Games of the XXIX Olympiad underway

The Beijing Olympic Games began today with the opening group matches in women’s football, two days ahead of the opening ceremony.

Today’s lineup (times local):
* Argentina 1–2 Canada (5 pm)
* Germany 0-0 Brazil (5 pm)
* Japan 2–2 New Zealand (5 pm)
* China vs Sweden (7:45 pm)
* North Korea vs Nigeria (7:45 pm)
* Norway vs United States (7:45 pm)

Germany v. Brazil and Norway v. United States are obviously the two big games of the bunch. As of this writing (7 pm local time in China), the first three matches are now complete — with the highly-anticipated Germany–Brazil clash of the titans ending in a dour 0-0 draw.

Also, Severe Tropical Storm Kammuri has hampered preparations for equestrian events in Hong Kong. The storm made landfall in Guangdong Province east of the Leizhou peninsula a few hours ago just west of Hong Kong.

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Greek sprinter who missed Athens dope test to sue IOC president

One of two Greek sprinters who missed a pre-Games dope test in 2004 and was subsequently droped, Katerina Thanou, is threatening to personally sue IOC President Jacques Rogge if he bans her from the Beijing Games.

According to BBC Sport, Thanou’s lawyer has threatened that legal action would be pursued if Dr Rogge threw Thanou out of Beijing — despite him having the right to do so following her agreement to give up accreditation at a disciplinary hearing over the 2004 matter.

Now, Thanou’s lawyer, in a letter to the IOC, claims that any attempt to ban Thanou from Beijing would constitute “an abuse of power and discrimination against an athlete who has qualified successfully according to the rules and it will breach the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Oh please, get a life. Thanou knew what she was doing and what she would face. Rogge has the right to ban her and Thanou should have been given a life ban, like Dwain Chambers.

On a separate issue, Thanou is also threatening to sue the IOC if Marion Jones’ gold medal from the Sydney Games in 2000 is not awarded to her by Monday. The IOC obviously has good reason to be wary of awarding her that medal. However, on this case, Thanou should be awarded it unless there’s definite proof she was in violation of any rules in 2000.

China ‘unblocks’ some web addresses

“In China, Internet access is fully open.” — Sun Weide, spokesman for the Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee (BOGOC).

Riiight.

News today that China has unblocked some web addresses following a protest from the International Olympic Committee. It’s not clear whether these sites have been unblocked to everyone or only for the journalists reporting on the event.

Amnesty International, bbc.com/chinese, the Chinese Wikipedia and similar sites are reportedly among those unblocked, although CNN reports that some of these sites, while unblocked, were still “unavailable” at times.

China, stop the act already. And the IOC, well, you’re just a useless, shameful bunch of bastards who don’t dare to challenge BOGOC on this issue.

International journalists at Olympics find net access censored

Web access for international journalists already in Beijing to cover the Olympic Games is being censored, according to media reports.

In addition to sites relating to the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, some international news websites, as well as websites of human rights organisations, are blocked.

And, guess what? The IOC is backing China on this. IOC press commission chairman Kevan Gosper contradicts his own statement in the same interview when speaking to the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong: “There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics… but […] some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked.”

“Full, open and free internet access” that sees “some sensitive sites blocked”?

The BBC quotes a Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee spokesman, Sun Weide, as saying that China will provide “sufficient and convenient” net access for scribes. Why is the IOC allowing this to happen? What happened to all those empty promises?

The IOC is complicit with the Beijing government in this. Why does the IOC continue to claim otherwise?

Amnesty’s report about China

An Amnesty report about China says that human rights have gotten worse thanks to the upcoming Olympics, including increased use of “re-education through labour”.

A day later, China rejected the report, accusing Amnesty of viewing it with “tinted glasses”. Liu Jianchao at the foreign ministry in Beijing said Amnesty should “see China in a fair and objective way, and do something more constructive.”

And yet, a day after that Chinese retort, new news out of Sichuan province, which was hard hit by an earthquake earlier this year: a Chinese teacher who took photos of collapsed school buildings and put them up on the Internet has been detained, and, you guessed it, sent for “re-education through labour”.

I don’t think we can ever expect an improvement in the country unless something drastic happens.

Zhongguo Taibei? So much for not politicising the Olympics, China.

Well, so much for not politicising the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Apparently, Chinese officials want to refer to Taiwan’s Olympic delegation as “中国台北” (“Taipei China”, not dissimilar to “Hong Kong, China”), instead of the current IOC standard “中华台北” (Chinese Taipei) that has been in use since 1989.

The former — Zhongguo Taibei — implies that the island belongs to the People’s Republic, which is the line the PRC takes, while the latter — Zhonghua Taibei — refers to an ambiguous Chinese state. The Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself, has participated in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei since 1984. Since 1989, both sides have agreed to call the island’s sportsmen and women representatives of Zhonghua Taibei.

Two weeks ago, a Chinese official sparked outrage in Taiwan — where lawmakers have threatened to boycott the Games — by saying that the use of both terms had equal validity; effectively that “Chinese Taipei” and “Taipei, China” were interchangeable. Earlier this week, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that the PRC took the 1989 accord to mean that while Chinese Taipei was to be used in all official areas, “Taipei, China” could be used otherwise.

And only today has the issue begun to cool slightly after an official PRC news outlet, the China News Services, began referring (link in simplified Chinese)1 to the island’s delegation as being from “Zhonghua Taibei” — Chinese Taipei — after earlier (link in simplified Chinese)2 referring to it as “Zhongguo Taibei”.

Really now. The Games are supposedly meant to be non-political…so why go against the agreement?

1 The headline reads: “中华台北队高雄训练中心探营:有多位大陆教练”, with an approximate translation being “Scouting of Chinese Taipei team’s training centre in Kaohsiung reveals many mainland coaches”.
2 This headline, from eight days prior, reads: “马英九30日将为中国台北奥运代表团授旗壮行”, which roughly means “Ma Ying-jeou (President of Taiwan) to present Olympic flag to Zhongguo Taibei delegation”.

Radovan Karadžić arrested

Just a short one.

Top news today is that former Bosnian Serb war leader Radovan Karadžić — wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague on charges of war crimes — has been arrested in Belgrade after 13 years on the run.

What use does this do? On the surface it’s a boost for Boris Tadić’s government in Serbia and a step closer to possible EU membership. Tadić can also use this to show proof that his government is actively working to arrest these men.

Well, if that’s the case, why did it take 13 years? And more importantly, where’s the war general Radko Mladić? Until General Mladić is arrested, I’d venture that nothing has changed.