- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

MOSCOW Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympics today, winning the games for the world's most populous country for the first time despite criticism of its human rights record.
The International Olympic Committee picked China over rival bids from Toronto; Paris; Istanbul, Turkey; and Osaka, Japan.
Beijing won on the second round of a secret ballot by receiving 56 votes, three more than a majority.
It set off an official celebration of fireworks, songs and flag-waving by thousands of people in Millennium Square in the western part of the Chinese capital. Traditional lion dancers joined a group of ballerinas after the announcement as spotlights and green lasers swept the sky.
“Comrades! We express our deep thanks to all our friends around the world and to the IOC for helping to make Beijing successful in its Olympic bid,'' President Jiang Zemin shouted to the crowd after he and other members of the cabinet and Communist Party politburo appeared briefly on stage in Beijing.
Toronto got 22 votes, Paris 18 and Istanbul nine on the final round. Osaka was eliminated in the first round of voting, with six votes, when Beijing led with 44.
“I want to express the gratitude of the International Olympic Committee to all five candidate cities for their excellent work,'' IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch said just before announcing the winner.
Then came the words the Chinese capital had waited seven years to hear:
“The games of the 29th Olympiad in 2008 are awarded to the city of Beijing.''
In the trade center hall where the vote took place, Beijing supporters screamed and pulled out Chinese flags. A banner appeared with the slogan, “Eternal Beijing, Olympic Games, a century dream come true.''
“It's a milestone for the future of our country,'' said Yang Lan, an Olympic athlete who was part of Beijing's official presentation to the IOC earlier in the day.
Beijing was the front-runner throughout the race, even though it drew criticism about its human rights record. IOC members clearly believed the Olympics will open China to the world, improve the human rights situation and speed social and economic reforms.
“We are totally aware at the IOC there is one issue on the table … and that is human rights,'' IOC director general Francois Carrard said. “Human rights is a very serious issue in the entire world. …
“It is not up to the IOC to interfere in these issue, but we are taking the bet that seven years from now, we sincerely and dearly hope we will see many changes.''
Beijing's victory came seven years after it lost to Sydney by two votes in the election for the 2000 Olympics. Human rights issue were a factor in that defeat, with memories of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square still fresh.
The 2008 bid was also targeted by human rights activists, who said giving the games to China would reward a Communist regime that brutally represses its citizens and occupies Tibet.
But many IOC members as well as some politicians embraced the position that the Olympics would promote positive change in the country of 1.3 billion people.
Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state who helped open China to the West in the 1970s and is now a ceremonial member of the IOC, agreed the victory “will have a positive impact.''
In Washington, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., who introduced a bill in Congress opposing China's bid, denounced the selection of Beijing.
“This decision will allow the Chinese police state to bask in the reflected glory of the Olympic Games despite having one of the most abominable human rights records in the world,'' he said. “China lacks political, religious and press freedoms, and it is an absolute outrage that the IOC has decided to reward China's deteriorating human rights record by giving Beijing the honor of hosting the Olympics.''
IOC officials also said China deserved the games because it is a rising sports power which has been a force in the Olympics since returning to the games in 1984 after a 32-year absence.
At the White House, President Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the selection was “an IOC decision.''
“What we do know is that American athletes are going to go there and they're going to compete and hopefully compete very well and bring home lots of gold medals,'' Ms. Rice said. “As to human rights in China and the agenda for human rights in our bilateral relationship with China, the president has made very clear that human rights will be on the agenda.''
Toronto and Paris had cast themselves as risk-free “bids of certainty.'' Toronto portrayed itself as the best bid for the athletes, while Paris played on its allure as the world's favorite tourist city.
But Toronto was hurt by its mayor, Mel Lastman, who recently said he feared attending an Olympic meeting in Africa because “I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these natives dancing around me.''
African IOC members raised the matter during Toronto's presentation to the general assembly Friday. Canadian officials said Lastman had apologized, and he was left off Toronto's official team at the ceremony.
“The power of the IOC wanted Beijing. Now they have to live with it,'' said Paul Henderson, a Canadian IOC member who led Toronto's unsuccessful bid for the 1996 Games. “I think it was theirs all along. I think Beijing had to make mistakes. Toronto people can be very proud. They knew the odds were against them. … We knew Beijing had great strengths.''
Paris was unable to convince members to keep the Olympics in Europe for a third straight time after the 2004 Summer Games in Athens and 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
The awarding of the 2008 Olympics was the first of two major decisions being taken by the IOC at its 112th session. On Monday, the IOC will elect a successor to Mr. Samaranch, who is stepping down after 21 years in office.

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