Olympic Media Village opens, China opens to global media
www.chinaview.cn 2008-07-25 17:42:54   Print

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

Photo taken on July 25, 2008 shows the decorative patterns of Chinese seal in the Beijing Olympics Main Press Center(MPC) in Beijing, capital of China. The Beijing Olympics Main Press Center(MPC) is providing media service to media delegates from all over the world. Its decoration with Chinese classical elements, such as calligraphy work and kite, has appealed to a lot of journalists. (Xinhua/Wang Haofei)
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    BEIJING, July 25 (Xinhua) -- The Olympic Media Village opened on Friday for 21,600 domestic and foreign registered reporters, amid some foreign media's concerns about free reporting in China.

    Friday's People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling party, ran a commentary appealing to administrations and common people to "befriend the media."

    "To serve the media is to serve the Olympic Games," the article said. "To befriend the media is to befriend the audience."

    About 30,000 reporters are expected to cover the Games, the most in Olympic history, which means the number in the audience could be the highest ever too.

    "It is through the media that the audience across the world are learning about the Olympics, China and Beijing," the newspaper said.

Volunteers provide service for reporters at an entrance to the media village for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, July 25, 2008. The media center opens on Friday to journalists from all around the world. (Xinhua/Xu Jiajun)
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    The Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG) and Chinese government obviously have a full understanding of the role media will play in the coming grand sport event.

    In early this month, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping included well serving the media in the top eight tasks of the last-minute preparation for the Games.

    "We should provide a good service to the media according to the promises we made, international practice and Chinese laws. Through rich Olympic news, we are to share the joy of the Games with people worldwide," he said in the speech to officials 30 days before the start of the Games.

    Beijing has opened three media centers, the Main Press Center (MPC), the International Broadcast Center (IBC) and the Beijing International Media Center (BIMC). The former, on the Beijing National Olympic Green Convention Center, covers 150,000 square meters, the largest in Olympic history. The latter, to receive about 5,000 non-registered reporters, is of 60,000 square meters.

A reporter checks in at the media village for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, July 25, 2008. The media center opens on Friday to journalists from all around the world. (Xinhua/Xu Jiajun)
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    In the first 12 days since their opening, 23 press conferences have been held at the MPC and BIMC.

    At the BIMC website, phone numbers of ministries in China's central government are publicized. At the center, printed manuals about covering news outside Beijing are offered with contacts of local governments and major enterprises.

    About 150,000 guides about China and the Games written in 19 languages have been handed out. And the BIMC staff have received and processed more than 200 requests for interviews, half from foreign media.

    Although worries about free news reporting are lingering, covering news in China has undergone notable changes.

    A regulation on reporting activities in China by foreign media during the Games and the preparatory period has, since January last year, lifted several rules over foreign reporters. They no longer need approval from the local government's foreign affairs department but only agreement from the people or organizations to be interviewed.

Reporters walk to their rooms at the media village for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, July 25, 2008. The media center opens on Friday to journalists from all around the world.(Xinhua/Xu Jiajun)
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    Local authorities are urged to cooperate with media even when the interview involves sensitive topics such as environmental protection, AIDS and housing displacement.

    They are also cooperating in response to media requests such as to give live report from the Tian'anmen square, China's political symbol, to import satellite news operations, to hire helicopters for shooting and set up cameras in some popular tourists sites.

    "We could regard the Olympics as a chance to push the country to open to global media," said Ren Zhanjiang, dean of the Department of Journalism and Communication, China Youth University for Political Sciences.

    Some changes will continue after the Games. In April last year, the Chinese government issued a regulation asking administrations to publicize information that the public should learn about. The law on emergency responses, adopted in August 2007, cancelled an item in its draft that banned media from reporting emergencies without permission from the authority.

Reporters from all around the world check in at the reception of the media village for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, July 25, 2008. The media center opens on Friday to journalists from all around the world.(Xinhua/Xu Jiajun)
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    It was implemented when the devastating May 12 earthquake jolted southwest China. The first news about the earthquake came minutes after tremors were felt while the death toll, which used to be a taboo in disaster news reporting, was announced and updated daily until now. A day later foreign correspondents were reporting news on the earthquake ruins, and continued to do so.

    The country faced criticism for not allowing any foreign media to enter Tibet immediately after the Lhasa violence on March 14, although reporters already there were allowed to continue to report until their permits ran out. Chinese news stories were publicized straight after the incident happened in the Tibetan city, including TV footage about violent attacks on the street. This surprised Chinese audiences who have become used to a diet of positive news.

    As the International Olympic Committee said in its report when choosing Beijing to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Games would leave a unique legacy to China and to sport. There are reasons to believe that part of the legacy will be a country opening wider to the world.

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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