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Jacques Rogge warns athletes off Opening Ceremony protests

August 10, 2008

Michael Crutcher
The Australian
August 7, 2008

OLYMPIC athletes have been warned not to protest at tonight's Opening
Ceremony as Beijing Games organisers brace for 16 days of potential
trouble with political statements, pollution and drug busts.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said athletes
marching into the packed Bird's Nest stadium must abide by the
Olympic charter which forbids any political statements or propaganda
in accredited Olympic zones.

His wish could be tested as thousands of athletes march into a Games
that has been dogged by controversies over China's human rights record.

"We do not want demonstrations or propaganda on the podium or at the
venue," Mr Rogge told a press conference in Beijing last night.

"Athletes have the full right to express their views outside of
accredited zones."

The IOC has already conceded defeat in o ne campaign - the two Koreas
will march separately for the first time since 1996.

Mr Rogge admitted he had sent letters to the leaders of North Korea
and South Korea urging them to fall in behind a single flag in the
Bird's Nest but the countries refused.

"This will not be a joint march as we have seen in Sydney or Athens," he said.

"Both national (Olympic) commitees were in agreement but
unfortunately the political powers both in the South and the North
did not agree. This is a setback for political harmony."

But Mr Rogge said he still "felt the kind of excitement" that an
athlete feels before big competition as the IOC and the Beijing
Organising Committee put the final touches to seven years of planning.

The president said the Beijing Games would catapult the Olympics into
the forefront of a huge pocket of the world's population.

"(The 2004 Athens Games) were the identity of going back to the
(Olympic) roots," Mr Rogge said.

"China will be opening the Olympics to one-fifth of mankind. That is
the unique feature that only China can offer.

"The Games will mean a lot to China. They will mean a lot for the
rest of the world to find what China is."

China has been about pollution for some observers with the Games city
today again shrouded by a haze which limited visibility to about one
kilometre. At the rowing venue, competitors could not be seen along
half of the course as they trained ahead of tomorrow's opening meets
of the regatta.

But Mr Rogge said critics had to distinguish between smog and fog.

"There must be clearly a distinction between the fog and the
pollution," he said.

"The fog you see (yesterday) is based on humidity and heat. It does
not mean that this is the same as pollution. Of course we prefer
clear skies but the main thing is the health of the athletes."

Mr Rogge closed his final press conference before the Games by
repeating his warning that Beijing could be marred by 30-40 positive
drug tests.

"I hate doping - we all hate doping," he said.

"Doping is to sport what criminality is to society. There will always
be criminality in society."
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