuing the race in Athens – and winning the bronze medal – Lima can now only make it to Beijing if one of the three runners drops out.

"His chances are very slim, but it's still possible," D'Angelo said.

The 38-year-old Lima is the only Brazilian to have won an Olympic medal in the marathon.

He was leading in Athens when an Irish protester jumped from the crowd, grabbed him and pushed him off the course with about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) to go. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:00 PM
Beijing to heighten transportation security for Olympics
05/09/2008 | 05:41 PM
BEIJING – Passengers riding the subway and major bus routes in Beijing will undergo strict security checks starting at the end of June ahead of the Olympics, police said Friday.

All subway lines and major bus stations will be equipped with security checkpoints, a spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau Public Transportation Division said. Like many Chinese officials he gave only his surname, Chen.

High-traffic subway and bus stations will be equipped with police dog units and handheld metal detectors at each security checkpoint, the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, reported Friday. Explosives and flammable substances are already prohibited on subway lines.

Passengers will be checked for any liquids and will be asked to drink from any liquid containers they are carrying, the newspaper said.

With less than three months before the start of the Beijing games, China has launched a massive nationwide security campaign to head off possible protests, terror attacks and any sort of disorder that could challenge the government's image or tarnish its staging of the Olympics, a source of prestige and huge national pride.

In Beijing, the campaign has included increased security checks at hotels, entertainment areas and rented homes. Broader measures include visa restrictions that severely limit who can visit, live or work in China.

Large public gatherings are especially suspect, with police ordering the cancellation of several major events on security grounds, including a popular Beijing music festival this month. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:01 PM
China's goal is to reach quarterfinals in Beijing - Yao
05/09/2008 | 09:29 AM
NEW YORK - The Olympics are still three months away, and already Yao Ming is trying to work the officials.

Recalling that he fouled out against the United States in his Olympic debut eight years ago, the Houston Rockets All-Star hopes the referees are easier on him when China faces the Americans in its opener in Beijing.

"Hopefully they treat the hosts better," Yao joked Thursday.

But Yao is serious when he talks about his team's chances. He wants the Chinese to advance out of pool play into the quarterfinals, even though they were drawn into a difficult group and their top two players are recovering from injuries.

"We have a very clear goal, which is we have to at least get into the top eight," Yao said.

Yao took a break from his rehab to talk to select media in New York and Beijing using Cisco's TelePresence technology, which allowed him to see the reporters as if they were in the same room with him in Houston.

Yao had surgery in March to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and said his rehab is on schedule. He is working out on the Alter-G treadmill, which regulates the amount of body weight he puts on the foot. He said he is using about 80 percent of his weight now.

The 2.29-meter (7-foot-6) Yao last played Feb. 24 and said he needs to play in "a couple" of exhibition games with the Chinese this summer before they face the Americans on Aug. 10. He showed two years ago he can quickly shake off the rust after a long layoff.

Yao broke his left foot in April 2006 and missed the final four games of that season. He returned in time for the world championships in August and led the tournament with 25.3 points per game, delivering a 36-point, 10-rebound performance in a victory over Slovenia to close pool play that backed up his guarantee that China would advance to the round of 16.

The Chinese would have to finish in the top four of their six-team group in Beijing to move on. But besides the United States, Group B also includes defending world champion Spain and will be filled by two more teams from a qualifying tournament in July.

"Certainly there are teams in our group that we are not on the same level with, but I believe there are opportunities and they are there for us to pursue," Yao told the Beijing reporters. "Even though we didn't make it to the final six in 2006, but we did very well."

Yao said he recently spoke to teammate Yi Jianlian, who missed the final eight games of the regular season with a sprained ligament in his left knee. Yao believes the time off should help the Milwaukee Bucks forward, who struggled with inconsistency and injury toward the tail end of his rookie season.

"He really needs some rest. He played about 30 games last summer with the national team and almost 70 games in his rookie season," Yao said. "For a rookie, maybe a little too much, 100 games too much. That was from regular season all the way through the finals, almost like that."

If Yao and Yi are healthy, China will have a strong frontcourt. And if the Chinese play well, Yao thinks even a top-six finish is possible.

"Hopefully this time in our homeland we can get some surprise for our people and for ourselves, too," he said. "But in the Olympics, no easy games." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:01 PM
China's goal is to reach quarterfinals in Beijing - Yao
05/09/2008 | 09:29 AM
NEW YORK - The Olympics are still three months away, and already Yao Ming is trying to work the officials.

Recalling that he fouled out against the United States in his Olympic debut eight years ago, the Houston Rockets All-Star hopes the referees are easier on him when China faces the Americans in its opener in Beijing.

"Hopefully they treat the hosts better," Yao joked Thursday.

But Yao is serious when he talks about his team's chances. He wants the Chinese to advance out of pool play into the quarterfinals, even though they were drawn into a difficult group and their top two players are recovering from injuries.

"We have a very clear goal, which is we have to at least get into the top eight," Yao said.

Yao took a break from his rehab to talk to select media in New York and Beijing using Cisco's TelePresence technology, which allowed him to see the reporters as if they were in the same room with him in Houston.

Yao had surgery in March to repair a stress fracture in his left foot and said his rehab is on schedule. He is working out on the Alter-G treadmill, which regulates the amount of body weight he puts on the foot. He said he is using about 80 percent of his weight now.

The 2.29-meter (7-foot-6) Yao last played Feb. 24 and said he needs to play in "a couple" of exhibition games with the Chinese this summer before they face the Americans on Aug. 10. He showed two years ago he can quickly shake off the rust after a long layoff.

Yao broke his left foot in April 2006 and missed the final four games of that season. He returned in time for the world championships in August and led the tournament with 25.3 points per game, delivering a 36-point, 10-rebound performance in a victory over Slovenia to close pool play that backed up his guarantee that China would advance to the round of 16.

The Chinese would have to finish in the top four of their six-team group in Beijing to move on. But besides the United States, Group B also includes defending world champion Spain and will be filled by two more teams from a qualifying tournament in July.

"Certainly there are teams in our group that we are not on the same level with, but I believe there are opportunities and they are there for us to pursue," Yao told the Beijing reporters. "Even though we didn't make it to the final six in 2006, but we did very well."

Yao said he recently spoke to teammate Yi Jianlian, who missed the final eight games of the regular season with a sprained ligament in his left knee. Yao believes the time off should help the Milwaukee Bucks forward, who struggled with inconsistency and injury toward the tail end of his rookie season.

"He really needs some rest. He played about 30 games last summer with the national team and almost 70 games in his rookie season," Yao said. "For a rookie, maybe a little too much, 100 games too much. That was from regular season all the way through the finals, almost like that."

If Yao and Yi are healthy, China will have a strong frontcourt. And if the Chinese play well, Yao thinks even a top-six finish is possible.

"Hopefully this time in our homeland we can get some surprise for our people and for ourselves, too," he said. "But in the Olympics, no easy games." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:02 PM
Sochi Olympics face obstacles and opposition
05/09/2008 | 09:06 PM
SOCHI, Russia – As International Olympic Committee officials examined sites for the 2014 Winter Games in this Russian resort city, Natalia Shingaryova watched a wall of mud and garbage engulf her neighbor's house.

The sludge rumbled down after part of a teeming garbage dump that scars the foothills above Shingaryova's street sheared off, adding to the damage in a neighborhood turned into a jumble of broken homes by past slides.

The dump and the destruction below are an indication of the infrastructure problems facing the sprawling city that Russia promises will host the best Winter Olympics ever in less than six years.

With the clock ticking and the Kremlin's prestige on the line, none of the venues has been built. Meanwhile, raw sewage flows into the Black Sea off the "Russian Riviera" and traffic clogs a city of about 400,000 residents stuck between its Soviet heyday and the bright future envisioned for 2014.

"In an Olympic city, resolving these problems should be the first priority," said Dmitry Kaptsov, deputy coordinator of the North Caucasus Environmental Watch. "But these problems are not being solved – they are only getting worse."

Shingaryova's house was destroyed by a similar slide two years ago, forcing the family into a rusting railroad car. Inside, the cramped space is brightened with colorful drawings by her 10-year-old daughter. Outside, the stench is inescapable.

Despite the persistent danger, wheezing orange garbage trucks dumped their loads on the pile, sending up clouds of dust when refuse spilled over the edge. A coffee-colored creek flowed by on its way to the sea.

"They're burying people alive in garbage," said Shingaryova's husband, Andrei.

Russian organizers and city officials contend that they are tackling infrastructure problems like the sewer system and overburdened streets.

On top of the troubles that plague Sochi's residents, Russia faces a daunting task in building the venues, as well as the additional roads, railways and other facilities needed to accommodate athletes, officials and spectators.

Sochi's plan calls for a cluster of ice arenas in a compact area by the shore, as well as a stadium for ceremonies and the main Olympic Village. The snow events are to be held in the mountains that rise inland, an area called Krasnaya Polyana.

Computer-generated pictures in sleek brochures put out by the Sochi 2014 organizing committee show a palm-studded plaza outside a spiral-shaped ice arena.

But when IOC coordination commission members climbed onto a platform recently to view the area, they gazed over a grassy field. The mountain venues are not much further along.

Not even the ports needed to bring in construction materials have been built.

French ski legend Jean-Claude Killy, heading the IOC panel on its first visit since Sochi was awarded the games last July after an impassioned appeal from then-President Vladimir Putin, warned that organizers "cannot waste a single day."

Russian organizers say they are ahead of schedule and within budget. Both critics and supporters, however, say potential pitfalls threaten to drag out construction and drive up spending.

There are indications that costs could balloon above the $12.6 billion budgeted two years ago to develop Sochi – a leading Soviet-era summer spot dotted with Stalin-era sanatoriums – into a world-class year-round resort.

Critics say that during the bid, Russia focused on propaganda, not planning.

"The site location was done completely visually. They took a look and said, 'This place suits us, we will put it here,'" Kaptsov said. "No other studies – geological, hydrological, seismic, ecological – were done."

Organizers say they made painstaking preparations for the bid.

Just seven months after his appointment, and shortly after Russian transport and financial oversight officials suggested costs would likely double, the head of the state corporation charged with building for the games stepped down.

Top officials said Semyon Vainshtok's departure was expected, but it sparked speculation he was pushed out because of alarms about spending, or left to wash his hands of a project headed for disaster.

Observers, however, say failure is unlikely given the importance of the Olympics for Russia and Putin, who became prime minister Thursday after stepping down as president. He has signaled he may hold high office through 2014 and beyond.

Putin holds a trump card in Russia's state-controlled corporations and their loyal "oligarchs" — billionaires whose companies are footing the bill for several of the facilities.

Oleg Deripaska, the aluminum tycoon recently ranked as Russia's richest man by Forbes magazine, is behind Sochi's new glass-and-steel airport terminal — not yet open — and his company Basic Element is to build the main Olympic Village and media center.

Interros, the holding company of another metals magnate, Vladimir Potanin, is building the resort where the alpine skiing and snowboard competitions are to be held.

Cross-country skiing and biathlon are to be held at a resort, already partly operational, being built by OAO Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas monopoly whose longtime chairman Dmitry Medvedev became Russia's president Wednesday.

The involvement of such mighty players has locals worried their home town will be turned into — even more than it already is — an exclusive playground for the rich and well-connected.

"The Olympics are a farce designed to put property in the hands of the elite," said Dmitry, a Krasnaya Polyana resident who declined to give his last name for fear of reprisals.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, say the development will gravely harm the area's precious wilderness. But Russian authorities have rejected calls to move venues from a mountain ridge where critics fear damage to a pristine preserve that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko told a news conference wrapping up the IOC visit last month that organizers had thoroughly studied environmentalists' proposals for alternate sites but determined that the planned location was the best choice.

Down by the seaside, organizers face opposition in a neighborhood just outside the coastal Olympic site where officials have indicated more than 100 homes will be razed.

Many are Old Believers, followers of an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church whose families have lived here since they returned from exile in Turkey almost a century ago.

"There was nothing here. It was all bushes and tangles of boxwood, and swampland. There were snakes and wolves and cholera," said 66-year-old Ivan Tereutov, a bearded Old Believer who lives and grows vegetables on the plot where his grandfather settled in 1911.

"Our grandfathers fixed it up, made the land livable and fruitful," Tereutov said. "And now they tell us: 'You're nobody, the bulldozers will come and sweep everything away.'"

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:03 PM
Chavez supports China on Tibet, accuses US of trying to 'sabotage' Olympics
05/11/2008 | 01:37 AM
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is condemning pro-Tibet protests and backing China ahead of the Olympics in Beijing.

The socialist president accuses the U.S. government of trying to "sabotage" the upcoming Olympic Games and of aiding protests focused on Tibet. Chavez says he will back China against what he sees as a "secessionist" attempt in Tibet.

The U.S. considers Tibet a part of China and says it is concerned about violence in Tibet but will refrain from meddling in China's internal affairs.

Chavez spoke Friday night after meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu. Venezuelan and Chinese officials also signed cooperative accords. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:04 PM
Home > Sports > Top Stories Sharapova to play at the Olympics
05/12/2008 | 11:31 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us ROME - Maria Sharapova reached a compromise with the WTA Tour and completed a promotional photo shoot before the Italian Open began Monday.

The second-ranked Russian was opposed to the shoot because she does not like distractions before tournaments, and claimed the WTA threatened to fine her more than US$300,000 (€200,000) if she refused.

Sunday's photo shoot to build publicity for the tour championships was reduced to 90 minutes from several hours, Sharapova said.

"I was riding around in a car for an hour talking — pretending like I'm talking on the phone," Sharapova said. "The timing compromise was still pretty difficult since it's before a very big event for all of us. Considering the time reduction, it definitely makes that a lot easier than going into a four- or five-hour shoot with hair and makeup, which adds another hour."

Sharapova launched her protest on her Web site two weeks ago, and asked for fans' opinions.

"I've obviously made my point," she said. "I wanted to let my fans know that I didn't feel like people were listening to me. I think it's in the best interest of the tour."

