Minos Kyriakou, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), has visited Beijing many times since the 1960s. During his latest visit to Beijing, Kyriakou talked with China Daily reporter Li Jing about his evaluation of the preparations that Beijing has taken for the coming Games. The following are excerpts:
The Athens Olympic Games are regarded as one of the most successful Games in history. From your point of view, what is the most important factor that guaranteed such wonderful Games in Athens?
Actually, I think the Olympic Games 2004 in Athens were the most successful Games. Athens is the birthplace of the Olympics. The most important factor that backed up the success is that the Olympics is in the blood of every Greek person, and it is involved in our everyday life. I can see that Chinese people also have great enthusiasm for the Olympics, and such passion will guarantee the success of the Beijing Olympic Games.
Knowing your country very well, I have no doubt about your success. We have many things in common, mainly history, culture and tradition and we are behind you in all aspects of Beijing's preparations.
I heard that you have participated in several test events of the 2008 Olympics. What did you think of these events?
They were very successful. Everything went smoothly. And I was deeply impressed by the volunteers at the events. They were well-trained, friendly and full of passion. So I have full confidence that Beijing will hold a successful Olympic Games in two years. But there is still room for improvement. I think Chinese volunteers should make more of an effort to practice their oral English or other foreign languages, because there are some minor problems in the communication between the volunteers and foreign guests. But there is plenty of time for the volunteers to get more training.
Do you have any other concerns about the Olympics in Beijing?
Apart from the language problem, I think pollution, especially air pollution, is the major headache. If the sky were to be choked with smog, what would foreign people think of Beijing? Bad air also does harm to the health of athletes, especially those who participate in outdoor tournaments. I know that Beijing has made a lot of efforts to curb air pollution, and a number of polluting plants have been moved out of Beijing. The air quality here is much better now than in the late 1990s. But I should say that there is still much work that needs to be done before the Games.
Do you think traffic will be a problem during the Olympic Games?
Every big city in the world has traffic congestion, and I do not think that traffic will be a problem for the Games. In Athens, we also have traffic jams, but we prepared special lanes for the Olympics, so that athletes, coaches and officials could reach sports venues in a short period of time without being blocked. Beijing could also arrange such Olympics lanes during the Games.
As president of HOC, what's your understanding of "Olympics"?
"Olympics" to me means peace. The Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles. Peace brings development and prosperity. In ancient Greece, all wars ceased for the duration of the Games. And the modern Olympic Games were organized as a way of promoting peace, friendship, and healthy sporting competition among the youth of the world. I believe that not only Beijing can benefit from holding the Olympic Games, but the Olympic Movement itself can also benefit from the Games in Beijing, the capital of an Asian country that has a long history and a population of 1.3 billion.
I know that you're also president of the International Olympic Academy. How would you evaluate the ongoing Olympic education in China?
From my point of view, Olympic education is not just an education about the Olympic Games and Olympic history, but an education through the Olympic Games to serve the larger humanistic, social and cultural purposes of the Olympic Movement.
China plays a key role in promoting Olympic spirit in the world since the country has a huge population. I was extremely excited to hear that China is carrying out Olympic education among millions of young people across the country. It's a great contribution that China will make to the world Olympic Movement.
Olympic education needs to be carried on in China even when the 2008 Olympic Games is over, and I believe Olympic education will do good to China's social and economic development.
I heard that you first visited Beijing in the 1960s. In your eyes, what are the major changes that Beijing has made over the past 40 years?
I have been to China more than 50 times. China has experienced unprecedented changes over the past several decades. What impressed me most is the attitude of Chinese people towards foreign visitors. I remember that in the 1960s when I walked on a street in Beijing, people did not talk to me, or just said "Hello" and then dodged away. But now Chinese people have become more open and more willing to communicate with foreign people. That is very important to the success of the Olympic Games.
Source: China Daily