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IOC president: "Historic" Beijing Games to advance Olympic goals
5/8/2008 9:33

The Beijing Games will be a "historic" one and will significantly advance the Olympic goals of universality and fair play, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said yesterday.

"We are now just days away from what I believe will be a historic Olympic Games," Rogge said at the opening ceremony of the 120th IOC session, held in the National Center for the Performing Arts in central Beijing.

The Beijing Games are already a "landmark event for the Olympic Movement," he said. "The mere fact that the Olympic Games are coming to China -- home to nearly 20 percent of the world's population -- is significant."

China's role as the Olympic host has opened a window to the world's most populous nation, Rogge said.

"We have already seen the courage and determination of the Chinese people in another context. The world mourned the staggering loss of life from the earthquake in Sichuan Province and marveled at the courageous response by the Chinese people," said the IOC chief, referring to the 8.0-magnitude tremor that rocked southwest China on May 12 and killed nearly 70,000 people.

In the 16 days starting on Friday, the world will have another reason to come together to share common emotions, he said. "All of us in the Olympic Family hope that the Beijing Games will help the healing process in China and deepen the world's knowledge of this remarkable country."

Rogge said the Beijing Games will significantly advance the Olympic goals of universality and fair play, with a record number of participating delegations, women making up 45 percent of all athletes, more stringent doping testing, and new steps to combat irregular betting.

The Games will also leave a great legacy for China, he said. "I believe history will view the 2008 Olympics as a significant milestone in China's remarkable transformation."

The architectural landmarks such as the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube, two centerpiece venues of the Beijing Games, will encourage China's young people to participate in sports long after these Games, he said.

"Spectators will be inspired to become athletes, and athletes will be inspired to achieve their best in world-class venues," he added.

Beijing's other new constructions for the Games, including new airport terminals, roads and a host of other projects, will improve the quality of life and contribute to China's economic development over the long term, said Rogge.

"Many of the infrastructure investments and other steps taken as a result of the Olympics will help China deal with environmental challenges," he added.

According to the IOC president, the changes that are occurring in China are a microcosm of the changes in the rest of the world.

"The Olympic Movement has overcome countless obstacles since Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894, and we will have to continue to keep the Olympic dream alive for future generations," said Rogge.