After a first-round bye, Sharapova will play either Dominika Cibulkova or Gisela Dulko at the clay-court warmup for the French Open, which begins May 25.

"When I set foot in Rome, my priority is to play tennis," Sharapova said. "I already did the talking, and now it's time to play tennis."

Sharapova is playing her first tournament in Europe this year. She won a clay-court event in Amelia Island, Florida, last month, then lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals in Charleston, South Carolina, a week later.

In August, Sharapova plans to play at the Olympics for the first time.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," Sharapova said of the Beijing Games. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a very young girl, from watching it in the middle of the night on TV, and waking up and watching the opening ceremonies, to following all the athletes and waiting until Russia would walk out.

"It's quite hard to believe that sometimes your dreams can turn to reality. In a few months they will, so that's quite exciting."

Sharapova also wants to play for Russia in the Fed Cup final against Spain in September.

"If I'm healthy, I'm definitely going to be playing," she said.

Sharapova won two matches to help Russia beat Israel in the quarterfinals in February, but was left off the team that beat the United States in the semifinals. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:05 PM
US athletes learn what's right and wrong in China
05/14/2008 | 05:23 PM
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Slurping and burping at the dinner table is OK. Always use both hands to present somebody a business card. And as for those public toilets (or lack thereof), make sure you bring your own tissue.

Three months from now, the US Olympic athletes will have to negotiate their way through China on more than just the playing field – and figuring out Far East culture could be as challenging as any opponent.

To offer tips, the US Olympic Committee and a sponsor brought in two cultural experts, who spoke to about three dozen athletes Tuesday about what to expect once they arrive in Beijing.

"One of the most important things I can tell you is that, once you get through that first layer, people all around the world are more alike than they are unalike," travel etiquette expert Roger Axtell told the athletes.

First they have to negotiate that first layer.

Athletes were referred to a Web site with more than 100 "awareness tips" on everything from business etiquette to table manners to shopping for clothes.

For instance, it is considered polite to hand a business card to a new contact with both hands, preferably with the writing facing the person receiving the card. And when you receive a business card, it's gauche to write on the back of it.

On a completely unrelated topic, public toilets aren't common in China yet. Often, it's just a hole in the floor. Another suggestion regarding that business: Bring a packet of tissue to use in case there's no toilet paper, which isn't that uncommon.

Also, there's no need to stifle burps at the dinner table, and should you hear someone else do it, no need to act horrified, either. Oh, and eating 'til your plate's clean at dinner in China doesn't necessarily mean you liked it; it can be interpreted as a sign that you didn't get enough food.

"If you're sitting at a dinner table and people are snorting and gurgling in ways you don't know how to deal with, just roll with it," said Gideon Yago, a former international news correspondent for MTV.

In fact, the best piece of advice both he and Axtell offer is simply to go with the flow.

Axtell told a story of his wife's visit to China. She was feeling sick, so she got a doctor to make a house call at her hotel room. He came once, said he'd come again. And toward the end of the second visit, he was on his knees, saying he wanted a "relationship" with Axtell's wife.

What he really wanted, as she later figured out, was a connection with someone in the United States because the doctor's daughter went to college in Toronto.

The point is that something as basic as the shadings of the meaning of a word – in this case "relationship" – can cause confusion.

"Things are going to happen, something unexpected is going to happen," Axtell said. "It could be a comment, a gesture. Whatever. You just have to be ready for it."

Many American athletes at the Olympic level have learned these lessons before. Most have a wealth of experience in international travel.

The USOC also has its own new, "ambassador program," created in part to teach about cultural differences, but also to remind athletes to be on their best behavior and represent America appropriately when they're competing abroad.

"To me, the whole thing is just to stay patient, listen, watch," said Sarah Noriega, a veteran on the American volleyball team, which is coached by one-time Chinese volleyball great Lang Ping. "Listen to the little tips you get. Rely on nonverbal clues."

Even those can be tricky. For instance, the 'V for Victory' sign means different things in different parts of the world, and can even have a different meaning depending on whether the outside of the fingers are pointed in or out.

One nonverbal clue that means the same in any part of the world.

"A smile," Axtell said. "That works almost every single time." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:06 PM
Battle over swimsuits at Olympics moves to the courtroom
05/16/2008 | 08:20 PM
With the Beijing Olympics less than three months away, the battle over swimsuits has turned into a lawsuit.

In a case sure to rock the swimming world, California-based TYR Sport went to federal court this week alleging that rival Speedo, manufacturer of the record-breaking "LZR Racer," has conspired with USA Swimming to stifle competition and lure top US athletes away from other companies.

The main issue: Speedo's financial relationship with the sport's American governing body and the head coach of the US team, Mark Schubert.

TYR claims Warnaco Swimwear, the parent company of Speedo, has violated antitrust laws by conspiring with USA Swimming and Schubert to promote the benefits of wearing the LZR suit in Beijing.

"You have a coach who's employed by the national governing body of the sport," Larry Hilton, an attorney for TYR, said Thursday. "We believe Mark Schubert is also a paid spokesman for Speedo. We think having the dual role of Olympic coach and paid spokesman puts him in a conflict of interest."

The lawsuit cites numerous examples of Schubert touting the benefits of wearing the LZR Racer, including his endorsement last month during the short course world championships, where numerous world records were set, mostly by Speedo swimmers.

The coach urged all US athletes to wear the suit during the country's Olympic trials this summer, regardless of their sponsorship deals. TYR has sponsorship deals with several top Americans, and world record holders Brendan Hansen and Aaron Peirsol are tied to Nike.

"I would strongly advise them to wear the (Speedo) suit at trials, or they may end up at home watching on NBC," Schubert said. "Do you go for the money or for the gold?"

Since the LZR Racer's unveiling in mid-February, swimmers wearing the suit have set a staggering 37 world records and rekindled the debate over whether technology has too much influence over the sport. At least one coach has gone so far as to suggest that the suit amounts to "technological doping" by providing swimmers with additional buoyancy, though world governing body FINA has upheld the legality of Speedo's design.

Fast times are not the issue, according to Hilton, who said TYR is more concerned that Speedo, as a major sponsor of USA Swimming, holds too much sway over the governing body. In particular, the lawsuit points to disparaging comments Schubert allegedly made about non-Speedo suits and his claims the LZR improves performance by 2 percent, a huge amount in a sport often decided by hundredths of a second.

"This is not about Speedo technology. Speedo makes a great suit," Hilton said. "There's a big issue with a lot of the comments out there coming through USA Swimming and Mark Schubert about the relative merits of the LZR suit."

Olympic swimmer Erik Vendt, who recently switched from TYR to Speedo, also is named as a defendant. The lawsuit alleges he broke a binding contract with TYR when he changed attire.

The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., doesn't ask for specific damages but does claim TYR has lost more than a half-million dollars because of its competitive disadvantage.

"This is not a lawsuit motivated by money damages," Hilton said. "It's more about TYR being very concerned about what's happening in the market. It's unfair to TYR, and it's unfair to the other manufacturers. It's not good for the sport of swimming."

Speedo issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.

"While Warnaco generally does not comment on pending litigation, we think this lawsuit is without merit," the company said. "Speedo for 80 years has been the leader in innovation. Speedo's goal has always been to help athletes achieve their personal best. We're pleased that swimmers, wearing the Speedo LZR Racer, have set 37 world records in the last three months."

Chuck Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming, declined comment when reached via e-mail. Schubert's cell phone wasn't accepting messages and he didn't respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press.

Evan Morgenstein, Vendt's agent, issued a statement late Thursday blasting TYR, denying that Vendt broke his contract and vowing not to sign any new sponsorship deals with the company.

"It is with shock and great despair that I was made aware of this unjust litigation against Erik, who is known in the industry and out as the hardest working, most honest athlete there is," Morgenstein said. "Having known Erik for many years, it is unconscionable to think that a company such as TYR has so badly misread their own contract. The ramifications will be swift and far reaching."

Morgenstein, one of the most prominent agents in the sport, will continue to work with clients who already have contracts with TYR, but said he "will surely make them aware of the unjust treatment their teammate and friend has endured. Erik's reputation can never be repaired, but there will be no limits to our commitment to justice for Erik."

The case could have a disruptive effect on preparations for the Beijing Olympics, where Speedo athlete Michael Phelps will again try to break Mark Spitz's record by winning eight gold medals and the American team should be one of the prime attractions back home.

In a nod to NBC, world swimming officials agreed to schedule morning finals in Beijing so the events could be televised live in the US during prime time.

Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, had no direct comment on the lawsuit but, as one might expect, he's been a staunch advocate of the LZR Racer.

"As far as the suits go, I think the facts speak for themselves," Bowman said Thursday in an e-mail to the AP. - AP
Arroyo leaves for China for Beijing Olympics

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:07 PM
Chinese Olympic champion Xing Huina out of Beijing Games
05/19/2008 | 04:30 PM

Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us BEIJING – Olympic 10,000-meter champion Xing Huina of China will not get a chance to defend her title at this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Ren Wuyong, the track and field director for the provincial team in Shandong, said Xing had a thigh injury that has kept her from training adequately.

This will keep her out of this week's China Open at the new National Stadium in Beijing, her last chance to qualify for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics in the Chinese capital.

Xing would have been one of host nation's medal favorites in track and field. The only other clear favorite in the discipline is defending Olympic champion Liu Xiang in the 110-meter hurdles.

Ren told the Guangzhou Daily newspaper that Xing, 24, was not considering retirement and would compete in next year's national games.

Xing, who overtook Ethiopian Ejagayehu Dibaba to win gold in Athens, has not had much luck since the Olympics.

In 2005, she was stripped of her gold medal in the national games for elbowing a fellow runner. She did not compete at the 2006 Asian Games. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:08 PM
Paula Radcliffe leads British marathon team at Beijing Olympics
05/19/2008 | 10:55 PM
LONDON – Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe was selected on Britain's athletics team for the Beijing Olympics on Monday.

Radcliffe was picked despite having her training interrupted by treatment for a hip injury. The 34-year-old runner failed to finish the marathon in Athens four years ago despite being one of the favorites.

Beijing will be her fourth Olympics after competing in track events in Atlanta and Sydney. She will only compete in the marathon at the Aug. 8-24 games.

Radcliffe also had her training schedule interrupted by a toe injury in September 2007 when she finished second in a half marathon – her first race for 20 months after having her first child.

She went on to win the New York City marathon in November – which served as her Olympic qualifying time – but the toe injury flared again, forcing Radcliffe to miss the London Marathon.

Radcliffe ran 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds in London in 2003 to set the world record.

Also on the women's marathon team are Liz Yelling and the Japan-based Mara Yamauchi.

Dan Robinson is the only athlete on the men's marathon team, while Johanna Jackson was selected to compete in the 20-kilometer walk when the British Olympic Association released its endurance athletes list for Beijing.

The British track and field trials are July 11-13 in Birmingham, central England.

Ashia Hansen, a former two-time world record holder in the triple jump, will be competing and hoping to qualify for the Olympics at age 36 after missing out on Athens due to injury. - AP
Arroyo leaves for China for Beijing Olympics
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stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:09 PM
London Olympics may be more realistic than Beijing – sprinter Pistorius
05/20/2008 | 12:12 AM
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius believes he may have a more realistic chance of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics than this summer's Beijing Games.

Pistorius returned to South Africa after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned an IAAF ruling that barred him from competing in the Olympics and other able-bodied events. The court said the 21-year-old's carbon fiber racing blades do not give him an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners.

Pistorius said Monday he will be competing in able-bodied meets to try to qualify for the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games, but acknowledged it will be difficult to get into the proper shape. He said the London Olympics also are in his plans.

"The last five months have been extremely tiring," Pistorius said, adding that months of prosthetic testing, overseas travel and marathon conference calls had hampered his training. "But I have the opportunity now so I might as well grab it with both hands."

Pistorius holds the 400-meter Paralympic world record of 46.56 seconds, but that time is outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55. He admits the chance of shedding a second off his time is slim, and that he is now hoping to qualify for London.

"Realistically speaking...I have a better chance of qualifying there because I haven't had the chance to train," he said.

Even if Pistorius fails to get the qualifying time, South African selectors could add the University of Pretoria student to the Olympic 1,600-meter relay squad.

"That chance still exists," said Peet van Zyl, Pistorius' agent. "But the South Africa team needs to qualify."

Pistorius would not require a qualifying time and could be taken to Beijing as an alternate. Six runners can be picked for the relay squad, which would need to be one of the world's top 16 teams to participate in the Olympics.

Pistorius, smiling broadly as he sat behind a table in a black suit, told reporters that he'd jump at the chance to join the relay team.

"I'd be extremely happy," he said. "It's always been a dream of mine."

Pistorius will run in five Paralympic races in May and June, van Zyl said. He'll be competing in able-bodied competitions on July 2 in Milan, Italy, on July 11 in Rome, and July 16 in Lucerne, Switzerland. He will likely add one or two more able-bodied races depending in his schedule.

Pistorius was born without fibulas – the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle – and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

In January, the IAAF banned Pistorius from competing internationally with able-bodied athletes. The body based its decision on studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who said the J-shaped "Cheetah" blades were energy efficient, and could give Pistorius a possible advantage.

Pistorius' lawyers countered with independent tests conducted by a team led by MIT professor Hugh M. Herr that claimed to show he doesn't gain any advantage over able-bodied runners.

At first, Pistorius said, his court battle was about his own desire to compete with able-bodies athletes, but it eventually became a fight for all amputee athletes eager for the same opportunities.

"It's always been a dream to compete in the Olympics," Pistorius said, "But If I look back at my career and I haven't participated, it will still be a a dream satisfied."

Although Pistorius wished he could have spent the last months training, he said his long plane rides back and forth across the Atlantic were a mixed blessing. They gave him plenty of time to reflect on his experiences, which will be included in a book he's publishing in July. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:09 PM
Olympic torch relay to resume after mourning period for quake victims
05/21/2008 | 06:24 PM
SHANGHAI, China – The Olympic torch resumes its journey through China on Thursday after a three-day period of national mourning for victims of the earthquake that killed more than 40,000 and left millions more homeless.

