Rogge calm about threats before kickoff
Peter Simpson in Beijing
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said last night that he remained 'extremely calm' as the rocky road to the 2008 Beijing Olympics neared its end.
With protesters threatening further disruption on the mainland, Dr Rogge said the Olympic movement could only 'wait and see' what happened over the next 16 days of competition. 'We are just staying extremely calm' about the threats, he said after the IOC's three-day executive board meeting.
Dr Rogge again warned athletes who planned to express dissent inside Games venues to abide by the IOC's tough laws on political, religious or commercial propaganda, and demonstrations. But he also said sports stars had a 'right to be heard'.
Addressing the media for the final time before tonight's opening ceremony at the National Stadium, he said China had done everything humanly possible to clear the smog that again shrouded the Olympic Green yesterday.
'Pollution levels are coming down. It is not yet perfect, but it is safe for the athletes,' Dr Rogge said of the one issue that has plagued the IOC and the host organisers since Beijing was awarded the 29th Olympiad seven years ago.
'What they have done is extraordinary,' he said, adding that the cleanup measures were 'long-term'.
However, the argument over what is smog and what is fog is likely to rumble on.
The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau described yesterday's air as safe, with the PM10 level - that of the most prominent airborne pollutants - reading 96mg per cubic metre. This figure is in the category the bureau terms 'moderate'.
It is inside the World Health Organisation's interim safety level of 150 for developing countries. The recommended target is 50.
Like millions of sports fans in Beijing and the 10,500 athletes hoping to win medals, the Olympic movement and the Chinese people are eager for the welcome distraction that competition will bring.
'I believe that the spotlight put by the Olympic Games on China will help both the world to understand China better and maybe for China to understand the world better,' said Dr Rogge, a 65-year-old Belgian and former Olympian in sailing who will step down from his post in October next year. 'I feel like the athlete who knows that he or she has done everything that was needed and what was possible before the competition.'