Olympics 2008 News
Dark clouds gathering over Olympics away from sport (News Feature)
By John Bagratuni Aug 14, 2008, 11:29 GMT
Beijing - Thursday's thunderstorm over the Olympic host city seemed to typify an increasingly charged atmosphere between the media, Olympic organizers BOCOG and the International Olympic Committee - and perhaps also between BOCOG and the IOC.
Journalists have been pressing BOCOG for days about the number of people who have applied to stage protests in the official Olympic protest zones - to no avail.
The media was frustrated about limited internet access just ahead of the Games, and there is growing anger and official complaints from media organizations about the treatment of international journalists trying to cover protests in the city during the Games.
The issue of Chinese journalists having their notebooks confiscated after questioning the US volleyball team following the stabbing of a coach's relative has also created a lot of attention.
At the venues, a news conference hostess refused to allow the media to ask a Georgian judo gold medallist about the political situation in connection with hostilities with Russia. This was despite IOC rules, and statements from IOC boss Jacques Rogge, allowing athletes to ask political questions at press conferences and mixed zones in the Olympic area.
On Thursday, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies meanwhile refused to answer a question at a heated daily briefing on whether the IOC felt 'embarrassed' by China's refusal to live up to its promises made when it got the Games in 2001.
Davies resorted to general statements on the Games when she was pressed five times by the British television reporter to answer his question.
And to add insult to embarrassment for the IOC, BOCOG executive vice-president Wang Wei then took to the microphone, before the next question could be asked, to give his view of the whole situation.
'After 30 years of reform China has developed quickly. People enjoy more freedom. People are living a good life. Everyone is happy. People are optimistic about their own future. That's a fact,' he said in the direction of the western media..
'I think a few, a very few people come here to pick, be critical, to dig into the small details, to find fault with that.'
Wang also insisted communist China had not promised the IOC everything in connection with human rights when it got the Games.
'I did not say that China will promise to do whatever with the Games in China. I did not say that,' he said.
That is bad news for the IOC which had hoped for visible improvement on human rights and press freedom around the Games, which themselves are running well, with only the weather causing trouble.
The IOC already had to backtrack on internet access after China made it clear that it will continue block sites relating to Tibet or Falun Gong for national security reasons and the safeguarding of its young generation.
Rogge and Davies have only spoken of 'best possible access' while for China internet freedom meant only freedom to report on the Games itself - that is only sport - without restrictions.
To conform with Rogge's silent diplomacy, the IOC would never publicly attack BOCOG over these sensitive issues.
But it was not lost on observers that Davies acted just like BOCOG when she tried to fend off the television reporters' question.
'We are very pleased with how the organizers are putting on good sports events, that's what it is ... This is an event first and foremost for the athletes and the athletes are giving us extremely positive feedback about how these Games are being held,' she said.