Cablegate: March 12 Cppcc Olympic Press Briefing: Protests,
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SUBJECT: MARCH 12 CPPCC OLYMPIC PRESS BRIEFING: PROTESTS,
SECURITY, OPENING CEREMONIES AND MORE
1. (U) Members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference (CPPCC), the largely ceremonial advisory body that
is currently in session in Beijing, held a press conference
March 12 to discuss preparations for the August Olympic
Games. CPPCC members present included Beijing Vice Mayor Liu
Jingmin, General Administration of Sport Vice President Cui
Dalin, Science and Technology Daily Director Zhang Jing'an,
Beijing Organizing Committee Deputy Director for the Olympic
Village Deng Yaping, and Director for the Olympic Opening and
Closing Ceremonies Zhang Yimou. Highlights from the press
-- Security for the Olympics is "guaranteed," despite recent
Olympic-related threats. Protestors must apply for
permission with Beijing security authorities to protest "in
accordance with Chinese law."
-- Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) member Xi Jinping will
chair a "leader's task force" to "support" the final stages
of Olympic preparations. Fellow PBSC member Zhou Yongkang
along with Politburo Member and Beijing Party Secretary Liu
Qi will serve as Xi's deputies on the task force.
-- Traffic control during the Games will include the use of
odd/even license plate days, 280 km of Olympic lanes and the
diversion of non-essential traffic around the city.
-- Zhang Yimou "personally regrets" Spielberg's resignation
as an artistic consultant to the Games. Celebrities are not
feeling pressured to participate in the Opening and Closing
Ceremonies but do have to sign confidentiality agreements.
-- Olympic costs have been paid for by sponsorship fees. The
Central and Beijing Municipal Governments have not directly
paid for Olympic costs.
-- Beijing authorities are "confident" that there will be a
"less than 10 percent chance" of rain during the Olympic
-- Medal counts are not the main priority for China. The
General Administration of Sport says China is "still not a
strong sports country like the United States and Russia."
China will have a drug-free team during the Olympics and has
increased anti-doping measures since 2006.
-- Macau has not been granted permission to have its own
Olympic Committee due to a new International Olympic
Committee regulation prohibiting non-sovereign states to have
their own team. End Summary.
Olympic Safety is "Guaranteed"
2. (U) At the beginning of the March 12 CPPCC press
conference to discuss preparations for the Olympic Games,
Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Jingmin, responding to a security
question on the effect of recent Olympic threats, including a
plane hijacking in Urumqi last week, noted that he did not
have full details about the case and had learned about the
event through the media. Liu stated that BOCOG has taken
five measures to "guarantee" security during the Olympics.
One, the Central Government has established a national-level
command center staffed by the Ministry of Public Security,
the People's Liberation Army and other relevant security
organizations. Two, there is a "comprehensive security
plan." Three, the Chinese Government has increased
communication and established liaison relationships with
international security organizations. Liu cited Interpol's
recent expression of confidence in Beijing's ability to host
a safe games as an example. Four, security and venue
construction have been closely linked. Five, there has been
an increase in educating and training security staff and
general Olympic personnel. With all these measures in place,
Liu reiterated that "Olympic security can be guaranteed."
3. (U) Regarding protests, Liu added that "politics" should
not ruin what was mainly an "athletic event." Whether
protestors are local or foreign, Liu noted that they must
apply to the relevant security agencies for a permit and act
"in accordance with Chinese law."
4. (U) Liu said results from last year's Olympic test events
illustrated that traffic congestion is not a matter of scale.
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Beijing was used to handling large-scale events such as the
two million daily visitors to Beijing during a "Golden Week"
holiday. The 16-day Olympic period was longer than the
seven-day Golden Week, Liu admitted. However, tourism
traffic during a Golden Week, while very different from
traffic flow during entry and exit of an event from a large
venue, showed that large-scale traffic was not the problem,
congestion was. In order to address traffic, Beijing would
establish 280 km of traffic lanes and follow an odd/even
license plate program. The odd/even program was tested
during last August's test events and resulted in a 30 percent
decrease in traffic and 20-40 percent decrease in
traffic-related pollution. In Athens and Sydney, most roads
had two lanes of traffic each way. In Beijing there were
three lanes of traffic each way, so normal traffic should not
be adversely impacted, Liu stated. Vehicles supplying the
daily needs of normal Beijing life, such as groceries, would
be permitted into the city, while other traffic would be
diverted around town. This traffic plan would ensure Beijing
citizens could maintain a "normal life." In addition, Liu
refuted any plans to divert the population for the Olympics.