The torch relay will resume at a container port in eastern China's seaport city of Ningbo, traveling through the city and across the Hangzhou Bay bridge to Jiaxing. Later Thursday is was to be moved by vehicle to the country's commercial center of Shanghai.

So far, the torch has had a smooth relay in mainland China, uninterrupted by the protests over Tibet and human rights that dogged parts of its international tour.

But organizers scaled down the celebratory, triumphant tone of the relay after the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck central China on May 12, flattening entire communities.

The torch relay last stopped in Hangzhou, a scenic city to the west of Ningbo. It was unclear how its route through the rest of China will be adjusted to make up for the three-day suspension this week.

China's leadership has sought to use the Olympics, which begin Aug. 8 in Beijing, to showcase the country's achievements and rally national unity. The torch relay, which has traveled to all corners of the globe and to the top of Mount Everest, has played a crucial role in the buildup to the Games.

Organizers initially resisted changes in the relay, which corporate sponsors have paid millions of dollars to fund.

But public pressure for a moratorium on the event, mainly seen on Chinese-language Web sites and blogs, prompted organizers to adjust details of the relay. Some legs of the run were shortened and donations for victims have been collected along the way.

The torch was to remain in Shanghai on Friday and Saturday, and then travel on to neighboring Jiangsu province. It is due to arrive June 13 in the sprawling Yangtze-river city of Chongqing and enter neighboring Sichuan province, site of the quake's epicenter, two days later.

The torch returns to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days before the opening ceremonies.

During the three-day national mourning period, flags were flying at half-staff and entertainment events have been canceled. Television networks were running only news programs and newspaper mastheads ran in black and white without the usual red highlights.

Authorities have reported more than 40,000 dead, with at least 10,000 more deaths likely, and 32,000 people missing from the disaster. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:10 PM
Women ski jumpers sue to get in Olympics
05/21/2008 | 06:55 PM
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – A group of women ski jumpers are going to court in an attempt to have their sport included in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

A statement of claim will be filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday against the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, Deedee Corradini of the lobbying group Women's Ski Jumping USA told the Canadian Press.

The jumpers are frustrated the International Olympic Committee did not include women's ski jumping on the program for the 2010 Games.

"It will be filed by some of the top women ski jumpers in the world," Corradini, who was mayor of Salt Lake City when it won the right to host the 2002 Winter Games, said in a telephone interview.

Corradini's group is not a plaintiff in the case.

At issue is whether women ski jumpers are being discriminated against by not being allowed to compete at the Games.

Officials with the Vancouver organizing committee declined comment.

The IOC has said its decision not to include women's ski jumping at the Vancouver Games is based on "technical merit" and isn't discriminatory.

The IOC voted in 2006 not to allow women's ski jumping into the 2010 Games, saying the sport has not developed enough and that it didn't meet basic criteria for inclusion.

In order to be considered for inclusion in an Olympic Games, a sport must have held at least two world championships. The first women's ski jumping world championships will be held next year in Liberec, Czech Republic.

The Olympic charter also won't allow new sports to be added within four years of a Games.

Earlier this year Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said because there are so few women ski jumpers in the world, including them in the Games would dilute the medals being handed out to other athletes.

Supporters of women's ski jumpers argue there are 135 women ski jumpers in 16 countries. This compares to other sports already in the Games like snowboard cross, which has 34 women from 10 countries, skier cross, which has 30 women from 11 nations, and bobsled, which has 26 women from 13 nations.

They also say the women's marathon was added to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles after a single world championship in 1983. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:11 PM
Olympic torch relay resumes as mourning period ends for China quake
05/22/2008 | 03:38 PM
BEICHUAN, China – The Olympic torch relay resumed its run through China on Thursday after a three-day national mourning period for quake victims.

The relay, a symbol of the country's hopes for the Beijing Olympics, started with a minute of silence at a container terminal in the eastern seaport city of Ningbo. The torch run has been toned down in the wake of the May 12 quake that killed more than 41,000 people in central Sichuan province.

"Your love is our hope," said the first torchbearer, crane operator Zhu Shijie. "We all must fight the earthquake together."

Beijing Olympics organizers also said in a statement that the relay's Sichuan leg would be delayed "to support the disaster relief efforts." Originally planned for next month, the leg now will take place just before the start of the Aug. 8 games.

The end of the mourning period came after China's leaders moved to contain the political fallout from the deadly earthquake, promising a 70 billion yuan ($10 billion; €6.35 billion) reconstruction fund, reining in the media and trying to keep despair from turning to anger in the disaster zone.

State-run media, which conducted unusually probing reporting in the first days after the quake, have shifted to a more positive tone. Families in at least two towns where schools collapsed, killing their children, have protested or threatened to take local officials to court, suspecting shoddy construction.

Some 5 million people were left homeless, with many still living under shelters of scrap wood and nylon tarps more than 10 days since the disaster.

In Beichuan, the smell of bleach was overpowering as rescue workers in white safety suits sprayed disinfectant in the area. Villagers were picking up medicine from stands set up by the government.

The town's government offices opened Thursday at a hotel in neighboring Anxian county.

"Our previous office buildings collapsed, but our responsibilities, never," Ma Yun, head of the county's administrative office, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The confirmed death toll stood at 41,353, with another 32,666 people missing, according to the Cabinet. The number of children left orphaned was estimated at more than 4,000, according to local authorities.

The World Health Organization said it was sending additional medical supplies and an expert team to China.

The agency will provide equipment to ensure clean drinking water and proper sanitation, which it said was "vital for controlling any outbreak and spread of communicable diseases such as diarrhea." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:11 PM
Construction on London's Olympic Stadium for 2012 begins
05/22/2008 | 06:47 PM
LONDON – Construction of the Olympic Stadium for the 2012 London Games began Thursday in a groundbreaking ceremony attended by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The work to create the permanent foundations for the stadium in the Olympic Park in the East End of London coincided with the final day of a three-day visit by International Olympic Committee officials monitoring preparations for the games.

Work on the 80,0000-seat showpiece venue began three months ahead of schedule.

"The early start to building work on the Olympic Park site is good news, taking us another step closer to 2012 and the regeneration of one of the country's most deprived areas," Brown said. "I have no doubt that the construction of the new permanent venues, infrastructure and transport links within the largest new urban park to be created in Europe for 150 years will be a catalyst for lasting social and economic change in east London."

The 496-million-pound ($980 million; €622 million) Olympic Stadium will include permanent seating for 25,000 spectators, with the remaining 55,000 seats in a temporary structure at the top. The stadium covers 40 acres (16.2 hectares).

After the Olympics, the stadium will be converted to a 25,000-seat arena for track and field.

Preparatory work on the stadium has involved lowering ground levels by nine meters (30 feet) to create the area for the athletics track and permanent lower tiers of seating.

"Over the next year the Olympic Stadium structure will begin to emerge from the ground," Olympic Delivery Authority chairman John Armitt said. "It is great news that we can make an early start but this is a project with an immovable deadline so we know there are big challenges ahead."

The first phase of construction involves reinforcing the foundations of the stadium with 4,000 concrete columns. By the end of the year, floor slabs will be laid for the base of the stadium bowl and the lower tier structures and the columns that support the pedestrian concourse level will be built.

Early in 2009, the erection of the steel structures that will support the roof will begin. The stadium is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

"There is still a lot of work to be done and many challenges to come," Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said. "But I am delighted with what has been achieved so far and, as we prepare for Beijing, it is immensely reassuring to know that preparations for our games are on time and on track." - AP
Arroyo leaves for China for Beijing Olympics

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:12 PM
Ticketmaster boss predicts all Olympic tickets will be sold
05/23/2008 | 06:59 PM
SHANGHAI, China – Every event in every venue for the Beijing Olympics will be sold, Ticketmaster's president for China forecast Friday.

"We predict that this will be the first Olympics that it's a 'sold out' Olympics," Jonathan Krane, whose company is the official ticketing provider and sponsor for August's games, said in an interview.

Krane was confident that all 6.8 million Olympics tickets would be sold, although he would not say exactly when.

"It's very close," said Krane, who became president of Ticketmaster China last year after it acquired Emma Entertainment, a China-based ticketing and promotions company he set up in 2004.

"Certain events are always sold out during the Olympics, but to have every event sold out, that's something that's very positive and it doesn't always happen," he added.

Ticket sales for past Olympics varied widely.

Some sports, like basketball, had been surefire sellers. Others, like modern pentathlon and team handball, less so.

"You have so many events and all these different huge stadiums, lots of different venues with a lot of different events, there's a lot of tickets," said Krane, who later in the day ran a leg of the Olympic torch relay in Shanghai.

The 2004 Athens Olympics sold only about two-thirds of 5.3 million tickets available. There were many empty seats.

The sales potential for China is strong due to its population of 1.3 billion people and the relative novelty of hosting a large international event. There's also a strong black market for tickets, though that problem is not unique to Beijing.

Earlier this month, Olympic organizers announced that all domestic-sale tickets for events in Beijing were completely sold out. Tickets for some events in other cities, such as soccer tournaments in Shanghai and equestrian events in Hong Kong, were still available.

Beijing's Olympics ticketing got off to a rocky start last fall when the computer system meant to handle it crashed, forcing organizers to revert to a lottery system. Organizers reported 27 million hits in a one-hour period during the last round of online domestic ticketing, but the system held up.

Overall, there will be about 9 million tickets for the Beijing Olympics, but a large chunk is set aside for the International Olympic Committee, sponsors, dignitaries and broadcasters – cutting the total available to the public.

After test events at some sites, the 7.2 million tickets originally planned for public sale was scaled back to 6.8 million. The Beijing organizing committee, known as BOCOG, said some tickets will likely be available at ticket booths around sports venues during the Games.

Olympic sponsorships have been a mixed bag for some companies, with a huge potential market of growing wealth countered by controversies over China's human rights policies, its handling of protests in Tibet and its dealings with Sudan. But Ticketmaster sees its involvement as "a huge success," Krane said.

"Having this look like the first sold out Olympics ever, it's a very positive experience for everybody," he said.

The Olympics sponsorship was the first major move into China for Ticketmaster, a unit of Internet conglomerate IAC that is due to be spun off from the company later this year.

West Hollywood, California-based Ticketmaster bought a controlling stake in Emma Entertainment in April 2007, hoping to tap into its niche in promoting international concert performers.

The Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Kenny G are among the entertainers Emma has brought to China.

Given difficulties with music piracy, live touring has become a big part of the income for many entertainers, Krane noted.

"What China represents is a new market, an emerging market that they can develop," he said. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:13 PM
UN helping China curb threat of 'dirty bomb' at Beijing Olympics
05/23/2008 | 07:01 PM
VIENNA, Austria – The UN nuclear agency said Friday it is helping China minimize the threat of a terrorist targeting the Beijing Olympics with a radiological "dirty bomb," although officials stressed they have no intelligence pointing to such an attack.

Anita Nilsson, head of nuclear security for the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said agency experts were assisting the Chinese authorities with simulated exercises designed to test their response.

Over the past 18 months, IAEA teams have overseen simulations that included a bogus attempt to smuggle a small radioactive device into an Olympics venue, and the abandonment in a restaurant of a package purportedly containing radioactive isotopes, Nilsson said.

Peter Colgan, one of her deputies, said the exercises went "very well." The Chinese will use small, discreet radiation detectors at the Olympic venues, he said.

Colgan said the IAEA has held eight training courses with China's nuclear safety agency, including sessions on how to track missing radioactive materials. China has both atomic energy reactors and a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Nilsson said the IAEA is unaware of any intelligence suggesting terrorists are preparing to strike the Aug. 8-24 games – but she said the international community could take no chances because large spectator events such as the Olympics always are potential targets.

"We can't afford not to take precautions," she told reporters. "It's necessary to do as much as possible to have good, secure games."

She declined to say how well-prepared the IAEA thinks China is in handling such a threat.

A dirty bomb would use conventional explosives to spread radioactive material across an urban area. Experts warn that even a device that released a small amount of low-level material could have significant psychological impact and pose serious economic consequences because of cleanup problems.

The IAEA helped Greece minimize the chances of a similar threat at the 2004 Athens Olympics – the first games held after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

The UN nuclear watchdog agency also helped Germany tighten security during the 2006 soccer World Cup, and its experts worked with Brazil during last summer's Pan American Games.

After the 9/11 attacks, the IAEA scrambled to improve its efforts to help member states tighten security around nuclear and other radioactive materials. "The overarching goal is to make it very difficult for a perpetrator to steal them," Nilsson said.

Despite the warnings, there have been no dirty bomb attacks, prompting skeptics to question whether assembling such a weapon is as easy as experts suggest it is.

But the IAEA said the Chinese – and the rest of the world – need to become more vigilant as threats evolve.

"It's like an airplane full of petrol flying into a building," Colgan said. "The threat was always there. It's just that no one really thought about it" until after the 9/11 attacks. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:13 PM
Powell, Gay to go head-to-head at London GP 2 weeks before Olympics
05/23/2008 | 08:35 PM
LONDON – World 100 meter record holder Asafa Powell will race world champion Tyson Gay at the London Grand Prix meet in July, two weeks before the Beijing Olympics.

The July 25-26 meet at Crystal Palace stadium, which is also set to feature Olympic pole vault champion and world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, will likely be the sprinters' only head-to-head before the 100 meter final in Beijing on August 16.

"He has the title of being the world record holder and I have the title of being the world champion," Gay said. "If I run back-to-back rounds in London that will catapult me to the Olympics, so I am really looking to run fast times in London."

Powell ran the 100 meters in 9.74 seconds last year to break the record.

Gay beat Powell to win last year's World Championships in Osaka, Japan, with the Jamaican runner finishing third behind the Bahamas' Derrick Atkins – apparently giving up when he realized he was out of contention for the gold medal.

The winner of the 100 meters will win 25,000 pounds ($49,527; €31,436), with 360 athletes from 35 nations expected to attend.

UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos said Friday it was the "strongest grand prix lineup ever seen in the UK."

