AFTER months of hyped promotion of its Olympic ambitions, China has lost its cool over United States Congressional opposition to Beijing's bid to host the 2000 Summer Games.
On Monday, the US House of Representatives backed a resolution urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reject China's proposal because of continuing human-rights abuses. A similar measure is pending in the US Senate.
Following the congressional vote, the Chinese Olympic Committee issued a statement saying the resolution "is a grave violation of the Olympic principles and spirit ... [that] will certainly be firmly refused by all people who cherish and safeguard the independence of the International Olympic Committee."
In an effort to counter US criticism, He Zhenliang, head of the Chinese bidding team, contended that the Olympics are apolitical, and accused Congress of "purely political interference in our affairs."
The quest to land the event has become a major diplomatic offensive aimed at putting to rest international outrage over the military suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations four years ago. Injecting human-rights concerns into the Olympics selection process is one of China's worst fears, analysts say. "They very much want to close the chapter on 1989," a Chinese journalist says.
Since the March visit of an IOC inspection team, China has waged a sometimes near-hysterical campaign to land the 2000 Games. Armies of street cleaners and cheering schoolchildren were mobilized for the visit, while noxious coal furnaces were shut down to clear the air.
But Beijing's Olympic euphoria suffered another setback when a recent IOC technical report signaled that Sydney is the favorite. Beijing was criticized for its obsolete telecommunications system and other infrastructure inadequacies.
Chinese officials have started to publicly admit that the bid may fail, but have not given up. In an effort to woo crucial third-world votes on the IOC, Beijing says that if it hosts the event, it will use most of its estimated $120 million profit to encourage sports in developing countries. And it has pledged to inscribe the names of IOC members and athlete winners on the Great Wall of China.