China stages biggest Olympic show

August 7th, 2008 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Roger Federer
Beijing, Aug 7 (DPA) Olympic supremo Jacques Rogge may have to declare the Beijing Olympics the best ever as the Chinese organizers are determined to put on the biggest sports show on earth. They hope that fantastic venues will inspire Michael Phelps, Roger Federer, Ronaldinho and their own athletes to great performances, and move attention away from China’s human rights record, tight security and promises not met in the final run-up to the games.

The world’s most populous country had the manpower to build gigantic stadiums and is overwhelming athletes, officials and the media with an army of 70,000 volunteers for the Aug 8-24 games.

Friday’s opening ceremony is to set the stage for the 16 days of sport as it is by all accounts to be a monumental affair to showcase China’s transformation over the past years.

But Sudan-born runner Lopez Lomong will remind China President, Hu Jintao, of the things China doesn’t want mentioned at the games when he will be the American flag-bearer at the ceremony in the National Stadium.

Chinese organizers have insisted on several occasions that they don’t want politics to interfere with the games, the same Chinese who did not live up to promises on internet access and broadcasting on Tiananmen Square made to the IOC ahead of the games.

Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli has already conceded that the IOC needs to be “more proactive to risks” and “more hands on” in the future when dealing with Olympic hosts.

Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said bluntly that the protest-marred international leg of the torch relay, in response to China’s crushing of the unrest in Tibet in March, led to “a crisis.”

“This was close to becoming a disaster,” said Pound, adding that only the Sichuan earthquake in May spared the Chinese humiliation as many nations were at the time “in a boycott mode.”

The IOC did not always look good over the past months but Rogge insisted that the games will be “historic” and a “significant milestone” for China.

Unlike his predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch, from whom he inherited the games in Communist China, Rogge does not use the phrase “the best ever games” in his final assessment.

But having already given the athletes’ village this rating, and hearing that the press centre has also been named in this week, Rogge conceded that he faces a difficult task at the Aug 24 closing ceremony.

“It makes life more difficult for me. You know I never wanted to say ‘the best ever,’” Rogge said.

The American swimming sensation Phelps, meanwhile, could become the most successful ever Olympian in two areas.

The six-time gold medallist needs just four more to eclipse a quartet of summer Olympians with a 10th overall gold. And if he wins all his eight events he will also better the seven Olympic titles Mark Spitz swam to in 1972.

“I have never spoken about records. It is you guys in the media who have been writing about that. Only my coach Bob Bowman and myself know my goals and that is what I am hoping to achieve,” said Phelps.

The US will as usual battle Australia for pool supremacy in the Water Cube, while next door in the National Stadium world champion Tyson Gay aims to deny Jamaica a first ever gold in blue-riband 100m sprint.

World record holder Usain Bolt has confirmed he will go for a sprint double and fellow-Jamaican Asafa Powell is the former record holder.

Gay said he has overcome a hamstring injury: “When I step on the line in Beijing, don’t worry. I will be ready to go.”

The Chinese hosts hope that new world record holder Dayron Robles will also steal the gold medal from their reigning world champion Liu Xiang in the 110m hurdles.

The Chinese need every gold then can get hold of as they battle the United States for supremacy in the medal table. The US won in 2004 but China is expected to make the most of its home field advantage.

“Win glory for our country,” Hu told the 639-strong team amid concern that some athletes may crack under the immense pressure to deliver.

Organizers said that more than 11,000 athletes have been accredited to compete in 302 medal in 28 sports.

The IOC will conduct a record 4,500 doping tests to make sure the games are as clean as possible, while the Chinese have literally moved factories, closed others and imposed tight traffic restrictions to make sure that the air athletes breath is not too polluted.

“I am confident that the air quality will not prove to pose major problems to the athletes,” said IOC medical committee head Arne Ljungqvist.

Whether the overall atmosphere remains clean as well remains to be seen as Rogge’s final assessment will depend on how China will have dealt with the international visitors and media over the 16 days.

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