British sprinters Marlon Devonish and Craig Pickering are also using the event as part of their preparations for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:14 PM
China launches 2nd Olympic weather satellite
05/27/2008 | 04:29 PM
BEIJING – China launched a weather forecasting satellite Tuesday to help predict weather for the Summer Olympics and earthquake recovery work.

The Fengyun-3 was launched on a Long March-4C rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province, the China Meteorological Administration said. The satellite entered its preset orbit 20 minutes later, the administration said in a notice on its Web site.

The new-generation satellite includes three-dimensional sensors that can monitor the Earth's atmosphere and climate. It can also monitor the oceans and polar caps, it said.

It will help China prevent natural disasters and respond to climate change, the notice said.

The 2,295-kilogram (5,060-pound) satellite will help weather officials make more accurate forecasts during the Olympic Games in August. It will also help predict weather during the reconstruction of areas hit by the May 12 earthquake.

China is worried that rain – August is a damp month in Beijing – might ruin the opening night of the Olympics on August 8.

China last launched a weather-forecasting satellite in December 2006, which will also help predict weather for the Olympics.

China's space program is an immense source of national pride, and the country hopes it will help spur the development of commercial satellites. So far, China has been left out of the Western satellite telecommunications market as U.S. rules governing the export of satellite components bars China from using them.

The China Meteorological Administration said the equipment on the satellite launched Tuesday was the same standard as American and European satellites, or in some cases better.

China has a spacewalk scheduled for the second half of 2008 – when Chinese astronauts will leave their spacecraft for the first time. Xinhua reported earlier this year the spacewalk would be broadcast live.

China also sent an unmanned space ship to orbit the moon last year, the first step in a three-stage lunar exploration project. A manned lunar voyage is planned for some time after 2017. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:15 PM
Swiss star Viktor Roethlin selected to run Olympic marathon
05/27/2008 | 10:22 PM
BERN, Switzerland – Viktor Roethlin was picked to run the marathon at the Beijing Games by Swiss Olympic selectors on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Roethlin, who won a World Championships bronze in Osaka, Japan, last August and a silver at the 2006 Europeans in Goteborg, Sweden, will be going to his third games at the Aug. 8-24 event.

He ran 2 hours, 7 minutes, 23 seconds to win the Tokyo Marathon in February for his best time this year.

Haile Gebreselassie clocked 2:04:26 to win in Dubai in January and set the fastest time in 2008. The Ethiopian also holds the world record of 2:04:26.

Gebreselassie will run the 10,000 meters rather than the marathon in Beijing because of concern that its poor air quality may harm his health. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:15 PM
Many hotel rooms still vacant for Beijing Olympics
05/28/2008 | 02:43 PM
BEIJING - There are still plenty of hotel rooms available for the Beijing Olympics.

The crunch that was predicted doesn't seem to be happening, said Zhang Huiguang, the director of Beijing's Tourism Bureau. She said Wednesday that about 500,000 foreigners were expected for the games, a figure Beijing officials have long been predicting.

Only 77 percent of capacity at Beijing's five-star hotels have been booked during the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games, and the four-star hotel rate is only 44 percent, she said. And it's even lower for three- and two-stars, she added.

One reason could be China's crack down on visa procedures, targeting students and others on short-term stays who might be activists intent on protesting during the Olympics.

Second, prices are rising, Zhang said. Five-star prices are up 2.6 times on a year ago, and four-star hotels have risen 3.6 times. She said the average five-star hotel ranged between 3,840-7,910 yuan ($553-$1,139; €352-€724).

She said the average for four-star hotels was 2,226 yuan ($320; €204).

"The hotel price is rising, the transportation fee is rising, so many will not choose to come during this period," she acknowledged.

Zhang was confident those who did come would find Beijing to be safe.

"This year so many things have happened in China," she said. "But I can assure you that Chinese authorities can guarantee the safety of the tourists, of the city and of the games. Beijingers will enthusiastically welcome foreign tourists."

" But for terrorists and troublemakers, " she added. "We'll unite and fight against them." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:16 PM
Aussie swimmer D'Arcy fails in appeal to be reinstated for Beijing Games
05/28/2008 | 05:53 PM
SYDNEY, Australia – Nick D'Arcy's last remaining chance to go to the Beijing Olympics rests with the very group that first ejected him from the Australian swim team because of a bar fight.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates kicked D'Arcy off the team last month for bringing the sport, and the team, into disrepute for his part in an altercation with Commonwealth Games gold medalist Simon Cowley on March 30.

On Wednesday, 20-year-old D'Arcy lost his appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in which he sought to overturn the ban.

A three-member CAS panel found D'Arcy had not observed "the provisions of the AOC ethical behavior bylaw" but that Coates alone should not have enforced the exclusion.

Henric Nicholas, president of the CAS panel, found that D'Arcy "did not meet the conditions of clause 2(8) of the membership agreement between himself and the Australian Olympic Committee."

CAS referred the matter back to the 15-member AOC board, which is likely to uphold Coates' decision to exclude D'Arcy from the Beijing team. A board meeting will be held next week to discuss D'Arcy's case.

D'Arcy, who won the 200-meter butterfly at the Australian trials, said he would keep training as he still held out hope of going to Beijing.

"I would say I'm a slim chance of going now," he said. "Even if there is still that slim chance I'm still going to keep training. Even if that slim chance gets up I still want to be in the best shape."

Coates said little to suggest that the AOC might change its decision.

"Membership of the (Australian) team is a privilege and the standards expected of our athletes is extremely high because of the public reputation which has been established and maintained over many years," Coates said in a statement.

"I will ensure that the AOC moves now as quickly as possible to deal with the question of termination of Nick D'Arcy's membership to the team."

D'Arcy still faces a criminal charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm on Cowley and is due to face court June 17.

The charge stems from an altercation between the pair at a Sydney bar just hours after D'Arcy was announced as part of Australia's swimming team for the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games.

Cowley sustained a broken jaw, broken nose, fractured eye socket, crushed cheekbone, and fractured palate in the incident. - AP

pio_valenz
08-08-2008, 06:16 PM
Harry Tanamor has drawn Manyo Plange of Ghana as his first-round opponent. Their bout is scheduled for Aug. 13 at 8:30 PM (Beijing and Manila are in the same timezone).

http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRM/ENG/INF/BX/C75/BXM048000.shtml#BXM048501

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:18 PM
Harry Tanamor has drawn Manyo Plange of Ghana as his first-round opponent. Their bout is scheduled for Aug. 13 at 8:30 PM (Beijing and Manila are in the same timezone).

http://results.beijing2008.cn/WRM/ENG/INF/BX/C75/BXM048000.shtml#BXM048501


thanks for this sir.

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:40 PM
Liu Xiang prepares for pressure of Beijing Olympics
05/29/2008 | 04:55 PM
NEW YORK – Tourists riding the escalator at the Empire State Building craned their necks to see what the commotion was about. A throng of photographers and TV cameras surrounded a man in a shimmery gold warmup jacket.

And most of the curious passers-by – at least the Americans among them – probably wondered who this guy was.

Not being recognized will not be a problem for Liu Xiang at the Beijing Olympics. The reigning gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles is not only one of China's most popular athletes but one of its biggest celebrities.

On home soil, in one of the marquee sports, his smooth strides and leaps could lift his country to Olympic glory.

"They all expect him to get a gold medal. That's huge pressure on him," said Feng Shuyong, the Chinese national team coach. "At the same time, it's very big encouragement for him."

Hundreds of Chinese reporters mobbed Liu after his first race last week at the Bird's Nest stadium, which will serve as the Olympic track venue. In an area designed to let reporters talk with athletes, Liu climbed over several barriers to escape waiting journalists.

Liu is set to compete in the Reebok Grand Prix on Saturday in New York, one of just two more planned races before the Beijing Games begin in August. He looked relaxed mugging for the cameras and fielding questions Wednesday as he promoted the meet with an appearance at the iconic building.

"I don't see the Olympic race as defending my championship," Liu said through a translator. "I'm just there to enjoy the race and do my best."

The reigning world record-holder gave more stock answers about considering the other hurdlers his friends, how the competition is with himself.

"I see myself as an average person," Liu said, "and I try to do my best and do my job."

Before anybody could roll their eyes, he acknowledged the public modesty was a defense mechanism of sorts, a means to block out the public expectation.

"I have to do that. I have to be calm to be able to face the pressure," Liu said. "I don't see myself as a superstar. That's how I deal with it."

That approach came as advice from the one man who can appreciate the challenges Liu faces: NBA star Yao Ming, the only athlete whose popularity rivals Liu's in China.

"He just told me to treat it like everyday life," Liu said.

Liu said he's not working on any specific mental preparation; that "everyday life" provides the experience he needs.

"I feel like I'm my best therapist," Liu said.

He can joke about the changes that have rippled through his everyday life since he became the first Chinese man to win gold in track and field. Asked if his training is different than it was leading up to the Athens Games, Liu smiled as he said, "The difference is nobody really paid attention to me before Athens. Now people are really focused on me."

On other ways his world has changed: "I make a lot more money than I did four years ago."

Liu is insulated from the distractions of his celebrity by living at China's National Training Center, Feng said. That's not always a good thing from the 24-year-old's perspective, the coach conceded.

"He hopes to be like a normal person," Feng said. "But a normal life is difficult."

He has typical 20-something interests, according to Feng: golf, snooker, bowling, computers, music. Asked which athlete in another sport he admires, Liu mimicked shooting a basketball as he said, "Michael Jordan."

Liu plans to compete through the 2012 Olympics. He'd like to go into social work once he retires from running.

But for now all the focus is on his preparations for the 2008 Games. Liu will race against a strong field Saturday that includes two-time Olympic and World Championship silver medalist Terrence Trammell. The meet takes place at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island, east of upper Manhattan.

Liu then plans to run at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, on June 8. He said those competitions should be enough preparation for the Olympics. Beyond that, he puts his faith in the workouts of his personal coach, Sun Haiping. Sun said they are paying particular attention to improving his starts.

"I still don't know what makes me so fast and so successful," Liu said. "I know that when I see a hurdle in front of me, I just go tackle it." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:41 PM
Olympic manual revised due to 'inappropriate language' about disabled
05/29/2008 | 05:19 PM
BEIJING – Instructions for thousands of volunteers working at the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics have been pulled from the games' official Web site and are being revised because of "inappropriate language" used to describe disabled athletes.

About 20 pages from the 200-page English-language document were unavailable online Thursday following complaints about clumsy stereotypes used to describe the disabled.

Zhang Qiuping, director of Beijing's Paralympic Games, did not offer an apology and attributed the problems to poor translation.

"Probably it's cultural difference and mistranslation," Zhang said Thursday.

"The training department and volunteer department made this training guide with the purpose of providing better service," Zhang added. "For the problems ... that the guide used inappropriate language to describe people with disabilities, we've already asked the author to modify the relevant content."

The Chinese-language version of the text remained online and was nearly identical to the English, using essentially the same stereotypes to refer to the disabled.

It says that "paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique personalities and ways of thinking."

To handle the "Optically Disabled," the guide offers the following: "Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions. ... Remember, when you communicate with optically disabled people, try not to use the world 'blind' when you meet for the first time."

On the "Physically Disabled," the guide suggests: "Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanisms from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability.

"For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called 'crippled' or 'paralyzed'."

The guide says volunteers should "not fuss or show unusual curiosity, and never stare at their disfigurement." It also advises volunteer to steer away from words like "cripple or lame, even if you are just joking."

China's communist government and Beijing organizers, conscious of the country's image during the Olympics, have been conducting sweeping campaigns to get citizens to wait patiently in line, stop spitting and improve their driving habits.

The volunteer manual is also loaded with behavior tips, reminding that "volunteers are ambassadors ... and will mirror and reflect China." The manual gives volunteers detailed suggesting on shaking hands, sitting, standing, and handling emergencies.

On shaking hands, the manual say: "Stretch forward the right arm naturally with a 60-degree angle between the body and arm. Palm should be up ... thumb is separated from the other four fingers; naturally hold the other's hand slightly for 3-5 seconds."

About 1 million people have applied to work as official volunteers. About 70,000 will be used during the Aug. 8-24 Olympics, with 30,000 more being trained for the Sept. 6-17 Paralympic Games. Many others will work in unofficial capacities as guides at the city's bus stops and subway stations. All told, volunteers are expected to outnumber the 500,000 foreign visitors expected for the Olympics. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:42 PM
Aussie swimmer D'Arcy fails in appeal to be reinstated for Beijing Games
05/29/2008 | 05:50 PM
SYDNEY, Australia – Nick D'Arcy's last remaining chance to go to the Beijing Olympics rests with the very group that first ejected him from the Australian swim team because of a bar fight.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates kicked D'Arcy off the team last month for bringing the sport, and the team, into disrepute for his part in an altercation with Commonwealth Games gold medalist Simon Cowley on March 30.

On Wednesday, 20-year-old D'Arcy lost his appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in which he sought to overturn the ban.

A three-member CAS panel found D'Arcy had not observed "the provisions of the AOC ethical behavior bylaw" but that Coates alone should not have enforced the exclusion.

Henric Nicholas, president of the CAS panel, found that D'Arcy "did not meet the conditions of clause 2(8) of the membership agreement between himself and the Australian Olympic Committee."

CAS referred the matter back to the 15-member AOC board, which is likely to uphold Coates' decision to exclude D'Arcy from the Beijing team. A board meeting will be held next week to discuss D'Arcy's case.

If the AOC board rules against D'Arcy, his legal team said Thursday it was possible that the swimmer might again lodge an appeal with the CAS because the first decision to expel D'Arcy was made by Coates alone and the second by the AOC board.

D'Arcy, who won the 200-meter butterfly at the Australian trials, said he would keep training as he still held out hope of going to Beijing.

"I would say I'm a slim chance of going now," he said. "Even if there is still that slim chance I'm still going to keep training. Even if that slim chance gets up I still want to be in the best shape."

Coates said little to suggest that the AOC might change its decision.

