SBD/Issue 222/Olympics

Athletes, Media Unanimously Praise Beijing Accommodations

Phelps Calls Olympic Village Best
Ever From Athlete's Perspective
Like most of the athletes competing in the Beijing Games, the American Olympians are "giving a universal thumbs-up to the Olympic Village, which is said to be the best ever," according to John Powers of the BOSTON GLOBE. U.S. gymnast Jonathan Horton: "We've got streams and bridges and fishes in the pond. It's absolutely gorgeous." U.S. swimmer Dara Torres added, "It's like being at a Marriott" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/7). In K.C., Mechelle Voepel writes under the header, "U.S. Olympic Contingent Pleased With China's Preparations." U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps said that this "appeared to be the best village yet from the athletes' perspective." The Olympians "like the rooms, the food, the aesthetics and the camaraderie" (K.C. STAR, 8/7). In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount writes the media village in Beijing is the "Ritz-Carlton of Olympic media villages, far better than any I've seen in five previous Olympics" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 8/7). In Toronto, Steve Simmons upon arriving in Beijing writes, "It is a terrific first impression after all the trepidation." Simmons: "I came here prepared for the worst and have come away with a first impression that these Games will stun people in so many different ways" (TORONTO SUN, 8/7). NBC's "Today" show featured a discussion about the Olympic green, with NBC's Matt Lauer saying, “It’s one of the prettiest Olympic greens that we’ve ever seen.” NBC's Meredith Vieira, who was in Beijing a year ago and saw the Olympic construction efforts, said of the finished product, “I never would have imagined how spectacular it really is” ("Today," NBC, 8/7).

China Keeping Tight Rein On
Security At Tiananmen Square 
TAKING CONTROL: In Toronto, Thane Burnett writes Beijing officials have "kept more people out than allowed in." Beijing's tourism bureau estimated that 450,000 visitors will visit the city this month, which is "the same as a year ago." In the run-up to the Games, "there's been a drop of 20%" in tourism, but Burnett writes that is the "cost officials are willing to pay for control" (TORONTO SUN, 8/7). In St. Petersburg, Gary Shelton writes the security force around Beijing is "as obvious as a flexed muscle." Every "few hundred yards, you can see soldiers, often standing at attention. Police squad cars drive with their flashers on. On the subway there are older women with red armbands, the Chinese version of the Guardian Angels." Shelton: "And you still wonder: Is it enough?" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 8/7). A BUFFALO NEWS editorial states, "The city is filled with paramilitary troops and volunteer police wearing armbands that bring memories of the Red Guards" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/7). NBC’s Richard Engel was given "exclusive access" to the Beijing security command center, where all security measures are monitored, and he noted, "Police in this command center control about 21,000 cameras across Beijing.” China "is tolerating no embarrassment. ... The biggest danger for China may be losing face” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 8/6).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: In DC, Edward Cody writes in a front-page piece developments in Beijing yesterday, "particularly the protests of foreigners, highlighted the difficulties facing China's Communist Party rulers as they try to show television viewers in China and the world a prosperous, harmonious country during the celebrations, even at the cost of heavy-handed security restrictions." The Chinese who "might be tempted to protest during the Games ... have been largely cowed into silence by a security crackdown that has left thousands in detention, under house arrest or banned from travel to Beijing." However, foreigners, "under consular protection and running much less risk of imprisonment, have pushed forward with plans to take advantage of China's moment in the sun" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/7). Students For A Free Tibet Exec Dir John Hocevar said, “We knew that security was going to be tough, but really, no matter how much they put into security you can’t squash the truth, you can’t stop protests completely” (“The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” PBS, 8/6).

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