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Rogge: Beijing Olympic Village is best ever
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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge piled praise on the Beijing Games organization on Saturday and said the Olympic Village was the "best ever".

"I had the privilege to reside in the Olympic Village since the 1968 Mexico Games, and I never saw a village like this. It is outstanding," said Rogge at his first press conference in Beijing.

The Olympic Village, which opened on July 27, is a 66-hectare compound for about 16,000 athletes and their entourage.

"By all accounts, especially the athletes, the village is the best ever," he said after touring the compound on Friday.

Rogge, who arrived in Beijing on Thursday, also reiterated his confidence in the Games success.

"The venues are ready and have produced about 37 tests events... we have absolutely no concern for the organization," he said.

"I'm sure that on August 9, the day after the opening ceremony, the magic of the Games and the flawless organization will take over," he added.

Rogge said about 7,000 to 9,000 athletes will parade at the opening ceremony on August 8, and the inclusion of the Iraqi delegation completes the world's biggest sports event.

"At least four Iraqi athletes are coming, and I hope for a little more at the Games time. This will lead to a total of 205 national Olympic committees and no one is missing." he said.

Responding to questions that some athletes are to wear armbands to protest human rights in China, Rogge said athletes can freely express their opinions, but propaganda or politics are not welcome.

"The Olympic village is a microcosm of the world.. if we allow the protests, it will be the end of cultural harmony," he said.

At the press conference, Rogge said the IOC would not probe the controversy over the age of Chinese gymnast He Kexin.

The New York Times reported last week that it had found online records indicating He and her Chinese teammate, Jiang Yuyuan, are 14 and not 16 which is the age limit at the Olympics in the sport, but Chinese officials denied the accusations, saying that the sport's governing body FIG has checked their ages before giving green lights to them.

"The International Olympic Committee relies on the International Federations (IFs) to check the eligibility of the athletes," Rogge said.

"The checks and control are done by the IFs, and it's not the task of the IOC," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2008)

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