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Listen to the voice

Rogge denies striking deal with Beijing on censorship

ALL A MISTAKE?: A spokeswoman said media promises Jacques Rogge had made may have come across wrong because he was speaking in English and not French

Sunday, Aug 03, 2008, Page 1

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said yesterday the IOC did not strike a deal with Chinese authorities to censor Internet access during the Olympic Games.

“The conditions you were working in on Tuesday were not good,” Rogge told reporters, referring to the day when Internet blocks were discovered.

However, Rogge stopped short of offering an apology.

“I am not going to make an apology for something that the IOC is not responsible for. We are not running the Internet in China,” Rogge said.

Meanwhile, IOC press official Kevan Gosper said yesterday the IOC and the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) had set up a working group to examine which censored sites could be opened up to reporters.

Gosper described the process as a “work in progress.”

Earlier in the week, Gosper, an IOC member for more than 30 years, said that senior organizers had cut a deal with Chinese authorities to block some Web sites.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies yesterday brushed off criticism that the IOC had backtracked on requiring Beijing not to censor Web access for reporters.

One reporter quoted Rogge as saying “foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There will be no censorship on the Internet.”

Davies said that Rogge, who is Belgian, may have not been precise when he spoke because he was using English, which is not his native tongue.

“I think we are trying to hang on every single word often spoken by people whose mother tongue isn’t English. Let me be clear again: The IOC would like to see open access for the media to be able to do their job,” Davies said.

Numerous times over the last several years, Chinese officials and high-ranking IOC members said there would be no censorship on the Internet for accredited journalists covering the games.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly said reporting would be “free and unfettered.”

In 2001, when China won the right to host the games, BOCOG Executive Vice President Wang Wei (王偉) was widely quoted as saying: “We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China.”


Listen to the voice

Beijing politicizing the Olympics

By Richard Halloran
Sunday, Aug 03, 2008, Page 8

To most people outside of Taiwan and China, a dispute over the name of Taiwan’s Olympic team might seem petty. However, the argument has underscored an elemental point: The Games that open on Friday in Beijing may be the most politicized since Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler sought to enlist the Berlin Olympics of 1936 as evidence of Aryan racial superiority.

Moreover, US President George W. Bush, who plans to attend the opening ceremony, will be part of that highly charged political event as the first US president ever to go abroad to the Olympics. His decision has been mildly controversial: On one hand, it gives the president an opportunity to engage Chinese leaders; on the other, it may be seen as reinforcing the oppressive rule of China’s communist regime.

Bush jumped into Olympic politics last week by welcoming five Chinese dissidents to the White House. A Chinese spokesman responded by contending the president had “rudely interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

Later, Bush told a Chinese TV interviewer: “I’m coming to China as the president and as a friend.”

Several weeks ago, Chinese authorities suggested that the team from Taiwan compete under the name Zhongguo Taibei (中國台北, or Taipei, China).” The proposal caused an uproar in Taiwan because that name, Zhongguo Taibei, implied that Taiwan was part of China, like Hong Kong or Macau.

Instead, Taiwan’s leaders, Olympic committee and press insisted that their team be called Zhonghua Taibei (中華台北, Chinese, Taipei). That form was devised in the 1980s when China demanded that international organizations not allow Taiwan to use its name, the Republic of China.

In the argument with Beijing, Taiwan even threatened to withdraw from the games, a warning that had teeth. Earlier, the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games planned to have the Olympic torch carried through Taiwan on the way to Beijing. The route made it look as if Taiwan were part China. Taiwan promptly refused. Beijing evidently decided that, after being criticized for several other issues, more bad publicity would not be helpful.

Although political leaders, Olympic committees and athletes everywhere have decried efforts to embroil the Olympics in politics, that has often been the case — and none more so than in China now.

Orville Schell, a China specialist writing in Newsweek, said that the Beijing Olympics were intended to mark the emergence of China from its “national inferiority complex” that began with its defeat by Britain in the Opium War of 1839 to 1842. This was followed by a period when the “Chinese melon” was sliced up by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Portugal, the US and Japan.

Today, Chinese constantly remind themselves that they come from a nation with a 5,000-year history and contend that their nation is entitled the respect of a global leader. Perhaps the Olympics are that first step in the Chinese saying “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” in ending centuries of the Chinese sense of inferiority.

China appears bent on regaining its place as the “Middle Kingdom,” a concept formed in the Han Dynasty (206BC to 220AD). In that scheme, China is the center of the world and its neighbors are vassals who pay court and make no move of consequence without Beijing’s permission. Other nations, particularly those in the West, are barbarians to be fended off.

Politicizing the Olympics has a long history. Tokyo, in the first games in Asia, marked Japan’s recovery from World War II; the lad who lit the Olympic flame had been born in Hiroshima the day it was hit with the first atomic bomb. The 1972 Olympics in Munich saw Palestinian terrorists kill 11 Israelis. The US boycotted the 1980 games in Moscow to condemn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In revenge, the Soviet Union and its 14 satellites boycotted the Los Angeles Games in 1984. South Korea turned the 1988 Olympics into a showcase for its economic achievements. Another terrorist attack took one life and injured 110 others in Atlanta in 1996.

Sometimes, however, Olympic politics backfires. Hitler had his vaunted Aryan superiority thrown in his face by a US sprinter and long jumper named Jesse Owens — who won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics.

Richard Halloran is a writer based in Hawaii.


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