Olympics Ideals Prove as Fragile as China

When China submitted its bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, it promised that journalists would have "complete freedom to report" from the country. However, "sites such as Amnesty International or any search for a site with Tibet in the address could not be opened at the Main Press Center [in Beijing], which will house about 5,000 print journalists when the games open Aug. 8," reports the Associated Press. Now, it turns out that International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials "negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related," reports Reuters. A spokesperson for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee said, "We are going to do our best to facilitate the foreign media to do their reporting work through the Internet." Access to websites about groups like the banned Falun Gong will remain blocked, he said, because "Falun Gong is an evil, fake religion." The Chinese government is also requiring hotels to "install and run the Security Management System," reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S. Senator Sam Brownback says the system will actually be used for "invasive intelligence gathering" during the Olympics, according to hotel documents.


According to the [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/01/sports/olympics/01censor.html New York Times], journalists in Beijing are now able to access some previously blocked websites:

Web sites for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Radio Free Asia and the Chinese language service of the BBC — all of which had previously been blocked — could be viewed at the Olympic Village. Although their availability was inconsistent, the pages could also be read in other parts of Beijing. Other sites, however, including those that discuss Tibet, Chinese dissidents and the 1989 demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, remained blocked.

Olympics officials also claimed not to have OK'd web censorship:

Giselle Davies, a spokeswoman for the organizing committee, said a misunderstanding had led to the contradictory versions of events, but she stressed that Olympic organizers have always been adamant about unfettered Internet access for the 20,000 foreign journalists who will be covering the athletic competition.


which translates roughly as


After Beijing, I think it'll be time to give the Olympics another 1,500-year timeout.