View Full Version : The Beijing Olympics is bringing the IOC into disrepute

14-08-08, 18:07
The Beijing Olympics is bringing the IOC into disrepute
Thursday, August 14, 2008, 01:39 PM GMT [General]

Full coverage of the Olympics
We are now approaching the end of the first week of the Beijing Olympics and the time seems right for a preliminary assessment of how the Games are shaping up.

Journalists are frustrated by the lack of straight answers from officials

On the sporting front it's been scintillating stuff with super-swimmer Michael Phelps starring in the pool and our own Nicole Cooke and Becky Adlington put in heart-stopping performances to win gold.

I imagine that for those watching in Britain through the misty-eyed lens of the BBC, the Beijing Games are living up to expectations. The view from the pressroom, however, is altogether gloomier.

In fact, it's fair to say that the mood among a section of the international press corps here in Beijing is turning ugly.

What started as mild frustration or even amusement at the paranoid behaviour of the Chinese organisers towards news management, has morphed into outright anger.

Every morning the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hosts a general press conference at which all journalists are invited to ask questions of them and the Beijing Organising Committee.

This morning, after days of rising tension, the questioning became openly hostile with Channel 4's Alex Thomson attempting a Paxmanesque inquisition of the organisers, demanding over and over if the IOC were "in any way embarrassed" by the behaviour of the Chinese.

The anger in the press corps can be traced back to an early story of the Games when it emerged that, contrary to initial promises, the Chinese had not unblocked several banned websites. That was a bad start.

Then there were the ‘protest pens' which were supposed to allow organised demonstrations at the Games.

For five consecutive days reporters have asked for basic information on these pens - who has applied to protest, how many applications have been received, how many approved/denied - and for five consecutive days they've been given a non-answer.

On Wednesday there were more heated exchanges between organisers and reporters as several American journalists demanded better answers to such basic questions.

The anger stems from the seeming inability of the Beijing organisers to be open with the media, to the point where they appear at times to have deliberately misled journalists.

As an example I cite my own story of the dancer Liu Yan who was injured in a rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony.

We were told by our source that the dancer had been paralysed but after three phone calls to the organisers press office were told categorically that she had only ‘broken her leg' and was recovering well from the fracture. We ran the story, but the denial seriously reduced it's impact.

A few days later a local Chinese reporter produced pictures of the injured dancer and interviews with key figures which made it clear that she was far more seriously injured than Bocog had admitted.

This was plain from the medical details as well as the comment from opening ceremony director Zhang Yimou who said to see the dancer stand on her feet again "would make me much more excited and happier than any praise I've received" - hardly the sort of thing you say to someone who has just broken their leg.

At Wednesday's IOC press conference I asked Wang Wei, the Bocog vice president, why I'd apparently been supplied such obviously erroneous information. I got one of those non-answers which Chinese officials specialize in.

"I understand she was seriously injured but I'm not sure whether she was paralysed or not," said Mr Wang, "I think that the person you spoke to may not have known what happened to her."

I didn't expect to get the truth, but I did object when two minutes after I'd asked the question I looked up to see a man wearing Beijing Olympic uniform pointing a camera directly at me and taking a picture. He made no attempt to hide his actions.

In 13 years as a journalist I've never been deliberately photographed at a press conference before. Who knows which file that picture goes into, but if it was meant to be intimidating it had the effect only of adding to the sense of anger being felt here.

The point is that the Chinese organizers are rapidly losing the good will of the press corps which was so evident during the effusive praise of the opening ceremony.

I suspect the authorities don't much care about any this - they feel the media is nit-picking (about the empty seats, the faked fireworks and the Politburo's decision that the girl who sung at the opening ceremony wasn't pretty enough for international television) - which is their prerogative.

But if the Chinese don't care, the IOC should. As China daily traduces the Olympic spirit and ideals, the IOC is unable or unwilling to condemn what is happening.

So when a group of Chinese journalists have their notebooks confiscated for asking the US men's volleyball ask about the stabbing of their coach's father-in-law, nothing is said by the IOC to condemn it.

That's why Channel 4 and others are putting these awkward questions. This kind of behaviour is expected from the Chinese authorities, but it is reflecting directly on the IOC, bringing that already-tainted organization into disrepute.

Perhaps, like the Chinese, the IOC doesn't care. But for the good of the Olympics, they should.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/peter_foster/blog/2008/08/14/the_beijing_olympics_is_bringing_the_ioc_into_disr epute

14-08-08, 19:32
Speaking of "disrepute", when are the Uighurs going to condemn Islamofascism?

Chuck Martel