BEIJING (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee praised Beijing on Tuesday for setting a “gold standard for the future” in its preparations for the Games, which begin in a month.
China, meanwhile, poured scorn on critics abroad, saying complaints of human rights abuses were just so much “noise pollution” which could not prevent the success of the Games.
While conceding that concerns remained about air pollution and broadcasting issues, chief International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspector Hein Verbruggen said Beijing “looked ready”.
“The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future,” he said in a statement.
China has transformed its capital for the August 8-24 Games, which it hopes will promote domestic stability and showcase a newly confident nation to the rest of the world.
While the 31 sporting venues may be ready, the run-up to the Games was dominated by March riots in Tibet that sparked anti-Chinese demonstrations around the world, and by concerns over poor air quality, human rights and media freedom.
“For the Games to be an overriding success — and the IOC has an underlying confidence this will unquestionably be the case — the organizers need now to deliver the services pledged..”, Verbruggen said.
Critics say China is falling far short of the freedoms it promised to win the Games.
Amnesty International on Tuesday presented petitions to the Chinese Embassy in France to protest against human rights abuses and demand the release of political prisoners.
“The Chinese authorities must not try to minimize the importance of human rights,” said Amnesty’s Genevieve Garrigos. “The games are giving us a chance to shine the light on abuses.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, at a regular news conference, was scathing about criticism from rights groups.
“Some people and organizations believe that without this noise pollution, the world isn’t lively enough,” he said.
“So particularly in the Olympic Games period they engage in distortion and exaggeration ... (but) ... a successful Olympic Games cannot be prevented by any force.”
At the opening of the Main Press Centre and International Broadcast Centre, which will house 21,600 accredited media at Games time, Verbruggen said “a very small number of open issues remain”, concerning broadcast arrangements and air quality.
Foreign media complain of obstruction and harassment, but Beijing organizing committee spokesman (BOCOG) spokesman Sun Weide said China had made great strides.
“I would like to reiterate that we have honored our commitment to adopt all sorts of measures to provide convenience for your coverage,” he told reporters at a news conference.
Beijing’s 16 million citizens were too busy preparing for the glory and inconvenience of hosting the world’s biggest sports event to celebrate the one-month milestone.
Thousands of workers were putting the finishing touches to a $40 billion upgrade of the city’s infrastructure, but steps to keep the city clean, safe and controlled have not pleased some.
“Bags must be checked when you take a subway, batteries cannot be sent by express mail,” said graduate student Jiang Yueming, 28. “We are excited and extremely happy for the holding of Olympic Games, but it dwindles day by day.”
Beijing has promised to meet Chinese and pre-2005 World Health Organisation standards in time for the Games. But after a fine couple of days brought about by a heavy rainstorm, pollution again veiled the city on Tuesday.
Curbs on traffic and factory emissions will be in effect for two months from July 20.
“Security checks and traffic restrictions at that time will certainly affect my commuting, but I understand the government,” said Wang Nan, who already commutes three hours a day.
“Safety is after all the most important thing.”
(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng, Chris Buckley and Beijing newsroom; Jo Tandy in Paris; Editing by Douglas Hamilton)