IOC says confident on free internet for Beijing 2022 Olympics

Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:57am EDT
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By Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) - The International Olympics Committee is confident China will guarantee uncensored internet when it hosts the 2022 Winter Games, a senior IOC official said on Wednesday, though China has given no details about how its pledge will work.

China keeps a tight rein on the internet. The government has warned that social media, particularly foreign services, could be a destabilizing force for Chinese society and even jeopardize security.

Popular foreign social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as well as Google Inc's main search engine and Gmail service are all inaccessible in China without specialized software to vault what is known as the "Great Firewall".

"It's guaranteed in the bid," IOC Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the late Juan Antonio Samaranch, who led the IOC from 1980 to 2001, told reporters in Beijing when asked about free internet in 2022.

"All the experience that we've had with Beijing is that they've always delivered on their word. We are confident that will be the case."

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics as they enjoyed at previous Games.

But when the main press center opened, journalists complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to China's communist leadership blocked. A IOC official later admitted that some IOC officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites.

Zhang Jiandong, a Beijing vice mayor and vice president of the Winter Olympics organizing committee, said China had already made commitments to have an open internet during the bidding process.   Continued...

A message of congratulation is projected onto the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium as people celebrate after Beijing was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing July 31, 2015.  REUTERS/Damir Sagolj