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Summer Olympic Games Open in Beijing

Criticism and protests have surrounded the Olympic games. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

After seven years of preparations, the Summer Olympic Games have opened in Beijing, China. An opening ceremony and lighting of the Olympic cauldron marked the official start of the games on Friday.

More than ten thousand athletes will compete in the summer games. They will take part in more than three hundred events in twenty-eight sports. About twenty-five thousand members of the media are reporting on the games.

Chinese President Hu Jintao welcomed leaders from around the world to a special celebration meal. He said the Chinese government and people have been fulfilling promises made to the international community when Beijing was chosen to host the games.

However, human rights issues, pollution and the ability of the media to freely report have caused criticism and tension leading up to the Olympics.

China is hoping the criticism will be replaced by excitement for what many believe is the greatest sports event in the world. This year's theme is "One World, One Dream." The idea is to unite the world in the spirit of the Olympics.

China is promising a safe and peaceful Olympics. The government increased security after a deadly attack on police earlier this week in the far western Xinjiang province.

China has spent more than forty billion dollars on structural improvements for the Olympic games. Earlier this week, some people protested the destruction of their homes to make way for new buildings.

There have been many other protests. China expelled two Americans and two British citizens for demonstrating Wednesday near the main Olympic structure. The four members of "Students for a Free Tibet" hung signs calling for freedom in Tibet.

Chinese officials detained three American Christian human rights activists Thursday after they protested for a second day in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

In addition, China cancelled a visa for American athlete Joey Cheek hours before he was to leave for Beijing. Mister Cheek has criticized China's support for the Sudanese government and had planned to demonstrate on the issue.

President Bush is expected to discuss human rights issues with Chinese President Hu Jintao when they meet on Sunday. Mister Bush attended the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

Another issue surrounding the Olympics in Beijing is air pollution. The city has some of the most polluted air in the world. However, the International Olympic Committee's medical commission chief said the air is not a threat to visitors. Four members of the United States cycling team apologized after wearing protective face coverings when then arrived in the city. Pollution caused the Chinese government to ban more than three million vehicles from roads each day. It also shut down factories during the games.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. You can read and listen to our reports on our Web site, I'm Steve Ember.