"Membership of the (Australian) team is a privilege and the standards expected of our athletes is extremely high because of the public reputation which has been established and maintained over many years," Coates said in a statement.

"I will ensure that the AOC moves now as quickly as possible to deal with the question of termination of Nick D'Arcy's membership to the team."

D'Arcy still faces a criminal charge of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm on Cowley and is due to face court June 17.

The charge stems from an altercation between the pair at a Sydney bar just hours after D'Arcy was announced as part of Australia's swimming team for the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games.

Cowley sustained a broken jaw, broken nose, fractured eye socket, crushed cheekbone and fractured palate in the incident. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:44 PM
Real race to win 2016 Olympics bid set to begin
05/30/2008 | 08:00 PM
CHICAGO – The real race for the 2016 Olympic Games is about to begin.

On Wednesday, the International Olympic Committee will whittle the list of seven applicant cities down to an unspecified number of finalists that can continue their efforts to win the games.

Organizers in Chicago are confident the IOC will determine they can clear that hurdle, which boils down to whether the city has the technical ability to host an Olympic Games.

After that comes the hard work: convincing IOC members that Chicago is the best site for the games.

"We all become much more focused," said Doug Arnot, the operations chief for the city's 2016 bid. "The analogy we've drawn is we've been playing in the regular season and now we're going into the playoffs."

It would be a stunning development if Chicago is not among the three, four or five finalists that officials believe will be left competing for the games. A big reason is that Chicago has already answered the kind of technical questions about issues such as transportation, accommodations, convention space and infrastructure just to get this far.

"We do feel confident we will advance based upon the rigorous evaluation we did as a national Olympic committee by the U.S Olympic Committee to choose the city of Chicago," said USOC vice president Bob Ctvrtlik in a conference call with reporters.

Ctvrtlik and Arnot are not concerned about where Chicago is ranked among those cities that make this cut. They pointed out that the top-ranked city at this point in the competition rarely, if ever, is ultimately awarded the games – including Madrid, which finished in the top spot for the 2012 games that were ultimately awarded to London.

All that matters, Ctvrtlik and Arnot said, is moving on.

Ctvrtlik said that when the final decision will be much more subjective, more emotional, and Chicago will make a strong argument.

"This city and the concept of having an Olympics in the center of the city, with access to the cultural institutions and the night life and the wonderful restaurants and the vibrancy of the city, that's a unique proposition that really hasn't been seen by the Olympic movement in a long time," he said. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:45 PM
Beijing organizers apologize for language in volunteer guide
06/02/2008 | 03:41 PM
BEIJING – Beijing Olympic organizers have issued an apology for the language used to describe disabled athletes in a manual compiled for thousands of volunteers.

Wording in the English-language document used clumsy stereotypes in reference to the disabled. Zhang Qiuping, director of Beijing's Paralympic Games, said last week it was a problem of "poor translation." However, the Chinese-language version contained many of the same stereotypes.

"We would like to express our deepest apologies to those organizations, athletes with disabilities and friends who were offended by our publication," the organizing committee said Monday in a statement.

The statement said the booklet had been recalled and was being rewritten.

The 200-page volunteer manual offers guidance for volunteers in areas ranging from serving the disabled to basic rules. About 70,000 volunteers will work on the Aug. 8-24 Olympics and 30,000 more will serve during the Paralympic Games on Sept. 6-17.

A section dedicated to the disabled said that "paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique personalities and ways of thinking."

To handle the "Optically Disabled," the guide said: "Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions. ... Remember, when you communicate with optically disabled people, try not to use the world 'blind' when you meet for the first time."

On the "Physically Disabled," the guide said: "Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization and thinking mechanisms from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability.

"For example, some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called 'crippled' or 'paralyzed.'"

The guide said volunteers should "not fuss or show unusual curiosity, and never stare at their disfigurement." It also advised volunteer to steer away from words like "cripple or lame, even if you are just joking." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:45 PM
Foreigners told to behave at Beijing Olympics – or else
06/02/2008 | 07:03 PM
BEIJING (AP) – Foreigners attending the Beijing Olympics better behave – or else.

The Beijing Olympic organizing committee issued a stern, nine-page document – covering 57 topics – on Monday. Written only in Chinese and posted of the organizers' official Web site, the guide covers everything from a ban on sleeping outdoors to the need for government permission to stage a protest.

The document, not immediately available in English, also said having Olympic tickets is no guarantee of getting a visa to enter China.

"Those holding Olympic tickets are not guaranteed of being granted a visa," the guide said. "They still need to visit China embassies and consulates and apply for visas according to the related rules."

Fearing protests during the Aug. 8-24 Olympics, China's authoritarian government has tightened controls on visas and residence permits for foreigners. It has also promised a massive security presence at the games, which may include undercover agents dressed as volunteers.

The government is hoping to keep out activists and students who might stage pro-Tibet rallies that would be broadcast around the world. It also fears protests over China's oil and arms trade with Sudan, and any disquiet from predominantly Muslim regions in western China.

"In order to hold any public gathering, parade or protest the organizer must apply with the local police authorities. No such activity can be held unless a permit is given. ... Any illegal gatherings, parades and protests and refusal to comply are subject to administrative punishments or criminal prosecution."

The document also warns against the display of insulting slogans or banners at any sporting venue. It also forbids any religious or political banner in an Olympic venue "that disturbs the public order."

The guidelines seems to clash with a pledge made two month ago by International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, who said athletes could exercise freedom of speech in China. He asked only that athletes refrain from making political statements at certain official Olympics venues.

"Freedom of expression is something that is absolute," Rogge said in Beijing in April. "It's a human right. Athletes have it."

The highly detailed document is entitled: "A guide to Chinese law for Foreigners coming to, leaving or staying in China during the Olympics." This appears under the slogan of the Beijing Olympics: "One World, One Dream."

For months Chinese authorities denied there had been any change to visa regulations, but recently acknowledged that rules had been amended. The changes may have little affect on some of the 500,000 foreigners expected to visit for the Olympics, many of whom will come on package tours with visas already arranged.

The rules published Monday say entry will be denied to those "who might conduct acts of terrorism, violence and government subversion ... and those who might engage in activities endangering China's national security and national interest."

The rules also bar entry to smugglers, drug traffickers, prostitutes and those with "mental diseases" or contagious conditions.

The document also warns foreigners that not all areas of the country are open to visitors. One such area is Tibet, which is also off limits to journalists.

"Not all of China is open to foreigners, and they shall not go to any venue not open to them," the statement said.

The guide also spells out a long list of items that cannot be brought into the country including weapons, imitation weapons, ammunition, explosives, counterfeit currency, drugs and poisons. It also prohibits the entry of materials "that are harmful to China's politics, economics, culture and morals".

Foreigners staying with Chinese residents in urban areas must register at a local police station within 24 hours of arriving. The limit in rural areas is 72 hours.

The guide also threatens criminal prosecution against anyone "who burns, defaces ... insults or tramps on the national flag or insignia."

For those planning on sleeping outdoors to save a little money – forget it. This is banned in order to "maintain public hygiene and the cultured image of the cities." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:46 PM
China vows to fight 'ambush advertising' at Olympic Games
06/03/2008 | 05:13 PM
BEIJING – Beijing has promised to fight "ambush advertising" that threaten official sponsors of the Olympic Games, saying organized groups of spectators wearing competing brand logos would not be allowed.

McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and other sponsors paid tens of millions of dollars to link their names with the Beijing Olympics. So-called "ambush" marketers try to use the publicity surrounding the games to promote their products without paying for the right.

At a news conference Tuesday, Chen Feng, deputy director of marketing department for the Beijing organizers, said companies will be monitored for illegal advertising and "serious action" will be taken against violators.

He said companies that use Olympic symbols without authorization could be fined or referred to higher authorities. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:47 PM
'Shocked' runner to return relay gold due to doping testimony
06/03/2008 | 08:34 PM
LONDON – Olympic great Michael Johnson says he was "shocked" by former teammate Antonio Pettigrew's doping admission and will return the gold medal the two of them helped the United States win in the 1,600-meter relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

"As difficult as it is, I will be returning it to the International Olympic Committee because I don't want it," Johnson wrote in a column in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph. "I feel cheated, betrayed and let down."

Pettigrew testified on May 22 at the trial of disgraced athletics coach Trevor Graham in San Francisco that he had used banned performance enhancing drugs throughout his long career. The testimony had been described earlier in the trial.

"The news that Antonio was scheduled to testify to having taken performance-enhancing drugs shocked me like no other drug-related story," Johnson wrote. "...He was someone I considered a friend."

The gold medal is one of five Johnson won in his standout career. He still holds the world record in the 200 and 400 meters. Pettigrew's testimony means that three of the four runners in the finals on the US relay team have been tainted by doping.

Twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison both were suspended for doping violations. Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 after admitting he used performance enhancers. Calvin Harrison tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2003 and was suspended for two years. Like Pettigrew, they were coached by Graham.

Earlier, Johnson had refused to give up the medal after it was revealed that another US relay teammate, Jerome Young, had tested positive in 1999. Young, it was later ruled by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, had been wrongly cleared by US officials to compete. He ran only in a preliminary round, and the athletes won an appeal to keep the medals.

During the Young controversy, Johnson wrote, he had spoken with Pettigrew and both agreed they should fight giving up the medal.

"I look back on those conversations now and am amazed that he could talk to me about this knowing all along that he was guilty and that the medal was tainted anyway," Johnson wrote.

Johnson said he is "deeply disappointed in Antonio and in the sport of athletics. I now realize that there have been a significant number of athletes and coaches in this sport who have cheated and taken the short cut, and many of them knew who else was cheating."

Johnson talked about his past rigorous defense of the sport against a media that he felt overemphasized doping and virtually ignored the true accomplishments of the athletes.

"But now," he wrote, "I feel that I have been naive."

Johnson did not return a telephone message left at his office. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:48 PM
How many cities will make IOC shortlist in bidding for 2016 Olympics?
06/03/2008 | 11:49 PM
ATHENS, Greece – Just two months before the Beijing Games, the IOC is turning its attention to the Olympics eight years away.

The International Olympic Committee executive board will pick a shortlist of finalists Wednesday in the race for the 2016 Summer Games. The big question is how many: three, four or five?

With seven cities in the running, the board is expected to whittle the field to a maximum of five or minimum of three candidates.

"I would think four or five," IOC executive board member Gerhard Heiberg told The Associated Press.

Fairly certain of making the cut are the big four – Chicago; Madrid, Spain; Tokyo; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Expected to be eliminated are Prague, Czech Republic, and Baku, Azerbaijan.

The main issue is whether Doha, Qatar, will advance to the final stage.

Wednesday's decision will kickstart a high-profile bidding contest that will end on Oct. 2, 2009, when the full IOC votes by secret ballot at its session in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"I look at it as, 'This is it. It's a sprint from June 4 until October 2009,'" Chicago bid leader Patrick Ryan said in an interview Tuesday. 'We're feeling a bit like everyone else – cautious, uncertain and hopeful. We're going into this assuming nothing. We just hope we'll be honored to be on the shortlist."

The 2016 race shapes up as a tight battle between strong candidates from the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Chicago is a contender to take the summer games back to the US for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Madrid is back again after a third-place finish in the vote for the 2012 Olympics, which went to London.

Tokyo, which held the games in 1964, hopes to bring the Olympics to Asia eight years after Beijing. And Rio, which hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, would be the first South American city to get the Olympics.

Doha, capital of a tiny but wealthy Arab Gulf country of about 1 million people, looms as the wild card as it seeks to bring the games to the Middle East for the first time. It cites its hosting of the 2006 Asian Games as evidence that it can handle the Olympics. Due to Qatar's searing summer heat, Doha proposes holding the games in October, outside the IOC's preferred time frame of July or August.

"Our bid is a strong bid," Doha bid leader Hassan Ali Bin Ali said last month in Qatar. "We have 70, 75 percent of our venues ready for the Olympics."

Some rival bid officials are worried that if Doha makes the shortlist, the city – while a longshot to win – would have the capacity to take away crucial votes in the early rounds of voting.

Ryan, for one, says it doesn't matter how many cities are in the final mix.

"Everybody has an opinion on that," he said. "What I hear is three, four or five, and hear arguments for each one of those numbers. If I'm guessing, I would say five. But what's most important is we stick to Chicago's plan. We're not looking at the number of candidates, just maximizing Chicago's potential."

The 2016 cutoff is the centerpiece of a three-day IOC board meeting in Athens, the last before the committee gathers in Beijing on the eve of the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

The board will review preparations for Beijing, which were not directly affected by the May 12 earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people.

Also on the agenda is the possible suspension of Iraq's national Olympic committee.

The Iraqi government ordered the dissolution of the national body on May 20. It claimed the committee was illegitimate because it could not reach a quorum since four of its 11 members, including chairman Ahmed al-Hijija, were kidnapped in Baghdad in 2006. There has been no word on their fates.

The IOC denounced the order as "serious interference" in an independent body and demanded the government respect the Iraqi committee's autonomy.

Even if the Iraq body is suspended, the IOC may consider allowing any Iraqi athletes who qualify for Beijing to compete in the games under the Olympic flag.

Also likely to be discussed are the latest developments in the BALCO steroid case, including the admission in court by American sprinter Antonio Pettigrew that he used performance-enhancing drugs. His admission could lead the IOC to strip the entire U.S. team of the 1,600-meter relay gold from the 2000 Sydney Games.

Michael Johnson, who ran the anchor leg for his fifth career gold, said Tuesday he is returning his medal to the IOC because of Pettigrew's confession.

"I feel cheated, betrayed and let down," he wrote in a column in Britain's Daily Telegraph.

The US relay team also included twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison, who were both later suspended for doping violations, and Jerome Young, who was later banned for life for doping offenses.

IOC executive board member Denis Oswald said the committee will wait to receive the official court documents before taking any action to strip the team.

Oswald also said no decision is expected in Athens on reallocating the five Sydney medals stripped from Marion Jones following her doping admission last year.

