The Athletes’ Village for the Beijing Olympics held its opening ceremony yesterday, an all-Chinese curtain raiser with basketball stars Yao Ming (姚明), Yi Jianlian (易建聯) and Wang Zhizhi (王治郅) heading a 265-member delegation of athletes and officials.
A few foreign delegations were in town yesterday — just 12 days before the opening ceremony of the games — but none appeared officially at the inauguration, which was showered in confetti and had dozens of Chinese children handing out Olympic mascots to some of the most powerful politicians.
“We now welcome athletes from around the world to come to the Games,” said Chen Zhili (陳至立), speaking from a stage draped in red. Chen is the so-called mayor of the village and a vice president of the organizing committee.
“We will try to satisfy the needs of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds,” Chen said, before he received a symbolic gold key to the village from organizing committee president Liu Qi (劉淇).
Liu is also the head of Beijing’s Communist Party.
The opening came on a hot, muggy morning made more uncomfortable by the thick haze of pollution hanging over the village, which is to house about 16,000 athletes and officials.
Despite drastic pollution-control measures that have been in effect for a week, Beijing’s air quality appears unchanged. The village was cloaked in smog, making it invisible from the main Olympic Green area just a kilometer away.
Beijing officials have pulled about half of the city’s 3.3 million vehicles off the roads, closed factories in the capital and in a half-dozen surrounding provinces and halted most construction in the city.
Yao declined to speak entering the amphitheater in the village area, but his teammates were a bit more talkative.
“I’m looking forward to the Games and I’m very excited about it,” said Yi, who was traded a few weeks ago from Milwaukee Bucks to the New Jersey Nets.
Wang, who was China’s first player to crack the NBA, seemed most excited about Germany’s qualification for the basketball tournament. That means a meeting with his friend and former Dallas Mavericks teammate Dirk Nowitzki.
“I’ll be happy to meet him in Beijing,” Wang said. “We played basketball together and are good friends. I’ll try to find a chance to show him around the city and bring him to a roast duck restaurant.”
On Friday, China unveiled its team of 639 athletes. It is likely to be the largest, slightly bigger than the 600-member US team.
The 66-hectare village is a complex of high-rise apartments that contains a restaurant that can feed up to 6,000, a library, a clinic, swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, jogging tracks, shopping areas and coffee shops. The village will also have its own fire station.
The Czech Republic’s Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution that supports a possible visit by the senate president to Taiwan. The resolution, initiated by Czech Senator Pavel Fischer, was passed with 50 votes in favor, one against and one abstention. The resolution blasts Beijing for having its Prague embassy send a letter to former Czech Senate president Jaroslav Kubera earlier this year threatening repercussions for Czech businesses if he visited Taiwan. The resolution shows the Senate’s support for a visit to Taiwan by Senate President Milos Vystrcil, accompanied by Czech business representatives, as the visit would be in the diplomatic long-term interests
The government and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday both spoke out against plans by the Chinese government to enact a national security law in Hong Kong. Chinese officials yesterday confirmed that the National People’s Congress would review a bill “on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.” The Presidential Office said that the announcement was evidence that the “one country, two systems” framework fundamentally clashes with democratic freedoms. The de-escalation of tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing relies on the Chinese government’s willingness to respond to Hong Kongers’ demands,
STRONGER DEFENSES: The announcement could be considered tacit US support for the nation’s indigenous arms manufacturing program, Joseph Wu told lawmakers Just hours after President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration on Wednesday, the US Department of State’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced in Washington the possible sale of 18 MK-48 Heavy Weight Torpedoes to Taiwan. Reacting to the announcement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday told a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that the ministry applauded the US move, which would help to uphold the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The TRA states that the US should “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character … to maintain the capacity of the US to resist any resort
NPP WARNING: The NPP’s chairman said that a security law proposed by Beijing means it has renounced its promise to maintain ‘one country, two systems’ in HK The Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) yesterday proposed changing the law to provide protection for those seeking political asylum. China at the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing on Thursday introduced a draft security law for Hong Kong to ban treason, subversion and sedition, with a review expected next week. TPP caucus whip Jang Chyi-lu (張其祿) said that the party is concerned about democracy advocates in Hong Kong and has taken action to support them. The party has proposed an amendment to Article 18 of the Act Governing Relations with Hong Kong and Macau (香港澳門關係條例), which stipulates that the government can offer