Mar 07 Australia complains about Olympic issues

Aug. 08, 2008, 4:30 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Australia's Olympic chief criticized Beijing organizers on Friday over their "wishy-washy" assurances on Internet access, and said bus transportation and pollution were still problem issues.

Olympic organizers BOCOG lifted restrictions on some Internet sites earlier this week after complaints from media and the IOC.

"We all would have preferred if some of the other assurances, wishy-washy as they may have been in terms of opening up Internet sites, had happened," Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates told a news conference hours before the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Games.

"Some have been opened up, there is progress, and where I sit, things happen slowly in this country. It's probably better progress than we from the West might think," added Coates, who was a senior official in the organizing committee for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Wang Wei, executive vice president of the Beijing organizing committee, said Internet access was available.

"I think you are free to cover the games," Wang said. "The Internet access is good except for just a few (sites) for security reasons. ... The pornography is blocked like in any other country."

A search Friday showed several sites were still blocked. Although links to Amnesty International and a general search of the Dalai Lama were available, any site for the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong was blocked, as was the site for Students for a Free Tibet.

Coates acknowledged that "China has done everything in terms of the venues they are offering us ... they have provided a very warm welcome for us." But he said said bus transportation to the rowing venue in particular was a problem.

"We are not happy with the quality of the buses that have been provided for the drive to Shunyi," he said.

The venue is listed on the Olympic Web site as being 36 kilometers (22 miles) from the city and a 30-minute bus drive, but Coates said the trip was taking more than 50 minutes.

"It's pretty tough on these big blokes, there's not much padding, it's not air conditioned," Coates said. "In some cases we are providing our cars to get the athletes out there. The international body FISA has been trying to rectify that for over a week without much success."

When asked if Beijing organizers had done enough on the pollution problem, Coates said: "No, but I don't know what more they can do."

The host city's polluted air has been one of the biggest worries for Olympic organizers and prompted drastic measures earlier this month that included pulling half the city's 3.3 million vehicles off the roads, halting most construction and closing some factories in the capital and surrounding provinces.

Coates said Australia hasn't yet been affected by the smog and pollution. Medical checks on its more than 230 athletes now in the athletes' village show no respiratory problems, he said.

He said that US$20 billion of the US$70 billion cost of the Beijing Games has gone towards environmental measures - "greening various parts and doing what they can."

"I don't know how you reverse some of these things," Coates said. "Let's hope that's one of the legacies of these games - that the realization of the damage that's been done and will continue to be done unless they are more careful."

----

AP Sports Writer Stephen Wade contributed to the report.

Comments