Hu hosts pre-Olympic banquet for heads of state, IOC

August 8th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 8 (DPA) Chinese President Hu Jintao Friday hosted a banquet lunch for 80 heads of state and top International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials who are here to attend the opening of the 2008 Olympics later in the day. “Holding the Olympics is the long-cherished wish of the Chinese people,” Hu said in a speech at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

“I believe that with the help of the IOC and the Olympic family we can hold a high-level Olympics with special characteristics,” he told guests including US President George W. Bush and IOC President Jacques Rogge.

“The Beijing Olympic Games is an opportunity not only for China but also for the whole world,” he said in the speech, which was shown by state television.

Hu thanked the leaders for the international help to China’s relief efforts in earthquake-devastated Sichuan province, where at least 70,000 people died in May.

After his speech, he proposed a toast and left the podium to clink glasses of what looked like red wine with Bush and other leaders.

According to the Chinese government, Hu held separate meetings Thursday with the presidents of Vietnam, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Belarus, Montenegro, Laos, Serbia and Brazil.

He also met Kim Yong Nam, the number two in the Korean Workers’ Party, who will represent North Korea in the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium Friday.

The semi-official China News Service said Hu was scheduled to hold another 70 bilateral meetings with visiting leaders in the five days from Friday.

He was expected to meet Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Friday.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd were also scheduled to join some 91,000 spectators, athletes, officials, volunteers, security staff and journalists to watch the Olympics opening ceremony Friday night.

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