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Beijing still cloaked in thick haze -

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Beijing still cloaked in thick haze

Broadcast: 07/08/2008

Reporter: John Stewart

A thick haze still covers Beijing less than 24 hours before the Olympic Games begin. Security is
intense but human rights protests are now a daily occurrence in the Olympic City whilst George W
Bush has criticised the detention of dissidents and the lack of religious freedom in China.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: This time tomorrow the Olympic Opening Ceremony will be well under way in
Beijing. But with just hours to go, the city remains cloaked in a thick haze. Whether you call it
fog or smog, it's not a good look for Olympic organisers. Security surrounding the Games is now
intense, but the bigger problem for Chinese authorities is political. Human rights protests are a
daily occurrence, and the US President has criticised the detention of dissidents and the lack of
religious freedom in China. John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: Today the Olympic Stadium remained shrouded in a thick murky fog. The
Olympic torch was also hard to see at the Great Wall. But Olympic officials are putting a positive
spin on the weather.

JESS RUFFULO, SPOKESMAN BEIJING ORGANISING COMMITTEE: This is not pollution, this is, its muck,
this is fog that lays into the city, and stays over Beijing entrapped by mountain ranges.

JOHN STEWART: Beijing locals say they are used to it.

BEIJING LOCAL ONE: No worries our air is good, we have planted so many trees, it makes it good.

BEIJING LOCAL TWO: The weather is really good nowadays. Our nation has put so much emphasis on our
environment and that makes our air good.

JOHN STEWART: Australian Olympic officials are also playing down concerns that the haze could
affect Australian athletes.

OFFICIAL: Not at all. No, they are here to do a job.

JOHN STEWART: The Chinese seem more concerned about security than the weather. With 24 hours to go,
bomb squads have secured the surrounding buildings and thousands of police are on watch. But a
bigger headache for Chinese authorities is emerging in the form of political protests. Yesterday
there were demonstrations about repression in Tibet.

PROTESTERS: Freedom cannot be silenced.

JOHN STEWART: Today American Christian activists staged a protest in Tianamen Square, denouncing
China's human rights record before being dragged away by plain-clothed police.

REVEREND PATRICK MAHONEY, CHRISTIAN DEFENCE COALITION: We have come to be a voice to those that
have no voice of their own. We are a voice for those in prison because of their religious belief.

JOHN STEWART: But the IOC has backed the Chinese crackdown.

JACQUES ROGGE, IOC PRESIDENT: Whenever in a country people have to respect the laws of the country.
We respect the freedom of expression, of course, but in a country, you have to follow the laws of
that country.

JOHN STEWART: To add to the Chinese Government woes, 40 Olympians are reported to have signed a
petition calling on China's President to respect human rights and to resolve the Tibet issue.
Former Olympic US speed skater and gold medallist Joey Cheek had his visa revoked by Chinese
authorities after urging China to help make peace in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

JOEY CHEEK, CO-FOUNDER, TEAM DARFUR: I think my visa being revoked is endemic of a broader effort
by China to silence anyone before they even come to the Olympics.

JOHN STEWART: In a move that could embarrass China over their relationship with Sudan, the United
States has chosen former Sudanese refugee Lopez Lomong to carry the American flag at the Olympic
Opening Ceremony. The 1,500 metre star wants to emulate his hero Michael Johnson.

LOPEZ LOMONG, US OLYMPIC FLAG BEARER: We are going to the Olympics. What is Olympics, that changed
my life. Michael Johnson, he was so proud to be there. I want to be running just like him.

JOHN STEWART: Speaking in Bangkok before flying to Beijing, the US President used frank language to
highlight deep concerns about basic freedoms in China.

GEORGE W BUSH, US PRESIDENT: The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental
liberty that is the natural right of all human beings.

JOHN STEWART: At the same time President Bush praised China's Games since he first visited the
country more than three decades ago.

GEORGE W BUSH: The change in China will arrive on its own terms and in keeping with its own history
and traditions. The change will arrive.

JOHN STEWART: The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd arrived in China this afternoon. He met with
Australian competitors in the Athletes' Village. Like the American President, he's also been
talking tough on China's human rights record.

KEVIN RUDD, PRIME MINISTER: It's still important for us all to encourage a peaceful dialogue to
produce a better outcome for the people of Tibet. That's what I'll continue to do.

JOHN STEWART: And tonight the World Anti Doping Agency President John Fahey warned that Olympic
drug cheats face a greater chance of being caught than ever before.

JOHN FAHEY, WORLD ANTI-DOPING AGENCY PRESIDENT: We are smarter than we used to be and we believe
that as each month goes by we are learning more, we are targeting, investigations are becoming
effective.

JOHN STEWART: Mr Fahey warned that spectators will desert sports where drug cheating is rife. John
Stewart, Lateline.