Still undecided is whether to give the 100-meter gold to Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, who finished second behind Jones and was banned for two years after missing doping tests before the 2004 Athens Games. Leaving the gold medal spot vacant remains a possibility. - AP
Arroyo leaves for China for Beijing Olympics

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:49 PM
Sydney relay champ agrees to give back Olympic gold medal
06/04/2008 | 03:28 PM
DENVER – Former US sprinter Antonio Pettigrew will return the Olympic relay gold medal he won in 2000 after admitting to doping during the Sydney Games.

During last month's trial involving former athletics coach Trevor Graham, Pettigrew came clean about using EPO and human growth hormone from 1997 to 2003. Graham was found guilty of lying to federal investigators about his relationship to a steroids dealer.

Pettigrew's decision to give up the gold for the 4x400-meter relay was expected, considering his testimony in the Graham trial.

After brief negotiations with the US Anti-Doping Agency, the agreement was made public. Pettigrew gave back the medal and all the other prizes he'd earned since 1997, including world championships in the 4x400 relays in 1997 and 1999.

The 40-year-old assistant track coach at University of North Carolina also accepted a two-year ban from athletics, though that point is largely symbolic given his age. He retired from track in 2002.

Pettigrew's decision came a day after one of his relay teammates at the Sydney Olympics, Michael Johnson, said he would voluntarily give his medal back in the wake of Pettigrew's testimony.

"I feel cheated, betrayed and let down," Johnson wrote in a column in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph.

IOC officials said they will seek official verification of Pettigrew's admission and wait for the International Association of Athletics Federations to nullify the US gold medal result. After that, the IOC could officially disqualify the team and strip all the medals.

The IOC would then also consider whether to upgrade the Nigerian team, which finished second, to the gold medal. Jamaica is in line to be bumped up to silver and the Bahamas to bronze.

"Disqualifation of those who have admitted (doping) is one thing," IOC vice president Thomas Bach said in Athens, Greece. "Redistribution of medals to other people is another issue."

The IOC must act soon to get within the eight-year statute of limitations rule. The Sydney Olympics started on Oct. 1, 2000.

Pettigrew's testimony means that three of the four runners from the US relay team in the 2000 Olympic finals have been tainted by drugs.

Twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison both were suspended for doping violations. Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 after admitting he used performance enhancers. Calvin Harrison tested positive for a banned stimulant in 2003 and was suspended for two years. Like Pettigrew, they were coached by Graham.

During testimony in the Graham trial, Pettigrew said that once he started taking banned substances, he was able to run 400 meters in the 43-second range for the first time.

"I was running incredible times as I was preparing for track meets," he said. "I was able to recover faster."

The International Olympic Committee tried several years ago to strip the team of their gold medals after teammate Jerome Young, who did not run in the finals, tested positive for doping and was banned for life. But a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport said the entire team should not be disqualified, and Pettigrew was allowed to keep his medal.

Now, that medal is being given back, and so are all the other prizes and awards Pettigrew won over the six-year span during which he admitted to using banned substances. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:49 PM
Olympics dominates scene at Beijing's Tiananmen Square on crackdown anniversary
06/04/2008 | 03:46 PM
BEIJING – Scores of policemen kept a close watch on crowds in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Wednesday, the anniversary of the bloody military crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy protests centered on the vast plaza.

No public commemorations were known to be held and there were few reminders of the events of 19 years ago. Instead, the square, like the rest of the Chinese capital, was adorned with symbols of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, in which it will be prominently featured.

Exiled dissidents and human rights groups have sought to link the two events, saying releasing political prisoners and allowing exiled student leaders to return would burnish the Communist government's image before the Olympic spotlight turns on Beijing.

"Then the Chinese people can work together to build a new China out of the ruins of national tragedy and to engage the world as a rights-respecting nation at home and abroad," Wang Dan, one of the 1989 movement's leading voices, wrote in an article in Wednesday's International Herald Tribune.

Discussion of the student movement and the June 3-4 military assault on the protesters in which hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed remains taboo within China. The Communist leadership labeled the protest an anti-government riot and has never offered a full accounting of the crackdown.

Security was tight Wednesday and crowds of visitors moved calmly around the square, one of Beijing's main tourist attractions. Police and other security officers searched bags for banners or leaflets containing dissident messages. Plainclothes officers used handheld video cameras to supplement the dozens of permanent mounted cameras trained on the square.

A security cordon around the hulking Monument to the People's Heroes was the only visual reminder of the protests. The obelisk and its surrounding terraces have been closed to the public ever since student leaders used it as their command center on the square in 1989.

Like much of Beijing, the square and its surroundings are getting a facelift ahead of the August Olympics. A countdown clock to the Aug. 8 start of the games dominates one side, while tunnels leading to the square are being refurbished, the construction work covered with banners reading "Join hands with the Olympics, make a date with Beijing in 2008."

Nearby, peddlers hawked trinkets bearing the Olympic logo as visitors wore T-shirts reading "I love China."

In his article, the New York-based Wang bemoaned China's lack of political reform since 1989, despite rising prosperity and a growing global presence.

"The many dissidents still behind bars today represent a national tragedy as well as a political humiliation," Wang wrote.

In an earlier appeal, Human Rights Watch also urged China to free Tiananmen prisoners to show "the global Olympic audience it's serious about human rights." The group, based in New York, said about 130 prisoners are still being held for their role in the weekslong demonstrations, involving tens of thousands of students and others, that started in Tiananmen Square and spread to several major cities.

In Washington, the US State Department urged China to make a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing in the crackdown. It called on the international community to urge China to release prisoners still serving sentences from the protests.

The US said Chinese steps to protect freedoms of its citizens would help "achieve its goal of projecting a positive image to the world."

China pledged to improve its human rights situation when bidding to host the 2008 Olympics. But one Tiananmen activist, whose son was killed as he hid from soldiers enforcing martial law, scoffed when asked whether the August games had spurred the government to change its attitude.

"I don't have this kind of illusion," said Ding Zilin, co-founder of Tiananmen Mothers, a group representing families of those who died. She has campaigned to get the government to acknowledge those killed in the crackdown and compensate their families for the deaths.

China Human Rights Defenders, a network of activists and rights monitoring groups, released a list Tuesday of eight Beijing residents who remain imprisoned. A handful of activists were also placed under house arrest or monitored by police in the days leading up to the anniversary, the group said. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:50 PM
IOC board meets to select finalists in bidding for 2016 Summer Olympics
06/04/2008 | 07:22 PM
ATHENS, Greece – The race for the 2016 Summer Olympics is about to get serious.

The International Olympic Committee executive board was meeting Wednesday to reduce the seven-city field to a shortlist of finalists, setting the stage for a high-profile, 16-month global bidding contest.

Up to five cities were expected to make the cut, and no fewer than three.

Fairly certain of making the cut are the big four — Chicago; Madrid, Spain; Tokyo; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Expected to be eliminated are Prague, Czech Republic, and Baku, Azerbaijan.

The main issue is whether Doha, Qatar, will advance to the final stage.

After the announcement, the IOC was to release a report assessing the technical merits of the bids, offering an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates going into the final phase.

The race will end on Oct. 2, 2009, when the full IOC picks the host city by secret ballot in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The 2016 campaign shapes up as a tight battle between strong candidates from the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Chicago is a contender to take the games back to the US for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Madrid is back again after a third-place finish in the vote for the 2012 Olympics, which went to London.

Tokyo, which held the games in 1964, hopes to bring the Olympics to Asia eight years after Beijing. And Rio, which hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, would be the first South American city to get the Olympics.

Doha, capital of a tiny but wealthy Arab Gulf country of about 1 million people, looms as the wild card as it seeks to bring the games to the Middle East for the first time. It cites its hosting of the 2006 Asian Games as evidence that it can handle the Olympics. Due to Qatar's searing summer heat, Doha proposes holding the games in October, outside the IOC's preferred time frame of July or August.

Some rival bid officials are worried that if Doha makes the shortlist, the city — while a longshot to win — would have the capacity to take away crucial votes in the early rounds of voting.

Chicago bid leader Patrick Ryan, for one, says it doesn't matter how many cities are in the final mix.

"Everybody has an opinion on that," he said. "What I hear is three, four or five, and hear arguments for each one of those numbers. If I'm guessing, I would say five. But what's most important is we stick to Chicago's plan. We're not looking at the number of candidates, just maximizing Chicago's potential."

Cities that make the cut will have to submit their detailed bid files to the IOC by February 12, 2009. After that, a panel of IOC experts will visit each of the cities, tour the proposed sites and meet with bid and government leaders. The panel will release an evaluation report to the IOC members a month before the October 2009 vote.

The 2016 cutoff is the centerpiece of a three-day IOC board meeting in Athens, the last before the committee gathers in Beijing on the eve of the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:51 PM
Pro-Tibetans stage peaceful protest at IOC meeting venue in Athens
06/05/2008 | 06:19 PM
ATHENS, Greece – A small group of pro-Tibetan activists have staged a peaceful protest outside an Athens hotel hosting a meeting of top IOC officials.

Seven protesters, holding banners and Tibetan flags, shouted slogans urging the International Olympic Committee to cancel next week's Tibetan leg of the Beijing flame relay and allow foreign media access to Tibet.

Police prevented them from entering the hotel where the IOC executive board started a three-day meeting Wednesday.

Nobody was injured, and no arrests were reported. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:51 PM
2 officially selected to US Olympic swimming team
06/05/2008 | 06:44 PM
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – The US Olympic swimming trials are still nearly a month away, but the American team already had two members.

Mark Warkentin and Chloe Sutton were the first two swimmers officially selected to the team, confirmed Wednesday to compete in the Olympic debut of open water swimming.

Warkentin, a 28-year-old from Santa Barbara, California, earned the men's berth by finishing seventh in the 10-kilometer race at the open water world championships in Seville, Spain, last month.

The 16-year-old Sutton, of Roseville, California, claimed a spot in the women's 10k by winning an Olympic test event in Beijing on Saturday.

Both Americans will be competing at their first Olympics.

In addition, USA Swimming hired John Dussliere and Bill Rose as the open water coaches. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:53 PM
IOC unit to check for suspicious betting patterns during Beijing Olympics
06/06/2008 | 04:21 PM
ATHENS, Greece – The IOC will deploy a special unit in Beijing to check for suspicious betting patterns during the Olympics.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge says the IOC has signed agreements with betting companies for the first time to monitor any irregular gambling patterns on Olympic competition.

The decision follows a series of betting scandals and investigations in professional sports, including football, tennis and cricket.

Rogge says if suspicious activity is uncovered during the Beijing games, a disciplinary panel will question those involved and report to the executive board for any sanctions. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:53 PM
China bans fireworks during Beijing Olympics
06/09/2008 | 02:05 PM
BEIJING - China's capital Beijing is banning fireworks of all types during a more than three-month period around this summer's Olympic Games.

The order extends an existing ban in the city center to the capital's sprawling suburbs, where many of the Olympic events are being held, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Dealers will be forced to suspend sales and store their stock in specially designated warehouses from July 1 to Oct. 8, Xinhua said.

The ban is the latest in a raft of security measures ordered to ensure the Aug. 8-24 games go off without a hitch. Some of those have drawn the ire of the IOC, foreign residents, sponsors and broadcast rights holders, including increasing scrutiny over visas and limits on live coverage in Tiananmen Square. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:54 PM
TV networks clash with Olympic organizers on security, reportage
06/09/2008 | 05:29 PM
BEIJING – Television networks that will broadcast the Beijing Olympics to billions around the world are squaring off with local organizers over stringent security that threatens coverage of the games in two months.

Differences over a wide range of issues — from limits on live coverage in Tiananmen Square to allegations that freight shipments of TV broadcasting equipment are being held up in Chinese ports — surfaced in a contentious meeting late last month between Beijing organizers and high-ranking International Olympic Committee officials and TV executives — including those from NBC.

In response to the complaints from broadcasters, Sun Weijia, head of media operations for the Beijing organizers, asked them to put it in writing, only to draw protests about mounting paperwork.

"I think what I have heard here are just a number of conditions or requirements that are just not workable," said IOC official Gilbert Felli, according to minutes of the May 29 meeting obtained by The Associated Press. "There are a number of things that are just not feasible."

Despite the outburst, Sun asked again to have the complaints in writing.

"I just wish to have a kind of document to help me identify the key points," he said, drawing immediate protest.

"How many times do we have to do that?" asked Manolo Romero, an Olympic broadcasting official.

With time running out before the games open on Aug. 8, the minutes hint that procedures broadcasters have used in other Olympics are conflicting with China's authoritarian government. Some plans are months behind schedule, which could force broadcasters to compromise coverage plans.

The meeting in Beijing included representatives of nine broadcasters, each of which has paid for the rights to broadcast the Olympics. Top IOC officials and Beijing organizers were also on hand in what one TV executive termed an "emergency meeting."

Non-rights holding broadcasters — news organizations that have not bought TV rights to cover Olympic action at the venues — did not attend the meeting but also are concerned about delays and security restrictions.

"We are two weeks away from putting equipment on a shipment and we have no clearance to operate, or to enter the country or a frequency allocation," said Sandy MacIntyre, director of news for AP Television News. APTN is the television arm of The Associated Press.

Unnerved by protests on international legs of the Olympic torch relay following the outbreak of deadly rioting March 14 in Tibet, China's communist government seems to be backtracking on some promises to let reporters work as they have in previous Olympics.

The government also has tightened visa rules in the last several months. One target has been students. The government fears many would side with activist groups if protests break out.

The minutes of the meeting show behind-the-scenes dialogue that differs markedly from the IOC's public statements about smooth cooperation with Beijing organizers. In an interview, one broadcaster who attended the meeting summed up the problem.

"The Chinese are very concerned about something going wrong — and so they are in Olympic gridlock," said John Barton, director of sport for the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, which represents broadcasters in 57 countries.

"This is the greatest moment in their sporting history," Barton said. "They've built a stage on which they want to perform, but they are rather queasy about how it should be shown."

