13-July-2001 -- Catholic World News Brief |

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BEIJING, (CWNews.com/Fides) - While the world debates whether the 2008 Olympic Games should or should not be awarded to China, citizens in Beijing swing from skepticism to rejection of the prestigious international sports event.

Much has been said about the Olympic Games by Chinese media recently in a bid to stir up interest and support. A Chinese delegation led by the country's vice president and an entourage of more than 400 journalists is in Moscow for the award ceremony on Friday, but most of the people, especially those in the capital, show little interest. A professor at Beijing University said the games would only be an opportunity to show China's power to the world. Sources say ordinary people are unmoved by the nationalist theories paraded by China's political leaders and intellectuals; they are more practical. They remember the extra taxes brought by the Asian Games in 1990, the forced labor to re-structure the city, and students kept away from lessons to work in preparation.

Official propaganda says the games will produce only positive effects: more work, a new city, a better life for peasants. But the people are skeptical, believing the benefits will only go to the political elite as usual. The sources say, "The entire city center will be rebuilt. People living in the area for generations will be moved out, although they cannot afford a new home. Culture, customs, traditions may be lost, but the bureaucrats and politicians are not interested: all they want is to line their pockets."

On the eve of the International Olympic Committee's decision in Moscow, China's political leaders and businessmen (recently welcomed as Party members, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Communist Party) are keen to host the games to boost both China's business and its world image. Human Rights groups are against the games. They say it would be an offense to humanity to light the Olympic Torch in Tiananmen Square and they recall the 1,700 executions in China in the last three months.

He Zhenliang, head of the Chinese Olympic Commission said if China obtains the games it will be a triple victory: for sport, for China, and for the world. Beijing is a favorite because Paris, Toronto, Istanbul, and Osaka are not popular alternatives and because the United States will not oppose China's bid.

Official sources in Washington, quoted by The New York Times, say that a victory for Beijing in the vote could cause the Chinese government to hesitate to use military force against Taiwan in the coming years and to improve its human rights behavior. A Beijing Olympics could lessen the gap between China and Taiwan, as it did for the two Koreas who paraded under one flag at the Sydney Olympics last year. In fact, Beijing has already invited Taiwan to cooperate in offering hospitality for the games, and the island-nation said this would be possible.

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