US president 'looking forward to Games' opening ceremony'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2008, 12:00am

US President George W. Bush has said that he 'looked forward to attending the opening ceremony' of the Beijing Olympics and to 'share Chinese pride in the Games', Xinhua yesterday quoted the president as telling Vice-Premier Wang Qishan .

Mr Wang, who just concluded two days of the 'strategic economic dialogue' with US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, said Mr Bush 'would be warmly welcomed'.

Although the White House has yet to officially announce that Mr Bush would attend the opening ceremony, both Xinhua and China's state television reported Mr Bush's remarks to Mr Wang. Mr Bush's attendance would give a boost to the mainland leadership, who have hoped to use the Beijing Olympics to showcase China's modernisation.

There had been threats of a boycott of the opening ceremony following Beijing's suppression of the violent anti-government protests on March 14 in Lhasa . Human rights groups had put pressure on world leaders to stay away as a message to Chinese leaders.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also declared an interest yesterday in attending the Games' opening ceremony, saying that it would be the 'right thing to do'.

'I'm pretty relaxed about going. It's the Chinese government [which] have extended an invitation. The Australian Olympic Committee has been supportive of the decision,' Mr Rudd said after an Australian team reception in Canberra, according to Reuters.

Coincidentally, the Yomiuri daily newspaper reported that the Japanese government had started making arrangements for Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's attendance at the opening ceremony, which it said was due to the 'calming situation in Tibet' and Wednesday's announcement of the joint development of the gas fields in the East China Sea.

The report said Mr Fukuda planned to make an announcement during the Group of Eight summit meeting in Hokkaido next month.

With the situation in Tibet calmer and its negative impact overshadowed by the 8-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan on May 12, there has been growing support for the opening ceremony.