With less than a month to go before the Olympics open, preparations in
China continue. So do concerns about pollution, human rights and press
freedom. VOA's Brian Padden reports.
Great Wall of China is getting a makeover for the Olympics. Stretched
along over 13 thousand meters of the wall is long piece of art known as
the "Olympic Dragon" featuring national and regional flags of the 205
countries participating in the Olympics.
With the start of
the Beijing Olympics less than a month away, final preparations are
well under way. The main stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, and the
other 31 venues have been ready for months.
The Main Press Center was
recently opened to receive more than 20,000 journalists from
around the world. International Olympic Committee official Hein
Verbruggen toured the sight.
magnificent building, along with the International Broadcast Center, is
perhaps one of the most important venues of the games because it is
from here that the stories of Beijing 2008 will be told," Verbruggen said.
City of Beijing is also undergoing a number of improvements for the
games. The government spent $57 million to renovate more than
5,000 public restrooms.
And thousands of Olympic volunteers are learning both English and how to interact with foreigners.
questions remain about whether the Olympics will improve China's image
or confirm its critics' allegations. Chinese officials have taken
action aimed at dissipating Beijing's air pollution before the games,
after spending more than $15 billion on anti pollution measures
including relocating factories and limiting car traffic in the city
during the games.
Press freedom issues were called into
question when television networks, which paid billions of dollars for
live broadcast rights, learned that security officials imposed limits
on when they can broadcast from Tiananmen square.
rights groups have used the media spotlight on the Olympics to bring
attention to China's human rights abuses. Amnesty International
recently delivered nearly 120,000 petitions to the Chinese Embassy
in Paris calling for the release of political prisoners. It says an
estimated half a million people are currently being detained in China
without charge or trial.
Stephan Oberreit, the director of Amnesty
International in France said the Chinese government needed to show.
strong signs regarding their promises of respecting human rights given
that they have Olympic Games this years in China," Oberreit said.
far, China has avoided any major diplomatic embarrassments. After
hinting that he may boycott the opening ceremonies to protest China's
crackdown on Tibet, French President Nicolas Sarkozy of France says he
will now attend.
U.S. President George Bush is also planning to attend
and says he communicates his concerns about human rights directly to
China's President Hu Jintao.
President and I have constantly had discussions about human rights and
political freedom, he knows my position. And as I told our people, Mr.
President, I don't need the Olympics to talk candidly with somebody
that I've got good relations with," Mr. Bush said.
hope to use the Olympics to introduce modern China to the world, there
is still concern that politics could ruin the party.