"They are suffocating the television coverage in the crazy pursuit of security. They can't secure the event. Nothing can be totally secure, yet they are trying to do that."

Chinese officials say more than 500,000 people will handle security during the games, equaling the number of foreign visitors expected. Public security officials said a few days ago that protests won't be allowed — unless protesters get a permit — with arrests or expulsion likely. Some athletes in Beijing also are expected to speak out against Chinese policies on Tibet or Darfur.

The rights-holding broadcasters generally lauded the organizers' preparations, but worried about being stuck in a quagmire of security requirements. The meeting was held under the auspices of Beijing Olympic Broadcasting — also know as BOB.

BOB is a joint venture between the Beijing Olympic organizers and an IOC subsidiary. BOB coordinates and provides technical services for the television networks with rights to broadcast the Olympics, such as NBC.

Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, told the meeting the issues "can be solved" and suggested the prospects are better than Athens or Turin, where he described some unspecified problems as "irresolvable."

"This can be the world's greatest Olympics," Zenkel said, crediting Beijing organizers. But he said certain "obstacles" are hindering the organizers.

"I don't know who they are or how to get to them collectively, but we must get to them," Zenkel added. "Because these games will suffer and these problems will be presented to the world and they don't do justice to these Olympics. ... This is a big day for China and the Olympics and it may be lost if there isn't any immediate change or movement made by the government, or whoever. It has to happen. We hope the wakeup call is heard."

Several TV executives were upset there might be no live coverage from Tiananmen Square. This is a change from two months ago when IOC officials in Beijing said China had agreed to allow live coverage. Broadcasters also have been told there's unlikely to be live coverage from the Forbidden City.

Chinese police fear both might be venues for activists' protests, which would be a public relations disaster if demonstrations — and police crackdowns — are beamed around the world.

"For us to potentially not be able to do live reports from Tiananmen — the most iconic place in China — is a disgrace," said Scott Moore, executive director of Canada's CBC Sports. "I've been told that to do business in China, you have to have patience. We don't have time to have patience. The games have begun for us already."

TV executives appear skeptical they will be able to deliver the kind of coverage they have in past games. Some say Chinese officials are requiring that forms be filled out specifying where satellite trucks will be each day of the games. The IOC says about 2,000 TV trucks usually go in and out of Olympic venues every day during the games.

These kind of restrictions could make it very difficult for TV crews to move quickly around the sprawling city to cover breaking news. Broadcasters also have been denied permits to record aerial views of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Relaxing the rules and allowing Olympic broadcasters to avoid government censorship was one of the concessions China made to land the games in 2001. Now officials appear to be nervous about it, with TV executives complaining that high-tech TV equipment has been held up in Chinese ports.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing organizing committee, denied there were delays in getting equipment into China.

"As far as we know, the importation of broadcast equipment has been going smoothly," he said.

Any interference with news coverage will be at odds with promises made seven years ago when Beijing was awarded the games. At the time, Wang Wei, the executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said the news media would have "complete freedom to report on anything when they come to China."

The government enacted a law 18 months ago giving foreign reporters "free access" to report. The law has been helpful, although some areas of the country — such as Tibet — are still off limits. Reporters still complain of harassment, particularly away from Beijing where provincial authorities seem unaware of the new rules.

"In Athens we were pretty much allowed to film whatever we wanted, wherever and whenever," said Tomoyo Igaya, senior program director for Japan's NHK Sports and head of the Japan consortium, an Olympic pool that represents NHK and five Japanese commercial broadcasters.

Igaya attended the May 29 meeting and told colleagues she thought the disputes could be resolved. She also raised the specter of more pressure if they are not. She hinted at unspecified "legal-financial" action.

Igaya said China might be forced to loosen up with more than 30,000 accredited and non-accredited journalists expected to cover the games, which Chinese officials hope will polish the country's image as the rising political and economic power of the 21st century.

"We've been talking about this internally for some time," Igaya said. "Maybe when there are thousands of broadcasters and press in Beijing, maybe they won't be able to keep an eye on every single person. There will be just so many. But on the other hand, it's China — you know the population of the country. You could maybe have people keeping an eye on every journalist and broadcaster. Who knows."

"I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes well." - AP

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08-08-2008, 06:55 PM
Aussie swimmer remains out of Olympic team after full committee votes
06/11/2008 | 04:23 PM
SYDNEY, Australia – Nick D'Arcy had no better result with the entire Australian Olympic Committee than he did with its president John Coates: The swimmer won't go to Beijing because of assault charges stemming from a bar fight.

The full executive board of the AOC on Wednesday unanimously rejected a submission from D'Arcy and his legal team that he is a fit and proper person to represent his country at the Olympics.

Ron Harvey, the AOC vice president and chairman of Wednesday's meeting, said in a statement the members took into account the standards of behavior expected of an Australian Olympian.

"To terminate the membership of an athlete from the Australian Olympic team is a very serious matter," he said. "After careful consideration we have reached a decision based on that responsibility."

The ruling restored an initial decision made in April by Coates, who said D'Arcy had brought the sport into disrepute by becoming involving in the bar altercation. Coates did not take part in Wednesday's vote.

On May 28, 20-year-old D'Arcy lost his appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport in which he sought to overturn the ban.

A three-member CAS panel found D'Arcy had not observed "the provisions of the AOC ethical behavior bylaw" but that Coates alone should not have enforced the exclusion. The full executive board, including former athletes and veteran AOC members, was then asked to vote on D'Arcy's case.

"The effect that Nicholas D'Arcy's conduct had on his reputation, as found by the president and confirmed by the CAS, was the basis for the decision by the AOC executive," Harvey said.

D'Arcy, who won the 200-meter butterfly at the Australian trials, said he will appeal further to the CAS.

"Obviously I'm very disappointed by today's decision," he said. "I can't say it was a surprising decision, however I am lodging an appeal — it's already being put in the works in preparation for today's decision."

"I will continue to train until every last option has been exhausted."

He is due in court on June 17 charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm to retired swimmer Simon Cowley, an offense which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' jail.

The charge result from an altercation between the pair at a Sydney bar just hours after D'Arcy was announced as part of Australia's swim team for the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games.

Cowley sustained a broken jaw, broken nose, fractured eye socket, crushed cheekbone, and fractured palate in the incident. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:56 PM
Swimmer Molina will be RP flag bearer at Beijing Olympics
06/12/2008 | 11:26 PM
MANILA, Philippines – Swimmer Miguel Molina has been given the honor by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) of being the Philippines' flag bearer at the Beijing Olympics.

This was revealed on Thursday by the POC after lengthy deliberations of its executive committee with the chief of mission of the Philippine Olympic team last Wednesday.

The POC justified its decision by saying that Molina had given honor to the Philippines, particularly at the 24th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Thailand last year.

Molina bagged three individual gold and a team relay gold medal in that biennial meet and was chosen as the meet's Best Male Athlete.

The only other Filipino who got the same honor, during the 1993 SEA Games, was Eric Buhain, former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman and now Games and Amusement Board (GAB) chairman.

Just recently, Molina reset his own national records at the Janet Evans International Invitational held at the University of Southern California.

Molina finished second in the 200-meter breast but posted a new mark of 2:16.62 while as he posted new records too in the 200m individual medley (2:03.22) and 200m free (1:52.56).

Monico Puentevella, the chief of mission and POC first vice president, said of Molina: "He was the 2007 Best Male Athlete and recently broke three national marks, and naming him as flag bearer is a reward for this young guy."

So far there are 14 Filipinos who are assured of slots in the Beijing Olympics, among them swimmers James Walsh, Ryan Arabejo, Daniel Coakley, and Christel Simms; divers Sheila Mae Perez and Ryan Rexel Fabriga; taekwondo jins Ma. Antoinette Rivero and Tshomlee Go; boxer Harry Tanamor; archer Mark Javier; and shooter Eric Ang.

The Philippines will also be sending two representatives to the athletics event. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:58 PM
Olympic torch's arrival in Tibet postponed
06/16/2008 | 02:10 PM
BEIJING – Organizers of the Olympic torch relay said Monday the flame's arrival in Tibet would be postponed, but declined to give an exact date for the torch's journey through the region, which has been shrouded in secrecy.

The torch was originally supposed to travel through Tibet on June 18 or 19 before heading to China's largely Muslim region of Xinjiang and Qinghai province. Instead, it will travel through Xinjiang this week and then head to Tibet, said Li Lizhi of the Beijing Olympic torch relay center of the organizing committee for the games.

Li refused to give an exact date for the torch's arrival in Tibet.

It was not clear why the change was made, but the route through Tibet has been kept secret. Foreign journalists are still forbidden from entering Tibet, where a violent uprising in ethnic Tibetan areas throughout China in March led to a security clampdown in the region.

The route has been criticized by Tibet activist groups who see it as an attempt by Beijing to symbolize its control over Tibet. China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially independent for much of that time.

The torch's stop in Tibet — originally set for three days — was cut to one last month to make way for a switch in the visit to Sichuan province, the site of the May 12 earthquake.

The torch relay was also stopped for three days after the earthquake to mark an official mourning period.

So far the torch has had a smooth relay in mainland China, uninterrupted by the protests over Tibet and human rights that dogged parts of its international tour.

Last month, Chinese mountaineers raised the Olympic torch at the summit of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, producing the triumphant image that China has longed for in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

The Everest torch was separate from the main Olympic flame, which is on a three-month tour of China after a one-month trip around the world.

Activists upset with Chinese government policies, especially pro-Tibet independence groups, used the trip around the world to stage protests to highlight their causes. - AP

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08-08-2008, 06:59 PM
Dance troupes to underpin handover ceremony in Beijing
06/16/2008 | 09:04 PM
LONDON – Hip hop, ballet and contemporary dance involving disabled performers will feature during London's eight-minute presentation at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics — the official handover to organizers of the 2012 Games in the British capital.

Dancers from the Royal Opera House, street dance theater ZooNation and CandoCo, a company that integrates dancers with and without disabilities, will take part in the ceremony on Aug. 24 in Beijing's Olympic Stadium after London Mayor Boris Johnson receives the Olympic flag.

"He will wave the flag six times and when he does so, the eyes of the world will then move to London," London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said Monday. "And we have that large and collective sigh that goes out, 'Oh, my goodness, it's London's turn next.' But we say it with massive and great excitement."

Further details of the ceremony have been kept under wraps.

"We're still refining the plan," said Bill Morris, London 2012's director of culture, ceremonies and education. "We are not going to reveal any more of the plans today. The three dance troupes ... are certainly an anchor throughout the performance, but it's not the only element."

Johnson — in his first Olympic-related news conference since winning the election to become mayor last month — dominated a briefing about plans for the ceremony and plans to mark the occasion in London.

"When politicians try and sum up the essence of Britain, they almost always come a cropper (fall short)," Johnson said. "It's a huge relief to all politicians involved in this that this immensely demanding artistic challenge of devoting the genius of the city and this country in eight minutes has been met through ZooNation, CandoCo and the Royal Opera House.

"It's going to be absolutely brilliant — I can't tell you exactly what's involved because we'd all have to be liquidated afterwards. I can tell you it's going to be remorselessly and cheerfully symbolic of our country."

Giant screens will be erected in The Mall adjacent to Buckingham Palace in London for people to watch the closing ceremony, which will be followed by a free concert broadcast on television and radio by the British Broadcasting Corp.

Morris said further details of the concert would be revealed closer to the event, which will be held on the same weekend as London's Notting Hill carnival.

Cities and towns around England will also have giant screens to watch the closing ceremony, and local councils throughout Britain will be encouraged to display special handover flags on Aug. 24 that are Union Jack inspired versions of the London 2012 logo.

"I am suspicious of any state-sponsored effort to promote or encourage any mood of national euphoria but I do think when you look at what is in store for us in August, I do think it will be a fantastic party," Johnson said.

The same three dance troupes will also be involved in the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games on Sept. 17.

"In essence, it is the same show," Coe said. "We are integrated." - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 06:59 PM
China appoints Olympic terror expert
06/16/2008 | 10:56 PM
BEIJING – China has appointed a top terrorism expert to a leading public security post following a series of alleged plots against this summer's Beijing Olympics, an official notice said Monday.

Yang Huanning, 51, has worked for years in central government bodies dedicated to battling opponents in the restive western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, according to his resume posted on official Web sites.

Other past roles included managing China's international image, often clouded by charges of human rights abuses, and working with the United Nations Office of Peacekeeping on deployments of Chinese forces.

Word of Yang's appointment as a vice public security minister comes as the Olympic torch relay prepares to enter Xinjiang and Tibet, raising the specter of new security threats after overseas Tibetans and other critics of the communist regime sought repeatedly to disrupt the relay's overseas legs.

Activists view the Tibet leg as a naked show of Beijing's control over Tibet, which communist forces occupied in 1949. China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially independent for most of that time.

Organizers said Monday the flame would visit Tibet soon, but refused to say exactly when. The torch is due this week to pass through Xinjiang, where radicals among the native Muslim Turkic population have waged a low-intensity struggle against Chinese rule.

Beijing has called terrorism the single biggest threat to the Games and claims to have foiled multiple plots targeting the event. Yang's appointment also appears to reflect Beijing's desire to paint critics of Tibet and Xinjiang policies as violent terrorists, despite their claims to be seeking only to peacefully protest Chinese policies as a way of furthering dialogue.

Communist officials routinely vilify Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama as a separatist — an accusation he denies — and have accused his supporters of orchestrating violent protests in Tibetan areas this spring to sabotage the Olympics and preparing "suicide squads" to carry out attacks. Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited parts of western China have been closed to foreign tourists and journalists since the protests broke out in March.

Likewise, on at least three occasions this year, authorities say they foiled plots by Xinjiang separatists that targeted the games either directly or indirectly, including alleged attempts to crash an airliner and kidnap athletes and journalists.

Evidence provided in all those cases has been scant and circumstantial, although authorities say suspects admitted to their foreign links and anti-Olympics agenda.

