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Mixed reaction to Beijing 2008 win

Fireworks in Beijing
Beijing was celebrating well into the night Friday following the announcement  

By staff and wire reports

BEIJING, China -- Beijing has won the right to stage the 2008 Olympic Games, recording a landslide victory in the face of worldwide concern on China's human rights record.

The Chinese capital prevailed on the second round of a secret International Olympic Committee ballot by receiving 56 votes, three more than the required majority and 34 votes ahead of second-placed Toronto.

As the estimated 200,000 revellers who had converged on Tiananmen Square awoke to face day one in the lead-up to the Games, reaction to the decision filtering in from around the world was mixed.

In the winning city, newspaper headlines matched the delirious mood of the population.

"Smiles Everywhere, Joy Ignites," blazed a headline in the Beijing Morning Post beneath a picture of a man spraying beer from a shaken bottle of beer.

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"56 Votes -- A Beautiful Win," read another in reference to the city's comfortable win in the IOC's Moscow vote.

But Taiwan, whose independence China has threatened to quash with an invasion, greeted the decision very differently.

Optimism that peace between the two would be almost assured in lead-up to the Games was tainted by fears the Chinese victory could exacerbate growing nationalism on the mainland -- further fueling their determination to take Taiwan back to its fold.

"For the industrial and commercial sector, it's like buying an insurance policy that (China) will not invade Taiwan for seven years," the mass circulation United Daily News said.

Tibetans slam choice

In New Delhi, the Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile slammed the choice, saying it would encourage repression in China.

As Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama runs a government-in-exile from the Indian Himalayan foothills town of Dharamsala. He fled Tibet nine years after Chinese troops marched into their homeland in 1950.

"We deeply regret that Beijing is awarded the 2008 Olympic Games," spokesman for the India-based Central Tibetan Administration Kalon T.C. Tethong said in a statement.

"This will put the stamp of international approval on Beijing's human rights abuses and will encourage China to escalate its repression," he said.

The United States urged China to show a "modern" face when it hosts the Olympic Games in 2008 after it won its bid despite worldwide concern over its human rights record.

"The president believes that the Olympics are a sporting event, not a political event. But having said that, this now is an opportunity for China to showcase itself as a modern nation," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Europe divided

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International, refusing to either welcome or condemn the decision, urged China to improve its human rights policies.

"Considering the escalation in serious and widespread human rights violations over the past three years, the Chinese authorities have a long way to go to demonstrate a healthy and basic respect for human rights," Amnesty said in a press statement.

In Paris, President Jacques Chirac said he regretted Paris had failed in its bid -- but he made it clear that France had not given up hope of staging a future Games.

But there was sharper reactionto the decision.

Francois Loncle, the head of parliament's foreign affairs committee, saw parallels with the decision to hold the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.

"The decision by the IOC goes towards justifying a repressive political system that each day flouts freedom and violates human rights," said Loncle, a member of French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's Socialist party.

"Following the example of Nazi Germany in 1936 and the Soviet Union in 1980, Communist China will use (the games) as a powerful propaganda instrument destined to consolidate its hold on power," Loncle said in a statement.

In Germany, Interior Minister Otto Schily said the decision should help promote democracy in China. "I am convinced that the Olympic Games will have a positive effect on China's democratic development," he said in a statement.

Jiang goes public

Australia, casting an eye to the potential economic benefits of an Asia Pacific Games, was largely supportive of the Beijing bid,

Having helped orchestrate Sydney's two-vote victory over Beijing to stage the 2000 Olympics, Australia's IOC vice-president, Mr Kevan Gosper, said: "The majority of people will regard this as a good decision. Sometimes that requires some courage and we did that today."

Following the decision, Chinese President Jiang Zemin made an unannounced appearance and gave the exuberant crowd his "warmest congratulations."

"Comrades! We express our deep thanks to all our friends around the world and to the IOC for helping to make Beijing successful in its Olympic bid," Jiang shouted to the crowd.

"I hope the whole nation works hard along with residents of the capital city to stage successful 2008 Olympic Games. I also welcome our friends around the world to visit Beijing in 2008."

• Beijing 2008
• International Olympic Committee

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