The Indian angle in Beijing’s welcome party

August 8th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS  


By Tarun Basu
Beijing, Aug 8 (IANS) ‘Welcome, World’, screamed the banner headline of China Daily, the only English language daily from Beijing, on the morning of the opening of the 29th Olympic Games - the day all of China has been awaiting for seven years since the world’s biggest sporting event was awarded to it. And guess who wrote the story - not a Chinese, but an Indian, O.P. Rana, one of the many Indian journalists who are now working here in Beijing and Shanghai as reporters for the English language newspapers, as well as polishers on their English desks.

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80 heads of state and government present

About 80 heads of state and government have descended on Beijing for the greatest show on earth. They include US President George W. Bush, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Bush has brought his entire family, including his wife Laura, parents - former president George H.W. Bush and mother Barbara - his sister Doro and brother Marvin.

Israeli President Peres will walk to the National Stadium, it was reported here, because during the Jewish Sabbath, which lasts from Friday night till Saturday, riding in vehicles in forbidden.

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West decried for standing in moral judgement

As the Chinese are all keyed up for the opening ceremony and the success of the Games, there are the inevitable newspaper commentaries that are taking a dig at the West for all the “negative stories” and the “moral judgement” that preceded it.

A commentator, Lijia Zhang, for instance, says: “I have no problem with the negative stories, but I think it’s wrong for the West to stand up in moral judgement, especially when some of the accusations are not true.”

Talking about the violence and repression in Tibet, that continued to be written about in the months and weeks to the Games, Lijia asked: “For example, what happened in Lhasa? In my view, there was a violent riot, one that would not be tolerated in any country.”

She hoped the Olympics would give a chance for the West and China to understand each other better for “much of the fear is generated by ignorance”.

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‘Air is fine’

Planting millions of trees between Gobi desert and Beijing, temporarily closing down dozens of polluting industries from in and around the capital, starting a new traffic system by having even and odd numbered cars on the streets on alternate days and shutting down polluting petrol stations has certainly improved the much-maligned air of Beijing.

“The pollution levels are coming down. It is not yet perfect. But it is safe for athletes,” was the certificate given by Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president.

Referring to the haze hanging over the city on the morning of the Games, he said it was due to “humidity and heat” and not pollution.

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Live sites around Beijing to relay the Games

For those not so fortunate to be among the 90,000 present at the Bird’s Nest National Olympic Stadium Friday night, authorities have set up what are called Olympic Live Sites with giant TV screens at key places in the city so that ordinary people can watch the 210-minute opening ceremony.

These sites will be telecasting live the events for the duration of the Games on high-definition screens where people will not only be able to view the ceremony and competitions but also enjoy cultural entertainment by Chinese and foreign performers.

Such sites were set up in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics and also at the 2006 football World Cup in Germany as well as the Euro Cup in Austria/Switzerland this year.

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