Thursday, April 3, 2008

IOC inspectors are satisfied after final meeting with

BEIJING (AP) — International Olympic Committee inspectors said
Thursday that they were satisfied by Chinese organizers’ assurances
that operations in critical areas will run smoothly in the Summer
Olympics.

With the Games just four months away, the inspectors — know as
the coordination commission — completed their final official
meetings with Beijing organizers. They said they were assured of
smooth operations for Internet access, live television broadcasts
and contingency plans to deal with the Beijing’s air pollution.

“We were satisfied by assurances we received across a number of
areas,” Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the inspection team, said in
a statement. He did not offer details but was scheduled to hold a
news conference later Thursday.

Earlier this week, a high-ranking IOC official said Chinese
officials had been told that Internet censorship had to be lifted
for thousands of journalists covering the games. About 30,000
accredited and non-accredited reporters are expected to report on
the games.

Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the coordinating commission, said
restricting access to the Internet during the games “would reflect
very poorly” on the host nation.

Beijing routinely blocks Chinese access to some foreign news Web
sites and blogs, a practice it has stepped up since rioting broke
out in Tibet in mid-march. Laws that lifted many restrictions on
foreign media went into effect Jan. 1, 2007. That is due to expire
in October.

Broadcasters have been lobbying against plans by Chinese
officials that might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen
Square. Any ban on live broadcasts would disrupt the plans of NBC
and other major international networks, who have paid hundreds of
millions of dollars for the rights to the games.

China routinely uses 30-second to one-minute delays to control
broadcasts seen on state-run TV. The Olympic torch lighting
ceremony last month in Greece was disrupted by a protester who ran
up behind a top Chinese official giving a speech. The image seen
around the world was never shown on state TV in China.

Monday’s torch arrival in Tiananmen Square was also broadcast on
a delay.

IOC officials have acknowledged that outdoor endurance events of
more than an hour could offer a small health risk to athletes. IOC
President Jacques Rogge began saying seven months ago that events
would be postponed if the air quality were poor.

Last month the IOC’s top medical officer said Beijing’s air
quality was better than expected. A study the IOC approved showed
there are risks to athletes in outdoor endurance events and
conditions may be less than ideal during the Aug. 8-24 period.

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