He noted that in Athens the Government had encouraged
everyone to consolidate their vacation time around the
Olympics but had not mandated anyone to leave.
Chance of Rain 10 Percent
5. (U) Worrying over the weather for the opening ceremonies
was everyone's concern, said Liu. However, the Beijing and
Central Weather Bureaus had formed a task force two years ago
that has analyzed over 10 years worth of weather data. They
will use Beijing One, a small weather satellite, to predict
the weather and provide hourly updates during the Games.
Based on past data, the chance of rain during the Opening
Ceremony on August 8 is less than 10 percent. The chance of
a thunderstorm is even less. Liu joked that the chance of a
tornado was thus "non-existent."
6. (U) Liu was also "confident" in the good weather
prediction for the ascent of Mount Everest with the Olympic
torch. He proclaimed last year's test ascent as "successful"
due to the support of the General Administration of Sport,
the Tibetan regional government and the weather bureaus.
7. (U) Zhang Yimou, director of Opening and Closing
ceremonies (as well as a number of acclaimed films), talked
about his concerns that weather could mar the ceremonies.
Rehearsals for the ceremonies have already begun on the
outskirts of Beijing. However, there are plans in place
should there be "small, medium, or big rains." Zhang noted
that if there were thunderstorms, then certain elements such
as flying performers or some equipment would have to be
eliminated from the program. All we can do is hope God
protects us, Zhang said.
8. (U) Zhang noted that he "personally regretted" Spielberg's
resignation as an artistic consultant to the Games. He
reminisced that Spielberg had traveled to Beijing twice last
year with other artistic consultants and had "very much
looked forward" to participating in the Games. Zhang
reassured attendees that Opening Ceremony plans would not be
impacted by the resignation, noting that the number of
Chinese and foreign consultants involved in the ceremony is
9. (U) Zhang refused to divulge any details about the
ceremonies but did note that the Opening Ceremony show would
be only 50 minutes. The total opening program would be 3.5
hours, but at least two hours would be devoted to the parade
of athletes into the stadium. Zhang sighed that it was
difficult to encompass five thousand years of Chinese history
into 50 minutes and that he received "hundreds" of
suggestions every day on what should be incorporated into the
ceremony. He added that there would be elements of "East is
Red" because he liked the color red, but that one needed more
than just one color in a show.
10. (U) In a subtle reference to Bjork's recent protest,
Zhang Yimou skirted the question of whether he was only
allowed to pick celebrities from pre-approved lists. He did
note that he was in constant contact with various celebrities
about artistic questions and that there would be both Chinese
and foreign performers in the ceremonies, but none felt
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"pressure." When asked his opinion about Kang Wei, the
leading actress in the movie "Lust, Caution" who has been
banned from the Chinese media, Zhang noted that this was a
question for the artistic world and had nothing to do with
the Olympics. Zhang added that he was good friends with Li
Ang, the director of "Lust, Caution," who is a personal
friend and artistic consultant to the Opening Ceremony
department. They discussed artistic issues, but that was
all, Zhang said.
11. (U) Zhang confirmed that all ceremony performers and
staff had to sign a confidentiality agreement. He denied
that there was a seven-year imprisonment penalty for leaking
plans for the ceremony. Zhang added that the documentation
was mostly IOC language with a few "Chinese amendments."
12. (U) Vice Mayor Liu emphasized that Olympic operational
costs had been primarily paid for by sponsorship fees. The
Central and Beijing Governments gave tax breaks but did not
directly invest in any Olympic projects. The Olympics will
leave a "lasting legacy" in the form of improvements to
traffic, the environment and infrastructure, added Liu. The
newest subway line, Line 5, has a daily passenger load of
500,000 people, significantly decreasing north/south traffic
congestion on the city's east side. Three additional subway
lines will further help traffic congestion. The Olympics'
legacy is beyond the "hardware" and also includes more
Chinese/foreign interaction and a better understanding of the
Olympic spirit. Liu added that there had been an evident
effect of the "humanistic Olympics" on an "increased
13. (U) Olympic venues will be accessible to the public,
confirmed Vice Mayor Liu. He explained that during the
bidding process, all contractors were required to submit a
post-Olympic use plan for the venue they wished to operate
and demonstrate that they had the capital to implement it.
