China is ready 100 days ahead of Beijing games - torch in Hong Kong

Other News Materials 30 April 2008 18:51 (UTC +04:00)

China is ready for the Beijing Olympics with 100 days left on Wednesday until the opening ceremony, but there is still some fine-tuning left to be done, reported the dpa.

The torch relay returned to China on the day in the form of Hong Kong and climbers were making preparations for the controversial leg of the Olympic flame to the summit of Mt Everest.

In Beijing, a large number of locals took part in a run around the spectacular venues, the National Stadium (bird's nest) and the Water Cube swim stadium.

Many runners were wearing protective masks as the pollution index rose to 135 on the day, but factories are to be closed down for maintenance and traffic is to be drastically reduced for the August 8-24 Games.

This is part of the fine-tuning organizers plan as the giant countdown clocks spread throughout the 15-million metropolis tick down to the start of the big event.

"We must keep a clear mind and must be aware that there is room for improvement," said Jiaqng Yu, the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While the preparations for the Games themselves are all but finalized, true to the "We are ready" statements from the organizing committee BOCOG, the focus will remain on the political aspects which have overshadowed the last weeks.

China's crushing of the unrest in Tibet last month has led to an international upcry. The Chinese government finally said last week it was ready to resume talks with representatives of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

China will be happy that the protest-marred international section of the torch relay is over but there are further controversial legs ahead for the Olympic flame.

The Mt Everest ascent could start on the weekend, but this Tibetan part of the relay which is also due to run through Lhasa has been attacked by exiled Tibetans as the latest attempt by China to underline their power in this region.

Thanks to the territory's 'one country, two systems' arrangement with Beijing, protests could also take place in Hong Kong when the torch relay continues on Friday in the territory which will host the Olympic equestrian events of the Beijing Games.

Beijing officially said that the equestrian events were moved there to avoid equine diseases, but critics said that Hong Kong was chosen for purely political reasons.

The city's Beijing-appointed administration has taken a hard line against protestors so far, expelling Danish sculptor and human rights activist Jens Galschiot and his sons when they arrived Saturday to take part in anti-China protests.

Four more activists have also been refused entry at Hong Kong international airport, it emerged Wednesday, including two members of the Students for Free Tibet movement and the London-based spokesman for the Free Tibet Campaign, Matt Whitticase.

In a statement sent to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa after he was ordered to return to the UK, Whitticase said: "Everywhere one looks, China is slamming the door in the face of free expression."

"Tourists are being refused entry to Tibet, journalists are being prevented from reporting freely from Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai and now I have been denied entry to Hong Kong.

"Denying me entry not only represents a slap in the face for the concept of 'one country, two systems'; it also demonstrates yet again that China clearly has much to hide in Tibet."