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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Beijing Olympics -- Games changed China, IOC says

December 1, 2008

The Globe and Mail (Canada)
November 29, 2008

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement of assessment
this week that the Beijing Olympics were an "indisputable success"
that brought change to China.

Human rights organizations railed against the broad-brush
declaration, but Chris Rudge, the chief executive officer of the
Canadian Olympic Committee, says the Games of 2008 have set change in
motion; it will just take longer to see a real difference.

"We in the West think of change as an endless succession of eureka
activities that bring changes instantly and dramatically," Rudge said
in an interview. "Chinese society is different. It's a very measured,
historic society. For them, change takes place over time, and a
short-term change can take five years. A long-term change can take many years.

"Are we going to see dramatic changes? Probably not in my lifetime or
in yours, but they'll move in that direction in a way and at a pace
that is their own because of what's happened at the Games. ... The
Chinese have had to react to influences from outside."

Human rights groups have taken issue with the IOC's evaluation,
pointing out that though the Games were efficiently run, they were
marred by crackdowns on would-be protesters, harassment of some
foreign journalists and Internet censorship -- the banning of some
sites such as the athlete-driven humanitarian group Right to Play and
the removal of a blog that told of China's fatal tainted milk scandal.

Authorities set up protest zones during the Olympics, but no
demonstrations took place and some people who applied for protest
permits were detained.

Thousands of people were evicted from their homes to make way for
construction of Olympic venues.

Sam Zarifi, the Asia Pacific director for Amnesty International, said
the Chinese government had made some strides in recent years, but
that it had hardened its stand on other issues, like Tibetan autonomy.

The IOC report praised the Games for improving public health in
China, saying that authorities took steps to improve food and water safety.

It quoted a World Health Organization official, Hans Troedsson, as
saying the public-health legacy of the Games was a "long-term gift to China."

Zhen Xiaozhen, the medical service manager of the Beijing Games,
pointed to a ban on smoking in public places and the training of
3,000 medical volunteers.

In a New York Times report, Canadian IOC member Richard Pound said
the Beijing Olympics deserved praise.

"I think most of what they identified is good and did in fact
happen," he said. Still, he said, postmortems typically include
negative assessments as well.

The fact that the Chinese authorities had to deal with issues in the
glare of media attention was, in itself, an influence for change, Rudge said.

"I think they're a more open society for the experience of the
Olympics," he added. "The Games have pointed out the changing
influence that the Internet has on society. The Chinese government
had to respond to the Tibet issue, and it actually galvanized their
society behind their government stance.

"The Games had the effect of exposing China to the rest of the world
and making China less threatening to the rest of the world. I hope it
made the Chinese less mysterious for Westerners and that Western
society is less demonized than it was before.

"There will be an ongoing move toward more democratization. There is
probably more democratic activity in China than we realize, once you
get beyond the central government, at the municipal levels."
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