The Water Cube, for example, would be transformed into a
recreational water park and 11,000 of its 17,000 seats would
14. (U) General Administration of Sport Vice President Cui
Dalin reaffirmed that China would have a drug-free team in
2008. Cui noted that under the State Council's direction,
the General Administration of Sport (GAOS) has emphasized
prevention and education to prevent doping. The Central
Government has built an anti-doping center and improved drug
testing facilities. GAOS has also signed anti-doping
contracts with all provincial sports bureaus, coaches and
athletes. In 2007, over 10,000 athlete drug tests were
conducted. When the World Anti-Doping Agency officials
visited Beijing last year, they commented that they had full
confidence in China and that the "Chinese model" was an
example for the rest of the world.
15. (U) Zhang Jing'an, Director of the Science and Technology
Daily and Secretary General of the Ministry of Science and
Technology, expounded on efforts to have a "high-tech
Olympics." Zhang described the Ministry of Science and
Technology's task force that included 13 organizations from
the Beijing Municipal Government, Ministry of Education and
other institutions. He noted that there were action plans
ranging from energy-saving vehicles, reusable energy, water
treatment and green construction techniques. 500 "green"
cars, including electric cars used within the Olympic Green
and hybrid cars used throughout town, would be examples of
clean transportation. Reusable energy sources would be used
to power Olympic venues. Water would be recycled, including
80 percent of rain water in venues, and all waste water would
be treated. Construction of the venues utilized advanced
techniques that were all done locally including the
super-strong concrete for the National Stadium. Zhang also
noted that the torch's design reflected the hi-tech
characteristics of the Olympics by overcoming three
challenges during the ascent of Mount Everest: low
temperature, high wind and lack of oxygen.
Medal Count Not Goal
16. (U) Vice President Cui Dalin refuted claims that the
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Chinese Olympic team was aiming to have the largest medal
haul in the 2008 Olympics. "China is still not a strong
sports country like the United States and Russia," Cui
lamented. Cui supported his statement by noting that the
United States had won 103 medals in the 2004 Olympics in
Athens, while China had only won 63. He added that in just
two non-Olympic events in 2007, the United States had won 17
gold medals in swimming and 14 in track and field, which was
almost equal to China's total gold medal count in 2004.
Instead of aiming for a medal count, the Chinese Olympic team
was following a "holistic approach" aimed at contributing to
a "harmonious society" through: 1) developing the Olympic
spirit among China's athletes, 2) inducing national pride in
the team through enhanced sportsmanship and economic
development for the country through promotion of the sports
industry, 3) increasing international exchanges, and 4)
increasing Chinese citizens' passion for sports and
healthiness through public fitness programs and competition.
Olympic Village With Chinese Characteristics
17. (U) Deng Yaping, Deputy Director of the Olympic Village
for the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 29th Olympiad
Games (BOCOG) and a former ping-pong Olympic gold medalist,
reported on Olympic village construction. Deng announced
that village construction was in accordance with
International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations and that
athletes that had competed in Athens and Sydney would find
all the standard facilities. However, while the
infrastructure of the Olympic village is to IOC
specifications, the customer service and other "soft touches"
will display "Chinese characteristics" and uphold the
principles of a "humanistic Olympics." (Note: A "humanistic
Olympics" is one of the three Chinese Olympic goals, the
other two being a "green Olympics" and a "hi-tech Olympics."
End note.) BOCOG's cultural department is currently
arranging for cultural activities/performances in the village
to showcase Chinese culture. There will be three areas in
the village: 1) the residential area, 2) the operational
area and 3) the international zone. The international zone
will be available for the press to interview athletes, offer
shopping for the athletes and be the site of the flag-raising
Macau Wants To Establish Its Own Team
18. (U) Cui remarked that the Minister of Sport, Liu Peng,
had petitioned the IOC to support the establishment of a
Macau Olympic Committee similar to that of Hong Kong and
Chinese Taipei. (Note: Chinese Taipei is the official name
under which Taiwan competes in the Olympics. End note.) Cui
noted that despite the Chinese Olympic Committee's support
for Macau there has been no resolution of this case since the
IOC's new regulation restricts Olympic Committees to
sovereign nations only.
Yao Ming Recovering
19. (U) Cui noted that the Chinese Basketball Association is
in continuous contact with the National Basketball
Association in the United States regarding Yao Ming's health.
Yao Ming's March 3 surgery was successful, but given China's
"respect for athletes," whether Yao chooses to play depends
on his and his doctor's opinions. The Chinese basketball
team, in the meantime, is preparing to play without Yao, Cui