IOC hails Beijing "gold standard", China slams critics
BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing's preparations for the Olympics were hailed as a "gold standard for the future" on Tuesday, a month before the opening ceremony, while China said its critics could not prevent the success of the Games.
China has transformed its capital for the August 8-24 Games, which it hopes will promote domestic stability and showcase a newly confident nation to the rest of the world.
The 31 venues may be ready but the March 14 riots in Tibet that sparked anti-Chinese demonstrations around the world, air quality, human rights and media freedom have dominated the run-up to the Games.
While conceding that concerns remained about pollution and a few broadcasting issues, chief International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspector Hein Verbruggen said Beijing "looked ready".
"The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future," he said in a statement after two days of meetings with organizers.
"What our hosts have achieved is exceptional. For the Games to be an overriding success -- and the IOC has an underlying confidence this will unquestionably be the case -- the organizers need now to deliver the services pledged for ... the various stakeholders who have begun to arrive for the Games."
Critics have said China is falling far short of the freedoms and standards it promised to win the Games.
Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday that China continues to severely breach its pledge to allow full media freedoms for the Games.
CRITICS MAKE "NOISE POLLUTION"
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang was scathing about the critics at a regular news conference on Tuesday, and said China was confident of its ability to stage a successful Games.
"Their behavior has already been amply exposed," he said of rights groups critical of China.
"Some people and organizations believe that without this noise pollution, the world isn't lively enough.
"So particularly in the Olympic Games period they engage in distortion and exaggeration ... The Chinese government and people have long become used to this ... A successful Olympic Games cannot be prevented by any force."
Verbruggen was also on hand for the opening of the Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre, which will house 21,600 accredited media at Games' time.
"A very small number of open issues remain, such as some matters with broadcasters and our need to see how temporary measures in the city will make an impact on air quality," he said.
Despite continuing complaints from foreign media of obstruction and harassment while reporting in China, Beijing organizing committee spokesman (BOCOG) spokesman Sun Weide said China had made great strides.
"I would like to reiterate that we have honored our commitment to adopt all sorts of measures to provide convenience for your (the media's) coverage," he told a news conference.
The more than 16 million citizens of the city were too busy preparing for the glory and inconvenience of hosting the world's biggest sports event to celebrate the one-month milestone.
Thousands of workers are putting the finishing touches to a $40 billion upgrade of the city's infrastructure, but the regulations they hope will keep the city clean, safe and controlled have not pleased some.
"We have waited a long time for the Games, and as the Olympics is approaching, it brings troubles to residents in Beijing," said Jiang Yueming, 28, a graduate student in Renmin University.
"Bags must be checked when you take a subway, batteries cannot be sent by express mail. We are excited and extremely happy for the holding of Olympic Games, but it dwindles day by day."
After a fine couple of days brought about by a heavy rainstorm, pollution returned across the city on Tuesday. Beijing has promised to meet Chinese and pre-2005 World Health Organization standards in time for the Games.
"I don't feel the environment is becoming that much better," said 35-year-old Beijing barber Li Guang.
The Games-time restrictions on traffic and factory emissions, which run for two months from July 20, will certainly make a difference but at a price to the people of the city.
"Security checks and traffic restrictions at that time will certainly affect my commuting, but I understand the government," said Wang Nan, a white-collar worker who already spends nearly three hours commuting every day.
"Safety is after all the most important thing."
Some foreign athletes have started to trickle into China, with a few at the sailing venue in Qingdao, but most are expected to delay their arrival until the last minute. The athletes' village in Beijing will open on July 27.
(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng, Chris Buckley and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
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