Page last updated at 14:08 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 15:08 UK

Brown urges more China freedoms

Mr Brown meets athletes at Team GB's Olympics athletics lodge
Mr Brown met young athletes after talks with President Hu

Gordon Brown has urged China to continue with greater press freedoms allowed during the Olympics, in talks with China's President Hu Jintao.

The prime minister also said he had raised China's stance on Zimbabwe and Darfur and was told the issues would be "part of our continuing discussions".

Mr Brown and his wife Sarah went on to meet young athletes at Team GB's Olympics athletics lodge.

He and his family are in Beijing for the final days of the Games.

Chinese authorities had promised to abide by Olympics reporting rules and to try their best to facilitate access.

Tibet talks

But there have been complaints from journalists, for example ITN correspondent John Ray was among those detained while covering a pro-Tibet demonstration.

But speaking after talks with Mr Hu, the prime minister said there had been greater openness in place during the Olympics and he had stressed that he hoped it would remain.

Gordon Brown told President Hu the Beijing Olympic games had set a new standard.

"It is in China's interest. It would be a very important gesture to the rest of the world if they were to say that these restrictions could be permanently removed," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown also said that he had urged a "productive" conclusion to talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama in the autumn over greater autonomy for Tibet.

"I think there is more common ground between the Chinese authorities and Tibet than is sometimes realised," he said.

'New standard'

Mr Brown had rejected calls to boycott the event, insisting that "engagement" with China's Communist rulers is crucial and said on Friday the Games had been a "spectacular success".

"The 2008 Beijing Olympics have set a new standard for the Olympic Games, which we in London in 2012 will seek to follow," he said.

I'm not counting my chickens yet
Gerry Sutcliffe
Sports minister

Mr Brown is in Beijing with his wife and their two young sons, John and Fraser, for the last few days of the Games and for the closing ceremony on Sunday, when the Olympic flag will be handed to London's mayor Boris Johnson.

He went on to meet young athletes at the Olympic athletic lodge and will be discussing how Britain can build on its Olympic successes in Beijing - where Team GB is currently third in the medal table with 18 golds.

Later he said Britain was "so delighted and excited" by the sporting success of the Olympics "that what we want to do is to turn what has been two weeks of sporting success into ten years of sporting triumph".

'Pretty nervous'

He said the programme of elite funding for athletes in the run-up to 2012 was being doubled "so that more and more athletes who are potential winners in 2012 can get the sort of support that our cyclists and others have been getting over the last few years".

Earlier sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, who famously bet his Australian counterpart Kate Ellis that Britain would outstrip Australia in the medals table, said it was not over yet.

The two rivals are currently neck-and-neck in terms of overall medal haul - although Britain is ahead on golds.

Mr Sutcliffe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme earlier: "We have got a couple more days to go so I'm not counting my chickens yet but it's been a fantastic experience."

Mr Sutcliffe and Ms Ellis agreed that the loser would agree to wear their rivals' national colours to a major sporting event in their own country.

Ms Ellis has been quoted as saying she was "getting pretty nervous" and hoping Australians could clinch a few more medals.

Francis Adamson, Australia's acting high commissioner, told the BBC Britain was probably "uncatchable" on golds but she "still had some hope" on the overall tally. Asked if Ms Ellis would wear a red, white and blue shirt if they lost, she added: "Australians never welch on bets".




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