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Page last updated at 08:23 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 09:23 UK

Beijing bulletin

Olympic torch in Beijing

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Olympics, Olympics, Olympics. The word is on everyone's lips.

With the games drawing nearer - the torch relay began recently - people both inside and outside China are beginning to focus on this summer's event.

But not everything that's being said is complimentary, much to the annoyance of the Chinese.

China wants the Olympics to be a grand sporting occasion, one where they can show off their sporting prowess.

It's also an opportunity for China to show visitors, and its own people, that the country is now an important, responsible, developing country.

Who advised the Chinese to call the Dalai Lama a "wolf in monk's robes"?

But unfortunately the best laid plans sometimes go awry, and hosting the Olympics is a double-edged sword.

If you invite people into your home, they might look into all the dark, dirty corners, as well as the flowers arranged nicely on the table.

Campaigners both inside and outside China are using the Olympics to highlight some of the country's more unsavoury aspects.

China's good relationship with Sudan, the country's human rights record and the unrest in Tibet are all subjects Chinese leaders did not want to talk about, particularly this close to the games.

But officials are now engaged in a public relations war and, because they're not used to dealing with criticism, it's a battle they're going to find hard to win.

Take, for example, the response to the unrest in Tibet that erupted on 10 March.

Chinese people were indeed the victims of enraged Tibetans, and Beijing made much of this.

But who advised them to call the Dalai Lama - a man who has won the Nobel Peace Prize - a "wolf in monk's robes"?

Dalai Lama
China has accused the Dalai Lama of planning violent attacks

This week they also said Tibetans were organising suicide squads to launch violent attacks, and suggested the Dalai Lama was behind the plan.

How many people in the West believe a mild-mannered 72-year-old monk, who has consistently called for peace, is a terrorist on the same level as Osama bin Laden?

The government has also launched an attack on the Western media, including the BBC, for what it says is biased reporting about Tibet.

From a country where the media is closely controlled - with an iron fist on sensitive topics such as Tibet - this accusation is richly ironic.

But inside China, where officials are able to ensure their message is the only one heard, it's a different story.

Most people agree with the government. They take it as a given that the Western media is biased.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us with a Chinese government trying harder than ever to push its Olympic message of peace and harmony.

BBC Sport's Claire Stocks
When the torch relay stopped briefly in Beijing this week, security was so tight that ordinary people were hardly allowed to see it.

This ensured there were no embarrassing protests. But at what cost?

Surely transporting the torch around the Chinese capital in a minivan, rather than a runner's hand, defeats the point of a torch relay?

It's hard to convince people that everything is peaceful and harmonious when you have to do it from behind a security cordon.

see also
Envoy 'will carry Olympic torch'
03 Apr 08 |  UK News
India reduces Olympic torch route
03 Apr 08 |  South Asia
IOC warns China over web access
01 Apr 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese struggle to see Olympic event
31 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese views on an unblocked BBC
26 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Tibet kept on Olympic torch route
19 Mar 08 |  Olympics
Beijing athletes allowed to blog
16 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Beijing bulletin
15 Feb 08 |  Olympics
Beijing bulletin
29 Jan 08 |  Olympics
Beijing bulletin
07 Jan 08 |  Olympics

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