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IOC confident of environment, traffic in Beijing

Updated: 2007-04-20 09:56
Chief International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspector Hein Verbruggen (L) and executive vice president of Beijing organising committee (BOCOG) Jiang Xiaoyu attend a news conference in Beijing April 19, 2007. [Photo: Reuters]

International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors Thursday cast a vote of confidence in Beijing's capability of tackling challenges like air pollution and traffic congestion during the 2008 Olympic Games.

Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC's Coordination Commission for the Beijing Games, gave a positive review of Beijing's work following a three-day inspection visit.

"Without exception, in every area considerable progress has been made...we are confident to say that they are at the level of preparation that we would expect BOCOG to be," Verbruggen told a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Although praise was heaped on the Beijing organizers' overall competence, especially for the quality of the venues, concerns about poor air quality and traffic jams still remain.

Verbruggen acknowledged Beijing's efforts to improve the environment but said that rapid economic development added to the problems.

"As far as we can see, everything that has been promised (by Beijing on fighting pollution) has been delivered," said Verbruggen.

"Obviously, given the economic development of this country, there are problems that have been added to that, and that leads to requests for contingency plans, if necessary, if needed for test events this year as well as August 2008," he added.

Beijing will stage 26 test events this year and Verbruggen indicated that they would be a decisive factor in the smooth operation of the 2008 Games.

"We have asked that the contingency plans, the effects of those plans, will be calculated so that we know that it is enough to guarantee that the quality of the air will allow the athletics performances that we expect to happen here next year," he said.

During its eighth visit to the Chinese capital, the coordination commission looked at a number of functional areas, including the environment, human resources, medical and technology, and toured some Olympic venues including the National Stadium, dubbed the "Bird's Nest" and the neighboring "Water Cube" National Acquatics Center.

With 477 days left to go before the Beijing Games open on Aug. 8, 2008, Verbruggen said that much work remains to be done, but added that it is "normal".

"It is not something, say 'we have delays'," he said.