August 2, 2008 / 2:54 PM / 11 years ago

IOC says it may have been naive on Web access

BEIJING (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee acknowledged on Saturday it might have been naive when it expected China to allow unfettered media access to the Internet during the Beijing Games.

But IOC president Jacques Rogge told a news conference there had been an improvement and that the access China had given was unprecedented in the Communist country.

Chinese authorities blocked Web sites earlier this week but agreed to unblock a number when the IOC, which had vowed there would be unrestricted access, stepped in on Thursday.

“I would say we are idealists. Idealism is linked with some naivety,” Rogge said in response to a question whether the IOC was naive in thinking China would change the way it perceived the Internet.

“We are not running the Internet in China. I am not going to make an apology for something the IOC has no responsibility for,” said Rogge.

“I believe this (access) is unprecedented for this country. There has been an improvement and that is what counts.”

Rogge dismissed reports that IOC officials had struck a deal with Chinese authorities to accept restrictions.

When the IOC intervened, China unblocked several sites including the BBC’s Mandarin service and Amnesty International’s. Amnesty had condemned Internet restrictions as “betraying the Olympic values”.

The issue caused a major stir days before the start of the August 8-24 Olympics, with the Beijing Games Organizing Committee (BOCOG) saying sensitive sites would remain blocked by the Communist authorities.

Although Internet access will be relatively free for journalists for the period of the Games, it is still tightly controlled for the rest of the country.

Sites related to spiritual movement Falun Gong and other issues that are frowned on by the Communist authorities are regularly blocked.

The BOCOG is responsible for directly running the Beijing Games under the auspices of the IOC, which sets general policy.

Editing by Ralph Gowling

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