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Vienna | 2.8.2008 | 19:39 
God, what's happening in the world! A reality check on the web.

Chris, DaddyD, Zita

Impressions from Beijing
  In the week leading up to Olympics, Reality Check will be taking a sideways glance at things Sino-Olympian. For example, the crack of the starter gun has become a symbol of Olympic track competitions. But a bio-mechanist at Indiana University (by the name of Jesus Dapena) has been studying past Olympic results against where the athletes are positioned for the start of their race on the running track. Those nearest the gun (he concludes) seem to have a distinct advantage based on their winning performance. The starter-gun controversy seems to be a factor of Olympic events alone since most other international track events have dispensed with the whole idea of the starter gun and use a pulse on each starter block. So why are the Olympics - the bastion of all that's great and good (and fair in sport) keeping this tradition, despite the measurable disadvantage.
 Foto: EPA
  Our Beijing reporter Amanda Morgan has been out and about for us in the big city and one thing she'll be keeping an eye on is the pollution. Lots of things have been done to improve the air quality for the athletes. A couple of weeks ago about a million cars were taken off the roads and only cars ending with certain numbers or letters on registration plates are being allowed in. Traffic flow has been cut in half - but has it made much of a difference?
Foto: EPA
  We also look at extreme measures that have been taken to try to create the impression of a perfect Olympics. They authorities have built many parks and everything appears a whole lot more greener now than a few years ago. 23.000 hectares of trees have also been planted
and in fact the park that has been constructed next door to the Olympic stadium is said to be larger than Central Park in New York.

That said there is a very human price to pay here. Salih Booker, the director of COHRE (the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions) in Geneva, told us that 1.5 million people have been displaced in order to fulfill this Olympic dream for China. Not only are COHRE holding the Chinese government to account for this but also the IOC (the International Olympic Committee). COHRE says both have continuously failed to take responsibility for mass housing rights violations. Displacements always take place during massive events like these, but in other places where this has occurred, there are factors like: an arbitration process, access to legal challenges and a general feeling that things are done in as humane way as possible. What we are being told about the evictions in Beijing is that there a distant lack of all of this. Some families have been offered compensation from city appointed agents. But when the money arrives it is far less than that originally stated and certainly not enough for adequate shelter, proper access to sanitation, schools for children etc.

 Foto: EPA
Fines and Menus
  Elsewhere around the city, traders at the famous 'Xiushui Silk Market', which is a haven for counterfeit goods, have been told to clean-up their act and anyone caught selling what is quite obviously fake goods will be liable for an unusual hefty fine. On the lighter side, it's being reported that restaurants have been told to take anything squeamish (to western tourists) off the menus. So you probably won't find dog as a delicacy in any places near the stadium over the next few weeks.

For more impressions from the Olympics in Beijing, tune into Reality Check Mon 4th - Fri 8th August and hear our Beijing Reports at 12.45pm.

 Silk Street
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