Behind the Rings: Olympic talking points of the week
The Olympic stories that have been making the news this week.
BEIJING – China has bolstered its Olympic security effort by deploying a battery of surface-to-air missile launchers a kilometre south of the showpiece venues for the Beijing Games.
At least two camouflaged Hongqi 7 missile launchers were visible from a public road close to the stadium built for the 1990 Asian Games, which is just across the city’s fourth ring road from the Bird’s Nest arena and Water Cube aquatics centre.
Radar dishes and other military vehicles along with uniformed air force personnel were also visible through a fence on which was posted a notice reading “Military Administrative District, No Admittance”.
Aircraft are almost never seen in the skies above central Beijing, which is restricted airspace. Olympic broadcasters, however, will be allowed to use helicopters to cover the Aug 8-24 Games.
Greece installed dozens of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles around Athens six weeks before the 2004 Olympics, the first Summer Games after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The US-made missiles were part of a huge security operation with a significant NATO contribution that cost an unprecedented $US1.8 billion ($A1.89 billion).
China has said it hopes to secure the Games for less than a third of the Athens bill by using its own armed forces.
BEIJING – Tickets for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics are being illegally scalped online for up to 20 times their face value.
The Beijing News said hundreds of tickets to the August 8 ceremony, the most sought-after of all events in the Games, were available on Chinese internet commerce sites.
The newspaper said 5,000-yuan ($A760) tickets to the ceremony were available on the web for 100,000 yuan ($15,250). Closing ceremony tickets also were on sale at a large mark-up.
Three rounds of Games’ ticket sales in China since last year have been met with huge demand, in which millions of tickets were snapped up.
A thriving black market for those who initially missed out has emerged despite a system requiring that the names of the original buyers be printed on the tickets.
Police have responded with a clampdown, arresting hundreds of people, state media said last month.
MELBOURNE – An Australian coin shaped as a postage stamp has been created to commemorate the Beijing Olympic Games.
Produced by the Perth Mint, one side of the 50 cent “stamp-coin” features the mythical Chinese dragon and the Australian Olympic Committee logo.
The other side reproduces the usual image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Only 8,000 of the coins will be released across the country in a tribute to the Chinese belief in the lucky number eight, Australia Post said.
The limited edition 50c stamp-coin would go on sale priced at $89.95, Australia Post said.
Group philatelic manager Noel Leahy said the stamp-coin represented China’s proud history and culture.
“With the Beijing Olympic Games set to be one of the most spectacular and innovative Games of all time, we thought this was a fitting event to commemorate on Australia’s first-ever stamp-coin,” Leahy said.
CHICAGO – Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and its leading scorer, headed the 12-man US Olympic basketball team for the Beijing Olympics.
Premier point guard Chris Paul was also included in the squad, which the US Olympic Committee hopes will reverse a trend of disappointing results for American teams in recent international competitions.
The team features six guards and five forwards with Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic the only regular centre named in the team.
Besides Bryant and Paul, the other guards are Jason Kidd (Dallas), Michael Redd (Milwaukee), Dwyane Wade (Miami) and Deron Williams (Utah).
Carmelo Anthony (Denver), Carlos Boozer (Utah), Chris Bosh (Toronto) and Tayshaun Prince (Detroit) join James in the forwards.
US teams have struggled overseas in recent years after decades of international dominance.
The United States finished with a disappointing bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens behind gold-medal winning Argentina, and also finished third at the world championship in Japan in 2006
BEIJING – An effort to clean Beijing’s air ahead of the Olympics by removing cars from its clogged roads has begun.
But skies remain smoggy and traffic is still bumper-to-bumper during afternoon rush hour on freeways and Chang An Avenue, that cuts through the heart of the city.
Under the edict, half of all government and Communist Party cars were not being used from June 23 until July 19, the city said in a notice on its web site.
On July 20 another regulation kicks in that will allow vehicles on the road only on odd or even days, depending on their licence plate numbers.
“To meet the air quality standards and to realise safe and smooth traffic is our solemn promise to the international community,” the Beijing government notice said.
New sports venues and $US40 billion ($A42 billion) spent to improve China’s infrastructure have not disguised the fact that Beijing’s air quality remains a contentious issue for the games.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said earlier that outdoor endurance events lasting more than an hour will be postponed if air quality is poor.
BEIJING – The hotel hosting the official non-accredited media centre for August’s Beijing Olympics is offering cash to reporters in return for positive media coverage.
The Gehua New Century Hotel, which describes itself as “China’s first five-star hotel with a media-cultural theme”, has promised journalists up to 1,000 yuan ($145) for articles about it.
It is common practice in China for local media to be paid “travel expenses” of 200 to 300 yuan for attending news conferences – in effect an incentive given that most taxi journeys in the city cost less than 50 yuan.
Hush money has also been paid to reporters by coal mine owners and, in some cases, colluding local officials to cover up fatal accidents.
The handout in Chinese on headed notepaper given by staff to the media after a Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) news conference at the hotel last weeks promised 100 yuan for a mention of the Gehua in reports.
Once verified by the public relations department, the document said, media can claim 500 yuan for a “positive” article on the hotel of 100 to 500 words in length and 1,000 yuan for an article of between 500 and 1,000 words.
“We want to extend our reputation through the opportunity of the Olympics, it is necessary to promote our brand,” PR manager Zhao Xiaoda said.
“I understand it is different from international practice. It was a decision of the PR department not the hotel.”
BEIJING – Beijing has dispatched 8,000 toilet maintenance staff, each responsible for a specific public restroom in the city and trained in hygiene standards and techniques, Olympic knowledge and practical English expressions.
There will be selective inspections every week and the results will be posted on the website of the Municipal Utilities Administration Commission, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The city was also struggling with which style of commode would be best, noting Westerners prefer seated toilets, which are more comfortable and convenient for the elderly or infirm.
The squat toilets widely used in Chinese public facilities are considered more hygienic as there is no direct contact with body, it said.
At more than 30 test events held by the Games organisers, the squat versions drew frequent complaints from foreigners, said Xinhua.
“Not all of the toilets will be changed, but those for journalists, athletes, and VIPs will be,” Xinhua quoted Yao Hui, the deputy director of venue management, as saying.
LONDON – Britain’s public spending watchdog has warned that “formidable” challenges remained for preparations towards the London Olympics in 2012.
The National Audit Office said uncertainties over a deal for the cost of the Olympic Village, the requirements for policing and security, and the legacy impact of the games meant that costs could still rise further from the current STG9.3 billion ($A19.3 billion) budget.
“Important challenges remain which will become more formidable as the spotlight turns to London after the Beijing Games,” said NAO chief Tim Burr.
“Uncertainties over the deal for the village, legacy requirements and policing and security may add cost, or compromise the preparations for a successful Games.
“The delivery bodies need to maintain a firm stance on cost and keep in sight the intended legacy benefits too.”
The chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, the agency charged with ensuring the 2012 Games are successful, said in an interview that the government would likely have to provide additional financial support for the Olympic Village.
“The government at the end of the day will have to come in and support the village (financially) – that is understood,” John Armitt told The Guardian.
“But negotiations are going on at the moment to try and minimise the degree to which further government funding to support the village is required.”
He added, however, that private “funding for the village is proving difficult in the current financial market”.© AAP 2013
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