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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

World leaders gather for Olympics

August 10, 2008

August 7, 2008

Leaders and dignitaries from around the world are gathering in
Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Some 11,000 athletes from 205 countries will compete in more than 300
events over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

But the lead-up to the Games has been overshadowed by issues such as
China's human rights record, internet access, and air pollution in Beijing.

US President George W Bush expressed "deep concerns" over human
rights before flying to Beijing.

Mr Bush, who was in Thailand on the eve of the opening ceremony,
voiced "firm opposition" to China's detention of dissidents - while
stressing that he wanted the focus during the Games to be on sport.

China rejected the US president's criticisms as "interference" in its
internal affairs, and insisted it "put its people first".

Meanwhile, 40 Olympian athletes wrote to President Hu Jintao
expressing their concerns over Beijing's handling of anti-Chinese
unrest in Tibet.

Most expensive, most politicised

The 2008 Olympics have been described as the most politicised Games
since the boycott era of the early 1980s, says the BBC's sports news
reporter Alex Capstick in Beijing.

But after a succession of controversial issues in the build-up to the
Games, the focus is now shifting to the opening ceremony.

Having taken seven years of planning, and a record-breaking $40bn in
costs, nothing has been left to chance in China's bid to show the
world what it can do, our correspondent adds.

An estimated global audience of four billion people will watch the
opening ceremony.

It will be staged at Beijing's national stadium - known as the Bird's
Nest because of its steel latticed construction - and some 10,000
performers will take part.

Jacques Rogge, the head of the International Olympic Committee, who
has repeatedly defended the decision to let China host the Olympics,
said he hoped the Games would help the world to understand China, and
China to understand the world.

Mr Rogge also praised China's "extraordinary" efforts to cut
pollution ahead of the Games, saying there was no danger to athletes' health.

Torch relay

A day before the Games, a BBC reading suggested Beijing's air quality
was far below World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

It put levels of particulate matter (PM10) at 191 micrograms per
cubic metre. This exceeds the WHO target for developing countries of
150 micrograms/cubic metre.

Mr Rogge said if the pollution was bad, events which lasted more than
that could be shifted or postponed.

There were celebrations on Thursday as the Olympic torch made its
final stops on a journey that has seen it pass through six continents
in six months.

Patriotic crowds lining a mist-shrouded Great Wall cheered as the
torch - which has been a magnet for protesters critical of China's
rights record on its six-continent tour - passed by.

In other developments:

* A US group that monitors radical websites said a Chinese Islamic
group has posted an Uighur-language video threatening to attack the Olympics
* The two Koreas said they would not march together at the opening
ceremony, a reversal on the last two Olympic Games
* China selected basketball star Yao Ming to carry its national flag
at the opening ceremony
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