Yang's appointment was briefly noted on the Public Security Ministry's Web site, but no date was given for the move. Yang had until recently been serving as a leading communist official in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:00 PM
Olympic torch arrives in China's west
06/17/2008 | 03:44 PM
URUMQI, China - Security agents hoping to prevent displays of defiance jogged alongside Olympic torchbearers Tuesday as the flame began its journey through China's restive West, drawing cheers from carefully controlled crowds.

Police and troops closely watched thousands of onlookers, hand-picked by officials, as they waved the national flag and shouted "Go China!" from behind metal barriers in Urumqi, the capital of the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang region. Sniffer dogs patrolled Muslim areas while torchbearers high-fived each other as they passed the flame.

Organizers urged a "safe and orderly viewing of the relay" through a state-run newspaper.

Although the Olympic torch has had a smooth run in China — uninterrupted by the protests over Tibet and human rights that hounded parts of its international tour — stops in Xinjiang and Tibet are the most sensitive, and the precautions underscore Beijing's concerns.

Overseas activists have criticized China for using the relay to show its control over the restive areas.

Like Tibet, Xinjiang is a region with a culture that is distinctly different from that of China's ethnic Han majority. The Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs have long sought independence, waging a low-intensity struggle against Chinese rule. Many have been sentenced to long prison terms or death on separatism charges. The Han dominate the region's economy and government.

On at least three occasions this year, authorities say they foiled plots by Xinjiang separatists that targeted the games either directly or indirectly, including alleged attempts to crash an airliner and kidnap athletes and journalists.

A Uighur activist said Tuesday that authorities had threatened severe punishment to anyone who talked to reporters about "sensitive issues."

The Olympic flame began its trip through Xinjiang after a minute's silence for the May 12 earthquake that devastated Sichuan province. Over 200 torchbearers will carry the flame across the city, 12 of them Muslim women.

A Uighur boxer started the relay and another torchbearer performed a traditional Uighur dance during her turn — Beijing's way of showing it is sensitive to the region's culture.

But authorities also were strictly monitoring the event, with armed police patrolling Urumqi's Muslim quarter on Monday night and sniffer dogs checking the 7.8-mile route through the city.

Roads surrounding the route were closed early Tuesday and all buildings and hotels were told to keep their windows closed during the day to prevent unwanted displays of defiance.

"On the day of the relay, over 100,000 chosen citizens will be shouting and cheering on the streets," Li Guangming, party secretary of the Xinjiang Sports Administration, was quoted as saying in Monday's Xinjiang Daily newspaper. "However, given that too many people will cause the rise of unsafe elements, we suggest that everybody else watch the relay live on TV at home."

The Urumqi Evening News listed suggestions for behavior during the torch relay. "Do not shout slogans that undermine the image of the nation or of the city," urged one. "Respect the national flag and flags with the Olympic torch logos," said another.

Activist Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, said in an e-mail Tuesday that authorities had issued a notice warning that anyone who voluntarily spoke to reporters "about the country's sensitive issues will be severely dealt with."

"If the circumstances are serious, they will be charged with leaking state secrets," he said without elaborating. The vague charge is one Beijing often uses to detain dissidents.

Telephone operators at the Xinjiang and Urumqi public security bureaus said officials were not available for comment Tuesday because of the torch relay.

During its three-day trip, the torch will travel to the far western city of Kashgar, once a stop on the ancient Silk Road of China, and two other cities in the region before moving to Tibet.

Before it returns to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days ahead of the opening ceremony for the games, the torch will have crossed every region and province of China. A separate torch reached the summit of Mount Everest early last month. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:01 PM
No decision yet on Yao's availability for pre-Olympic tournament
06/17/2008 | 05:16 PM
BEIJING – A top official of China's national basketball team says no decision has been made as to whether Houston Rockets center Yao Ming will play in an Olympic warm-up tournament next month.

Bai Xilin, team manager of China's national team, has said Tuesday, "We'll discuss it when Yao Ming gets back to China. He'll be back before the end of this month."

Newspaper reports around China have suggested Yao has been cleared to play in the July 17-20 Stankovic Cup at Hangzhou, China, which features Iran, China, Russia and Angola.

The 7-foot-6 (2.28-meter) Yao had surgery on his left foot after suffering a stress fracture on Feb. 27.

Agent John Huizinga says Yao had an examination Monday that went well, but has also disputed reports that his client would play in the Stankovic Cup. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:01 PM
Park Ji-sung to miss Beijing Olympics with knee injury
06/17/2008 | 07:08 PM
SEOUL, South Korea – Manchester United's Park Ji-sung will not be selected for the South Korea football team for the Beijing Olympic Games.

The midfielder will not be considered as one of the three over-age players allowed under Olympic rules in the South Korean team for the Beijing Games, Olympic football coach Park Sung-hwa said.

Park Ji-sung missed the national team's World Cup qualifier in Turkmenistan last weekend with water on the knee. As it was the same knee that was operated on in 2007, coach Park said Monday it was better to play it safe

"It is with regret that we have decided not to summon Park Ji-sung for the Olympics," Park Sung-hwa said.

"After talking with the KFA’s (Korean Football Association) technical committee, we made the decision because his physical condition is not perfect and he faces fierce competition for places at Manchester United."

Manchester United has also expressed a desire for its player to take a break after a busy season which saw him return from long-term injury to help the club win the English and European titles before immediately heading to Asia for a series of 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

"His club sent an official document stating that Park Ji-sung needed rest for a while due to the problem with his knee," Park Sung-hwa said.

South Korea, grouped with Italy, Cameroon and Honduras at Beijing, will announce its preliminary squad on June 25.

The football tournament kicks off on August 6, two days before the official start of the Olympics. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:02 PM
Banned Aussie swimmer accepts Olympics exclusion
06/17/2008 | 07:12 PM
BRISBANE, Australia – Australian swimmer Nick D'Arcy has accepted he will not compete at the Beijing Olympics after exhausting his last legal avenue to overturn his ejection from the Australian games team.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday rejected D'Arcy's final appeal against the Australian Olympic Committee's decision to dismiss him from the Beijing squad after he was charged over an alleged assault on another swimmer.

D'Arcy is facing police charges of recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm on former swimmer Simon Cowley by assaulting him in a Sydney bar on March 30, hours after his initial selection for the Australian team.

The Australian 200m butterfly record holder was near tears when he spoke to reporters outside his home Tuesday after hearing the CAS decision.

"I'm very disappointed with yesterday's decision, although I accept yesterday's decision," D'Arcy said. "I have now exhausted all the options available to me for appeal and otherwise.

"I personally believe the CAS hearing was fair and considered so that makes it easier for me to accept the decision."

D'Arcy's assault case will likely not be heard until after the Olympics because members of the Australian swim team will be called as witnesses.

After a brief hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court Tuesday, the case was adjourned until July 24. Counsel for D'Arcy Jack Leitner said his legal team would not be able to call key defense witnesses on July 24 because several were members of the Australian Olympic team which leaves for Beijing on July 23.

Leitner said it was expected the matter would be adjourned again until after the Beijing Games. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:02 PM
Olympic torch to reach Tibet Saturday
06/18/2008 | 10:23 AM
BEIJING - Organizers of the Olympic torch relay say the flame will reach Tibet on Saturday in a one-day stop that has been shrouded in secrecy.

The torch will reach Lhasa after winding through Xinjiang province, also in China's restive west.

The torch was originally supposed to go through Tibet Wednesday or Thursday. It's not clear why the date was changed.

A violent uprising in ethnic Tibetan areas throughout China in March led to a security clampdown in the region.

The stop, originally set for three days, was cut to one earlier last month to make way for a switch in the visit to Sichuan province, the site of a devastating May 12 earthquake. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:03 PM
Security heavy for Olympic flame in China's Muslim region
06/18/2008 | 01:31 PM
KASHGAR, China - Hundreds of security personnel lined the streets to head off any disruption as the Olympic torch relay resumed Wednesday in western China's restive Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Black-gloved security agents jogged alongside the torch as it wound through the streets of Kashgar, an ancient Silk Road city near the borders with Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Foreign journalists were not allowed along the route, where cheering bystanders shouted "Go China!" under sunny skies.

Also Wednesday, Olympic torch relay organizers said the flame will make a one-day stop in Tibet's capital of Lhasa on Saturday.

That leg has been shrouded in secrecy because of political sensitivities surrounding Tibet. The route has been criticized by Tibet activist groups who see it as an attempt by Beijing to symbolize its control over the Himalayan region.

China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially independent for much of that time. Tensions were aggravated in March when protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa and other ethnic Tibetan areas throughout China led to a security clampdown in the region.

Tight security measures are expected for the Lhasa stop.

The Kashgar relay began near a downtown mosque with several speeches praising China's development over the last 30 years.

Hundreds of militia and police lined the torch relay route and bystanders, who were bused in from their work units, had to go through metal detectors.

Xinjiang officials accompanied foreign journalists on a bus to the relay and did not allow them to wander from the group. After the start of the event, the journalists were taken to the finish point — a square dominated by a giant statue of Mao Zedong, a reminder of heavy-handed Communist Party rule over the region since People's Liberation Army forces entered in 1949.

The torch has had a smooth run in China, undisturbed by the protests over Tibet and human rights that hounded parts of its international tour. Yet the Xinjiang leg and the one in Tibet are by far the most sensitive of the domestic relay — a fact underscored by the heavy security.

The flame began its journey through China's restive Muslim western region on Tuesday with a relay through Xinjiang's capital of Urumqig.

Although state media has warned of the threat from separatists they claim are linked with global terrorism, no disruptions were reported.

In Urumqi, police and troops watched thousands of onlookers, hand-picked by officials, as they waved the national flag and shouted "Go China!" from behind metal barriers. Police with dogs patrolled Muslim areas.

But overall, the mood was subdued compared with some of the enthusiastic crowds that greeted earlier legs.

One Uighur woman walking in the center of Kashgar said that while she thought the Olympics were good, "I have no interest in the torch relay." She said she felt uncomfortable giving her name.

Overseas activists have criticized China for using the Olympic torch relay to demonstrate its control over the restive areas, many of whose native residents reject claims that they have long been an integral part of Chinese territory and resent Han dominance over the economy and government.

Like Tibet, Xinjiang is a region with a culture and language distinct from that of the Han. Radicals among its main Turkic speaking Uighur ethnic group have for decades been waging a low-intensity struggle against Chinese rule. An unknown number have been sentenced to prison terms or death for allegedly espousing separatism or subversion.

On at least three occasions this year, authorities say they foiled plots by what they called Xinjiang separatists, including alleged attempts to crash an airliner and kidnap Olympic athletes and journalists.

The boost in security for the torch is a continuation of measures put in place since April 2007, said Nicholas Bequelin, an expert on Xinjiang with the Hong Kong-based Human Rights Watch.

"The security is very telling because it shows that ultimately, despite the fact that the government says the situation is stable and people are content, they know they don't have the loyalty of these people," he said, dismissing the accusations of terrorism.

Activist Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress, said in an e-mail Tuesday that authorities warned that anyone who voluntarily spoke to reporters "about the country's sensitive issues will be severely dealt with."

Before it returns to Beijing on Aug. 6, two days ahead of the opening ceremony for the Olympics, the flame will have crossed every region and province of China. A separate flame was carried to the summit of Mount Everest last month. - AP

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:03 PM
3 Pinoys chosen to join Olympic torch relay in Beijing
06/18/2008 | 04:06 PM
MANILA, Philippines – Three Filipinos have been chosen to join the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Department of Foreign Affairs got this report on Wednesday from Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Cataumber Brady.

The Olympic torchbearers are CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz, his 17-year-old daughter Michelle FlorCruz, and marketing executive Marco Torres.

"It's a great honor for the Philippines to be represented in the Olympic torch relay through Jimmy, Michelle, and Marco," Brady said. "We also hope that during the Beijing Olympics, we will finally win our very first Olympic gold medal."

FlorCruz and daughter Michelle were selected by the Beijing City government for their contribution to China, Brady said.

A former Time magazine Beijing bureau chief, FlorCruz first arrived in Beijing in August 1971. He was one of the 15 Filipino youths who were invited by the China Friendship Association for a three-week study tour. He said that by a strange quirk of fate, he stayed on – and has been there for 37 years later.

"I covered the 1988 Seoul Olympics for TIME Magazine and Sports Illustrated," FlorCruz said." Now I am looking forward to covering the Beijing Games as well, this time as CNN's Beijing bureau chief. It would be fun not just to report on it but to actually participate as one of the torch bearers during the relay."

FlorCruz is scheduled to carry the Olympic torch on August 6 in Beijing, two days before the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.

His daughter Michelle, a student at the International School in Beijing, will carry the Olympic torch on August 3 in Tangshan City.

"I was made in China, born in the Philippines, and bred in Beijing," Michelle said. "I guess that makes me a top quality product, a fusion of different cultures."

Torres, 38, will carry the Olympic torch on July 5 in Lanzhou, Gansu province. He placed second among eight foreigners selected by an Olympic sponsor company to carry the Olympic torch through an Internet voting competition called "Expats for Olympic Torchbearers" held last year.

"I love Beijing and I love the Olympics," Torres said. "Proof of this is that I declined an opportunity to move to Shanghai if only for the Olympics. I also know now that my destiny of being in the Olympics will be fulfilled."

About half million visitors are expected to come to Beijing in August for the Olympics, including 10,500 international athletes and 18,000 journalists. - GMANews.TV

stonecold316
08-08-2008, 07:04 PM
Barber to skip heptathlon, focus on long jump at Beijing Olympics
06/18/2008 | 06:23 PM
PARIS – Eunice Barber plans to skip the heptathlon at the Beijing Olympics to focus on the long jump.

Barber, who won the world heptathlon title in 1999 and the long jump world title in 2003, underwent surgery on her right knee eight months ago.

"I've had muscular problems since my knee operation, and with my coach's agreement, I thought it was too restrictive to work on all the disciplines until Beijing," the 33-year-old French athlete said. "So I decided to concentrate on the long jump."

Barber said she continued to feel some discomfort in her knee.

"I lost muscle and I still have to do some reinforcement work for a while," she said. - AP