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More access to press 'legacy of Games'
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One of the greatest legacies of the Beijing Olympics has been allowing foreign journalists more access to events taking place in the country, a top Games official said a day before China celebrates the first anniversary of the sports gala.

Among the programs lined up for the first anniversary celebrations on Saturday is the Italian Super Cup final at the Bird's Nest, where Series A champions Inter Milan takes on Lazio.

"Compared with the Lhasa riot last year, I think we've shown a lot more openness with the July 5 riots in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region," Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice-chairman of the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG), told China Daily.

"Granting foreign reporters immediate access to the scene was a sign of our country's growing confidence in the wake of the Games I think it has had a good impact on our image and on the way we deal with riots," Jiang said.

Xinjiang chairman Nur Bekri made a televised speech on the very evening the bloody riots broke out. Press conferences were held the next morning, and the foreign media were invited to Xinjiang.

At least 197 people were killed and about 1,700 injured in the riots, and more than 400 journalists, about half of them from overseas, went to Xinjiang to report from the spot.

The Xinjiang regional government's openness came as a surprise to many, said Dong Guanpeng, director of the global journalism institute in Tsinghua University.

"The Games taught officials that timely and transparent communication is the best recipe for crisis management," Dong said.

In January 2007, China issued a temporary regulation for the Olympics, allowing foreign journalists unprecedented access to conduct interviews.

The regulation expired after the Games but a large part of it was incorporated into another liberal press rule in October, which Jiang said was the "result both of the Olympics and the reform and opening up".

Ted Plasker, of The Economist, too, has said that compared with the Lhasa riot and the Sichuan earthquake last year, the government adopted a "much more open attitude toward the media" after the Xinjiang riots.

Plasker is among the 700-odd foreign reporters based in China who have benefited from the Games' legacy.

The Beijing Olympics and Paralympics were China's biggest show and attracted about 30,000 journalists from around the world.

Jiang said the Games "enabled the Chinese people to develop a new understanding of the world", which in turn helped "further open up Chinese society".

Aside from the press regulation, the government issued a series of about 4,000 temporary measures and regulations on food safety, the environment, traffic management, public safety and health before the Games.

Many of them have since been renewed or made permanent.

The regulation to allow vehicles with only odd-numbered license plates to ply on one day followed by those with even numbers the next day pulled almost half of Beijing's cars off the streets during the Beijing Games.

Officials are now thinking of making the rule, known as the odd-even number-plate rule, permanently.

That and other anti-pollution efforts have helped improve Beijing's air quality, municipal authorities said. Official figures show 146 of the 186 days in the first six months of the year had clear skies. Beijing had only 100 clear-sky days in all of 1998.

The Beijing Olympic City Development Association, a social group officially founded on Thursday with BOCOG President Liu Qi as its chief, will seek to inherit the committee's legacies and further promote the Olympic spirit, Jiang said.

Recently promoted to the post of deputy director of the Committee of Education, Science, Culture, Health and Sports under the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Jiang is one of the association's deputy heads.

The association is expected to set up an "Olympic Development Foundation", Jiang said. And a bureau-level secretariat under the Beijing municipal government has been formed to manage its daily affairs.

(China Daily August 8, 2009)

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