China revels in fiasco

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China, which still blames the United States for thwarting Peking's attempts to host the 2000 Olympics and which was lambasted for its handling of the World Women's Conference a year ago, has taken the opportunity for some hard-hitting reporting of the mishaps and tragedies of Atlanta.

In the official English-language China Daily this week, a signed commentary wrote: "While condemning the [bombing] and lamenting the tragedy, the US should make a thorough self-criticism over their entire organisation work for the Games. It is a pity that one of the world's most advanced nations cannot take preventative measures against terror under its nose. Yet it continues to act as the 'world cop', applying sanctions everywhere. Isn't this a form of parochial arrogance?"

The article stressed how "complaints over transport and technology problems were heard from different teams". After the bombing, it continued, Atlanta police had blocked the entrance to the media centre and fired tear gas to disperse reporters. "Getting into a muddle, they have forgotten about 'freedom of the press', which the US accepts as infallible law and flaunts to the whole world," it wrote.

Nearly three years ago, China's human rights violations and the huge logistical challenge of staging the Olympics were used as arguments against Peking's bid. So China is taking some satisfaction in the transportation fiascos and disorganisation of Atlanta. Wang Junxia, the gold-winning distance runner, was quoted as saying the food available in the athletes' village was "disgusting".

However, as China's medal tally has risen, emphasis has shifted away from complaints in favour of celebrating Chinese athletes' "Olympic feats". Before the Olympic squad left for Atlanta, Chinese officials were downplaying the country's chances of matching their gold medal successes in Barcelona. With results outdoing expectations, all eyes are on China's relative performance in the medals league. One city centre hotel, a Sino-foreign joint venture, has even put up a giant blackboard in reception on which all the leading countries' medal results are immediately updated.

China has already ruled itself out from bidding for the 2004 Olympics, but it will not surprise anyone here if they pitch for the year 2008.