US issues Beijing Olympics travel warning


(eTN) – Citing that “there is a heightened risk of attacks” during the Beijing Olympics, the US State Department has warned travelers that extremist groups might conduct terrorist acts within China “in the near future.”

With 100 days to go before the Beijing Olympics Games opens, the United States government’s move has brought back the specter of massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. “Any large scale public event such as the upcoming Olympic Games may present an attractive target for terrorists,” the US State Department warned.

Warning US citizens to avoid participating in demonstrations, the travel alert also urged Americans who live in China or traveling there to be cautious in hotels, restaurants, on public transports, and in areas of large public gatherings.

The State Department also warned travelers about “increased security” in Chinese airports. “There will be tighter restrictions on taking liquids, aerosols or gels aboard flights in carry-on baggage.”

So far, as a result of increased security at Chinese airports, two Canadians and a British citizen have been barred from entering Hong Kong, and put on return flights, according to latest news reports.

Nepal Tourism Ministry officials, too, confirmed that a US mountaineer named William Holland was expelled from Nepal for violating regulations. He was found at a Mt. Everest base camp with a banner that reads “Free Tibet.” Holland has banned from mountaineering activities in Nepal for the next two years.

Protesters and critics of the Chinese rule over Tibet have targeted the Olympic torch run around the world, which the Chinese say is symbolic of its rising status and pride as host of the Olympics in August.

After a relatively calm run in Asia, the torch-relay run faced hundreds of protesters from Buddhist monks to pro-Tibet demonstrators and nationalists during its “chaotic” Japanese run. More than 3,000 police guarded the route, a security measure normally accorded to Emperor Akihito. Protesters threw trash, eggs, tomatoes and flares during the run.

Ahead of the torch’s run up to Mount Everest, and the unveiling of the Olympic theme song, “Beijing Welcomes You” (Beijing Huanying NI) by 100 singers and celebrities, the International Olympic Committee said it is satisfied by assurances given by the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee regarding preparations undertaken “across a number of areas.”

Beijing authorities confirmed that they are currently “fine-tuning” Games preparations to include media services as well as environmental contingency plans devised to improve air quality during the sports meet.

Aiming to turn the event into a “People’s Olympics,” the Chinese government has spent US$42 billion for the event, including improving infrastructure such as building a new airport terminal and subway lines.