SBD/Issue 219/Olympics

Rogge Has "No Regrets" About Games, Calls Censorship Minor Issue

Rogge Says He Has No Regrets
On Beijing Hosting Olympics
After a "rocky week" for organizers of the Beijing Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge followed a short meeting of the IOC's exec board Saturday by saying that he "had 'no regrets' about Beijing's Games, and heaped praise on the city's preparations," according to Geoffrey Fowler of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Ahead of Friday's Opening Ceremony, the IOC is "on the defensive about censorship, protests, pollution -- and even the choice of Beijing as a host city." Rogge said of Internet censorship issues in China, "I'm not going to make an apology for something that the IOC is not responsible for. We are not running the Internet in China, the Chinese authorities are running the Internet." IOC officials argued that the Games "have brought about a more open Internet than China had before -- but they also tried to downplay the issue." Rogge: "I don't think we have to fret about this issue because this is really a minor issue in the whole context of the Games" (WSJ.com, 8/3). In London, David Bond notes "concerns over pollution and a row over internet censorship by the Chinese authorities have left many questioning whether Beijing will deliver on the promises officials made when they were awarded the Games." But Rogge said, "If you open up the Olympic arena to settling scores and making political statements, this is the end of the spirit of the Games. Athletes will have absolutely every chance to express their views. But we ask them not to do that in the Olympic venues, especially not on the podium and in the Olympic village. If you start having people on the podium with T-shirts with regional causes and conflicts or religious ones or racial ones, we can't allow that." Rogge added that he is "nevertheless 'optimistic' that the Chinese would fulfill their pledge on media freedom." Rogge: "If we are advised that there are aspects of the media law that are not respected we'll make representations to the organisers and the Chinese government" (London TELEGRAPH, 8/4).

INTERNET ACCESS STILL AN ISSUE: IOC Dir of Communications Giselle Davies said that the IOC is "continuing to encourage the hosts to move in the right direction to provide the widest internet access possible." But AROUND THE RINGS' Mark Bisson noted some reporters are "interpreting the IOC instruction as a climbdown on the issue." BOCOG "has not responded to an IOC request to improve the situation and provide unfettered internet access" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 8/2). In Manchester, Tania Branigan reports some Internet sites were "still off-limits last night." While the Amnesty Int'l main Web site could be accessed, its dedicated thechinadebate.org site "could not be reached." Meanwhile, the headline above a Yahoo picture gallery of musicians, acrobats and other entertainers read, "Tiananmen Square Massacre Remembered." Yahoo blamed an "automated gallery feature" for the headline, which remained on display for "at least 24 hours." The headline was "even visible from Beijing itself, presumably thanks in part to the government's relaxation of internet censorship this week" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 8/4). NBC News sources in Beijing said that they "have a way of getting around" the censorship. NBC News is working out of the Beijing Int'l Convention Center rather than the Main Press Center or the Int'l Broadcast Center, and so far NBC personnel "have not encountered any problems" (MEDIABISTRO.com, 7/31). Newsweek Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu: "Most of us who live here use Internet tools, like proxy servers or VPNs, which actually allow you to more or less get around this interference. We’re not affected that much, and we may not be even aware of what’s going on day-by-day in the sort of naked Internet.” Liu added, “If your choice is bad PR versus total control, they still want total control. This is a government of control freaks … The only reason they backed down a bit on this Internet issue is because it became such a bruising controversy” ("Reliable Sources," CNN, 8/3). 

FACE OF A NATION: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Blumenstein, Batson & Fowler noted China President Hu Jintao Friday held his "first news conference ever with foreign journalists." Hu appeared "stiff but confident" and said that he "hoped the Olympic Games would leave an enduring legacy for China, and help convince the world that its most populated country is committed to a peaceful rise to prosperity." But "just as the moves toward openness signaled progress, they also demonstrated China's penchant for control." While reporters from the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AFP and NBC News were invited to attend, "many foreign journalists weren't" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/2). 

Quality Of Beijing's Air Has Been
Hot Topic Leading Up To Games
CLASHING OVER COVERAGE: In DC, Maureen Fan reported "much to the dismay of organizers, the thousands of credentialed journalists who have begun pouring into [Beijing] are not impressed." Instead of "writing about pandas or Olympic food, Western journalists are mostly covering stories that the Chinese government would rather they not -- the city's chronic pollution, for instance -- and complaining about a lack of access to Internet sites and the famed Tiananmen Square." Chinese authorities had told the IOC that reporters "would be allowed to cover the Games as they would any other Olympics," but media advocates said that, "so far, that has not been the case." Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union Sports Dir John Barton: "They gave pledges that we would be able to report without restrictions, that we would be able to travel anywhere in China and uplink anywhere in China -- the same conditions as had applied in previous Olympic Games, and patently that is not happening." TV crews from South America and Germany have "complained publicly about being harassed and followed by plainclothes police or about public security police who have cut off live shots even though the reporters had permission to film" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/3). In Toronto, Rosie DiManno wrote there is "escalating mistrust between a defensive Beijing and a snappish international media, a far different feeling from that hot summer night seven years past, when hundreds of thousands poured into the capital's streets to celebrate their selection as Olympic host" (TORONTO STAR, 8/2). However, AROUND THE RINGS' Ed Hula wrote, "On the plus side, journalists have been free to report on the internet controversy and other stories possibly unfavorable to China -- so far without censorship. ... Another sign of change: CNN and BBC have escaped blackouts by censors when reports critical of China are airing." Meanwhile, Beijing has been transformed into "what would appear to be the most stunningly prepared Olympic city in memory," and the venues "are a dream" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 8/2).

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