China: Topping US in medals 'impossible'

China acknowledged it has no chance of winning more medals than the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Associated Press reported.

"It is impossible," Cui Dalin, assistant sports minister and vice president of China's Olympic Committee, said Thursday. "Elite sports in the U.S. are very strong."

China finished second in gold medals and third in the overall tally at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Last month, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said he wouldn't be surprised if the host nation led the medal standings in Beijing.

But Cui, speaking on the eve of the 1,000-day countdown to the games, dismissed any suggestions the Chinese could overtake the United States and Russia as the top Olympic power in 2008 or in the near future.

China had 32 gold medals and 63 overall in Athens for its best finish. The United States won 35 gold and 103 total while Russia had 27 and 92. While the Americans won just three more golds than China, Cui noted they had 40 more overall.

"The U.S. is the elite sports power in the world," he said. "The difference is obvious."

Russia won 29 more medals than China but six fewer gold.

Cui said China expects to increase its medal count in Beijing, but declined to make a prediction. The country reportedly has set a goal of 110 medals.

Cui said China should be considered below the United States and Russia in a second tier of Olympic nations along with Australia, Japan, Germany and France.

"For some sports we are still not at a high level," he said. "We know there is still quite a big difference between us and the big sports powers in the world."

Cui said China lags in track and field, swimming, sailing, rowing, canoeing, basketball, soccer and volleyball. China will concentrate on improving its medal totals in other sports, including badminton, table tennis, diving, shooting, gymnastics and weightlifting, he said.

More than 2,000 Chinese athletes are training for the Beijing Games, and more than 400 eventually will be selected for the team, Cui said.

Foreign coaches, including Russians, are assisting Chinese athletes. But Cui denied China and Russia were working together with the aim of topping the U.S. medal total.

"We have never thought about collaborating with the Russian team against any other team," he said.

Beijing eyes Taiwan for 2008 torch run

Beijing wants the Olympic torch for the 2008 Olympic Games to pass through Taiwan, another AP report says.

The relay plan was submitted this week to the IOC, Wang Wei, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, said Thursday.

The International Olympic Committee will not make a decision until next year or possibly 2007, said Gilbert Felli, executive director of the Olympic Games.

"It's still under discussion," Wang said during an inspection trip with IOC members to Qingdao, site of the 2008 sailing competition.

Olympic preparations move into high gear

Beijing's Olympic organizers are racing against time to prepare for the 2008 Games, from round-the-clock work on constructing stadiums to planning the global torch relay, a senior official told China Daily on the eve of the 1,000-day countdown to the event.

"The coming 1,000 days are a crucial time for completion of the preparatory work," said Liu Jingmin, vice-mayor of Beijing and executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).

"We will race against time and do a solid job in every aspect," Liu added.

The organizers will focus on a host of crucial tasks in the last 1,000 days, including designing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games and organizing testing events in line with Olympic standards.

While speeding up the construction of stadiums and gyms, BOCOG will focus on the operation of these venues in the next two years, Liu said.

"We will apply the experience accumulated in the past four years to the operation of every competition and training venue as well as facilities in the Olympic Village in an intensive and comprehensive way," Liu added.

Beijing has started the construction of all new venues for the 2008 Olympics and is expected to finish most of them in 2007.

The foundations for the futuristic National Stadium, designed in the shape of a bird's nest, and the National Swimming Centre, in the shape of a water cube, have been finished. Construction on the main bodies of the buildings has begun.

BOCOG's marketing programmes are also running smoothly, according to Liu.

BOCOG launched the Beijing Olympics Marketing Plan in September 2003, which consists of the Sponsorship Programme, the Olympic Licensing Programme, and the Olympic Stamps and Coins Programme. Ten Beijing 2008 partners and five sponsors have signed on so far.

Meanwhile, organizers will reveal the identity of the Olympic mascot tonight, with the panda and the Tibetan antelope as top candidates.

Source: China Daily/AP

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