Friday, August 1, 2008

Olympic organizers to lift Internet restrictions

BEIJING - The International Olympic Committee and the Chinese organizers BOCOG have agreed to lift all Internet restrictions for the Beijing Games, IOC vice-president Gunilla Lindberg told Reuters on Friday.

"The issue has been solved," Lindberg said. "The IOC Coordination Commission and BOCOG met last night and agreed. Internet use will be just like in any Olympics."

The issue had caused a major stir days before the start of the Olympics (Aug. 8-24) with IOC officials insisting there would be no censorship and BOCOG saying sensitive sites would remain blocked.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, the IOC had said it was expecting BOCOG to solve the issue and said it has always made clear that media representatives should have full access to the Internet.

BOCOG is responsible for directly running the Beijing Games under the auspices of the IOC, which sets general policy. The organizing committee of an Olympics would generally work hand-in-hand with the IOC.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International, whose Web site was among those barred in China, had condemned Internet restrictions during the Games as "betraying the Olympic values."

Games organizers had long pledged there would be no restrictions to journalists during the Games.