Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Race for Olympic Site Is Down to the Wire

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Race for Olympic Site Is Down to the Wire

Article excerpt

THE vote that Olympic-watchers have long awaited - the one that determines the host city for the 2000 Games - takes place in Geneva on Thursday. The suspense is extra thick because of Beijing's no-holds-barred bid to win the assignment and strong efforts by some to block China.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is on the spot. No matter how it decides between front-runners Sydney and Beijing, there will be howls of protest. In this politically charged vote, any ballot cast for Sydney will be perceived by some as a vote against Beijing.

Perhaps most irksome to Beijing has been the resolution passed in the United States Congress demanding rejection of China's offer because of its record on human rights. Zhang Baifa, chief executive of Beijing's bid organization, reportedly warned that China may boycott the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta if Beijing is not chosen. Higher authorities, however, have assured the IOC that China will participate in the 1996 centennial Games.

The fact is, competition has become fierce for the Games since Los Angeles virtually won them by default in 1984. And in Sydney, the rest of the the Olympic field - Berlin, Manchester (England), Istanbul, Beijing - is up against a formidable foe, given Sydney's many selling points, including its friendly, accommodating attitude.

The 90-member vote will be by secret ballot, which is to Beijing's advantage, since nobody who chooses Beijing will have to defend his politics.

Ironically, it may be the achievement of a Chinese athlete that dooms Beijing's bid. When distance runner Wang Junxia set three world records in five days this month (including one that shattered the 10,000-meter record by 42 seconds), she renewed suspicions that Chinese performances might be drug-enhanced. Granted, the Chinese have gotten very serious about training, but many wonder why China's men don't show comparable improvement. Wang's race results gather more clouds over a bid that was already darkened. Olympic officials are very sensitive to the potential for drug-related scandal at the Games, so Beijing may be too hot to handle now. …

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