07/31/2008, 00.00
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South Korean TV shows ‘stolen’ clip from opening ceremony rehearsal

Cellphone tapes opening ceremony drill. Pre-opening excitement grows as air pollution problem persists.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About 50,000 people flocked to the Olympic Stadium last night for a rehearsal of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. A South Korean TV station broadcast a few minutes of the ceremony, probably filmed using a cellphone, showing great choreography and dancers with painted faces (see photo).

Before the rehearsal excitement was running high as thousands of people without invitation loitered outside the gates, hoping to sneak inside despite the thousands of police and volunteers deployed around the ‘Bird’s Nest’.

Those allowed inside the stadium had had to sign a confidentiality agreement and pledge not to reveal what they would see. But whilst cameras were banned, cellphones were not.

The rehearsal was supposed to last two hours but in the end took three and half hours; it included participants with painted faces and involved aerial acrobatics.

The organising committee was satisfied by the drill even though spokesperson Sun Weide said officials were “disappointed” for the clip shown on South Korean television.

“The images that were broadcast don't reflect the entire splendour of the opening ceremony,” Sun added.

Two more dry runs are planned, one on Saturday and another next Tuesday.

Tickets to the opening ceremony have already been sold-out, but scalpers are making a bundle. A 5,000 yuan opening ceremony ticket has been resold for 210,000 yuan (from about US$ 750 to US$ 31,000); one for the closing ceremony with a face price of 3,000 yuan was being offered on one website for 30,000 yuan.

All this excitement about the inauguration is allowing the authorities to divert attention from unsolved problems like the capital’s unsolved air pollution problem.

Although the authorities have said that the city has had more “blue sky” days, experts have argued that smog levels may not be the best indicator for air quality. Important pollutants may be left in the air even if the sky is clear.

For many scientists the air pollution index used by Beijing officials has several key flaws. First of all, its overall value is calculated by taking an average of readings across the city, meaning some areas could have dangerous levels. Secondly, it omits at least two dangerous pollutants, ozone and fine particulate matter.

Thus just a few days before the start of the Games, air quality in the capital still falls short even if the authorities continue to announce only to postpone more radical steps like limiting car traffic and shutting down factories.

In the meantime Chinese authorities have launched another crackdown against “illegal” websites, claiming that they are going after online pornography, but are also shutting down sites that have censored political news.

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