'Unprecedented' foreign press interest in Beijing Olympics

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has generated a lot of media interest in the West, according to international Olympic officials.

Officials with the US Olympic Committee revealed that the Beijing Games has attracted an "unprecedented" number of applications for media credentials compared with previous Games in foreign countries.

"For the United States, we probably have three to four times the amount of accreditation applications than we have," said Robert Condron, director of media services of the US Olympic Committee, while attending the First Press Briefing on the 2008 Olympic Games that ended yesterday in Beijing.

"I have been to 12 Olympic Games and this is the most interesting one that I have ever seen for the United States media for Games not in the US."

According to Condron, the US will have approximately 450 accreditation cards for the print media, only less than the host country China, but they have received 15,000 applications so far.

The total number of press accreditations for the Beijing Games is 5,600.

Condron attributed the appeal of the Beijing Games to the ambient interest in China.

"The American people do not know too much about China so they are very interested in China as one of the great countries in the world," said Condron. "We are going to see it for real for the first time."

He also stressed that the US media will focus on much more than just the sports competitions in Beijing.

"The biggest interest in China is not in the competition. It is the country," said Condron. "Most of the people in the world do not know too much about this huge, beautiful country. This will give those people the opportunity to see China first hand."

His opinion was echoed by officials from the Australian Olympic Committee.

"The Beijing Olympic Games is extremely popular, of course, a lot of media want to come, because it is in China and it is a very special Olympic Games," said Mike Tancred, director of media and communications of the Australian Olympic Committee.

"There is enormous interest in Australia because we do much trade between Australia and China."

In order to learn more about Beijing and the Beijing Olympic Games, about 320 representatives from 93 world leading news organizations gathered in Beijing this week for the First Press Briefing from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG).

They also raised questions regarding media services, such as visa application procedures, media accommodation, the functional areas in the Main Press Centre, and how to apply for interviews with Chinese athletes.

After a venues tour within the city on Tuesday and hearing brief introductions to the preparatory work and the media services from BOCOG, the attendees of the meeting expressed their satisfaction and confidence in the Beijing Games.

"With the venue tour and the briefing, I feel confident the Beijing Games are going to be special," said Condron.

"The venues are beautiful. The 'Bird's nest' is just something that you have to see to believe. The venues are amazing for every sport. There is going to be great competition.

"I probably have less concerns than that I have for most of the Games I have been to, because they are more prepared at this time than any other organizing committee that I can remember. The venues are going to be ready at least a year ahead of the Games time."

As media freedom in China has always been one of the main concerns from the foreign media, BOCOG has renewed its pledge to honour its commitment to providing the international news media with quality and efficient services.

At the briefing, Sun Weijia, director of the Media Operation Department of BOCOG, said that the foreign media would enjoy convenient arrangements when reporting on the Beijing Games.

They include:

Visa application procedures for media representatives coming to China for the coverage before the Games will be simplified;

It was decided by the cultural relics authorities that before and during Games time, the accredited media may submit applications to BOCOG and provide documents if they want to film cultural relics in China. BOCOG will go through the administrative procedures on behalf of the media to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage to obtain filming permits;

Vehicles to be used for the coverage of the Beijing Games will be permitted to enter China on a temporary basis during the period from January 1, 2007 to March 2009;

Foreign journalists who are in China for less than three months before and during the Games need to apply for a temporary driving permit to drive a temporary imported vehicle or a rental car;

Foreign journalists or media organizations can employ Chinese citizens through Chinese foreign service agencies legally incorporated;

Foreign journalists and media organizations can rent homes and offices through legal housing agencies before and during the Games.

"The regulations on foreign media coverage in China during the Beijing Games have been drafted by relevant Chinese authorities," said Sun.

"Such regulations will be released and will take effect in 2007 after going through legislative procedures."

Source: China Daily

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