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Ahead of Olympics, Security Measures Create Gloomy Atmosphere in Beijing

07/18/2008 -Beijing's tight security measures surrounding the 2008 Olympic Games has left many of the city's expatriates and locals wondering if the international sporting event will be a dour affair,reportsAgence France Presse.

Previous summer Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens became giant parties, but government fears of terrorist attacks and political demonstrations have created a gloomy atmosphere. Communist officials have imposed strict visa procedures on foreigners. Traffic car restrictions have pushed the city's overburdened transportation system to breaking point. Officials have shut down bars and other venues close to Olympic sites for security reasons. Authorities have told businesses remaining open to search patrons' bags and keep crowds down. People on the street must carry ID or passport in case they get stopped for random security checks, says AFP.

"The Beijing Olympics is facing a terrorist threat unsurpassed in Olympic history," wrote the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party.

Critics say the government is more worried more pro-Tibet protestors, democratic dissidents, and foreign human rights activists will disrupt the games and cause the government embarrassment. The New York Timesreports that the government is vetting foreign entertainers. “Those who used to take part in activities that harm our nation’s sovereignty are firmly not allowed to perform in China,” the rules say. The rules ban performers who promote ethnic hatred or “advocate obscenity or feudalism and superstition.”

Communist officials counter that Muslim separatists from the Xinjiang region present a threat to the Games. Bomb attacks and aircraft hijackings by Muslim separatists were used to justify crackdowns earlier this year, although human rights workers say the police may have exaggerated the attacks.

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