- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

BEIJING — The "spidermen" of Beijing were poised to net their first villain: Should a dissident disturb the World University Games that wound up over the weekend, police in the Chinese capital were ready with a trick from the hooded hero's comic book.
Rather than chase Falun Gong disciples and other protesters across Tiananmen Square, the officers were ready to entrap any miscreants with newly issued "net guns" that could fire sturdy 10-foot-wide mesh nets.
The new toys were not needed in the end because the expected dissidents failed to appear. But human-rights activists have promised an invasion for the 2008 Summer Games that could make dissident-netting an unofficial Olympic sport.
In other respects as well, the 21st Universiade served as a full-scale dress rehearsal for the Beijing Games. With 8,000 athletes and officials from 167 countries participating, the Student Games ranked as the world's second largest multi-sports event after the Olympics.
The numbers exceeded even Beijing's optimistic predictions, and forced the Chinese team to evacuate the stunning athletes' village to free up beds for other competitors.
The housing crunch was one of several teething troubles for the hosts. The communist giant's red tape frustrated many visitors.
"I spent nine hours getting half the team accredited," said Jim Ellis, organizing secretary of the 160-strong British delegation.
"Transport was a nightmare at first," added British press officer Di Horsley. "The bus drivers didn't know where they were going, but after two days it ran smooth as clockwork."
Rapid resolution of a host of hiccups proved the norm.
"As soon as we hit any issues, they bent over backwards to make it work," said Miss Horsley, "which bodes very well for 2008."
Food was a surprising problem for a nation justly proud of its cuisine.
"In the athletes' canteen, they had tried to Westernize Chinese food, so it was neither one thing nor the other," Miss Horsley said.
The result was great take-out business for Domino's pizzas until the hosts hired separate chefs to prepare Chinese and Western food.
The meeting of East and West will be a major theme in seven years' time, when the Olympic torch relay takes to the Old Silk Road.
The spectacular show at this Universiade drew heavily on China's vaunted 5,000 years of continuous civilization, blended with the carefully nurtured "New Beijing" image of high-tech progress and concern for the environment that helped win the Olympics.
On-the-field events provided a somewhat less realistic run for 2008, with China achieving its stated aim of topping the medals table.
Benefiting from the sometimes-flexible interpretations of student credentials, the host country fielded several Olympians and took particular pride in ending the United States' long winning streak in men's basketball.
The Universiade traditionally is limited to 10 sports: track and field, basketball, fencing, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, diving, water polo, tennis and volleyball. The host country can add two more, in this case, judo and table tennis.
Despite the excess bureaucracy, Briton Jim Ellis was impressed with both the sporting facilities and the warmth of the welcome.
"The Rainbow Volunteers are amazing," he said of the 75,000 volunteer helpers chosen for their language and social skills. "You come out of an elevator at the athletes' village in the morning, and two dozen are standing there ready to help."
Manpower was never going to be a problem in a nation of 1.3 billion, nor was a lack of political will after Communist Party bosses mandated that this be the best University Games ever.
An extra 4,000 policemen patrolled the streets to quash any protests by the banned spiritual group Falun Gong.
Good weather smiled on a city renowned for its pollution, prompting rumors that major factories such as Capital Iron and Steel were ordered to curb production for the Games' duration.
As the athletes head home, Beijingers may despair at the return of pollution but will be relieved at the free use of roads that have been blocked off by surly police for two weeks.
Universiade chief George Killian fears Beijing may have raised the bar too high.
"I think China has set such a high standard that it's going to be difficult for Daegu [?Korean hosts of the 2003 Universiade] or anyone else to match," Mr. Killian said at a press conference on Friday. "Maybe in the future, what the Chinese did would create a problem for us because nobody can beat them."
New International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, whose predecessor Juan Antonio Samaranch achieved his parting dream by giving Beijing the Games, can live with that kind of problem.

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