(CNN Student News) -- August 11, 2008
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: CNN Student News is back with our latest Webcast of the summer! Hi, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz.
AZUZ: Seoul, Sydney, Atlanta and Athens. What do they all have in common? They're all recent hosts of the Olympics! And now, you can add Beijing to that list. The '08 games kicked off in the Chinese capital this month, and they're the focus of our final summer program. As John Vause explains, the host country has a lot invested in the event.
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JOHN VAUSE CNN REPORTER: Wang Zhenyao is older than communist China. Now 72, he saw Chairman Mao rise to power, lived through the brutality of the cultural revolution, survived famines, and now, along with so many of his generation, he believes China is on the eve of taking its place on the world stage.
WANG ZHENYAO, BEIJING RESIDENT (TRANSLATED): Foriegners once called China the "sickman of Asia," he says. This is history and will never return! The Chinese nation is invincible.
VAUSE: And to prove that, China is determined to stage the most lavish Olympics the world has ever seen, a dream that began a century ago, say historians like Susan Brownell.
SUSAN BROWNELL, AUTHOR: If we search the historical records, the first time that we can find in print a call for China to host the Olympic Games is about 1907, 1908. Because that would be a symbol that China had emerged on the world stage.
VAUSE: The Chinese are taught before Mao and the Communists, their country was weak, for hundreds of years militarily inferior, forced to sign unfair treaties, concede land to imperialist countries like Britain and France. And only when China was strong would that humiliation end. China may not be a super power just yet, but it sure wants to look like one. Beijing has undergone an extreme makeover: a seven-year building frenzy with an Olympic crescendo. A far cry from the drab impoverished capital of the recent past; days which Mr. Wang remembers well and will never return, he says, after the Olympics.
WANG (TRANSLATED): Our economy will grow, our people will be happier.
VAUSE: But what about all that international prestige?
DAVID WALLECHINSKY, OLYMPIC HISTORIAN: If the Chinese -- either the people or the Chinese government -- think this is going to radically change their place in the world, they are mistaken.
VAUSE: David Wallechinsky, an Olympic historian, points to the protests which erupted during the torch relay earlier this year over issues like human rights and Tibet. Demonstrators were quickly labeled anti-China by the communist government.
WALLECHINSKY: The main purpose of hosting the Olympics for the Communist Party is to show the Chinese people that the world acknowledges the Communist Party as the legitimate leaders of China.
VAUSE: Like almost everyone else here, Mr. Wang won't be going to the Games. Instead, he's spent his days etching Olympic symbols on eggs as a tribute to the games. It seems odd, but they fill the small, two-room apartment where he's lived for 40 years.
WANG (TRANSLATED): This is my small contribution.
VAUSE: China may be ready to dazzle the world, but it seems some old habits still die hard. During our entire interview with Mr. Wang, a Communist Party official was nearby, carefully recording everything he said. John Vause, CNN, Beijing.
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Pollution & Athletes
AZUZ: Alright now, we're shifting gears a bit. There's something in the air surrounding these games, and we ain't just talking about excitement. We're talking about pollution! Beijing has a reputation for bad air quality. Olympic organizers have been working to improve the situation. The president of the International Olympic Committee recently said that conditions will be safe for athletes to compete. During preparations for the games, John Vause filed this report on China's struggle to combat the smog.
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VAUSE: And so it returns after just a few clear days: a heavy, grey haze once again hangs over this Olympic city.
LO SZEPING, GREENPEACE CHINA: Beijing's air quality is probably not yet up to what the world will be expecting from an Olympic hosting city.
VAUSE: With the dead calm conditions and a buildup of pollution, Chinese officials have announced another emergency plan: More factories will be closed in Beijing, as well as nine neighboring cities. Already, Beijing has taken half the cars off the road with a system of odd and even license plates. That system will now be expanded here and implemented in five other cities. The new emergency pollution measures will take effect 48 hours before a forecasted period of still calm conditions, when smog usually builds up and can't be dispersed.
DU SHAOZHONG, BEIJING ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION BUREAU (TRANSLATED): We are still optimistic that during the Olympics we can reduce pollution well below our target thresholds.
VAUSE: But some athletes are not convinced. World champ Haile Gebrselassie, an asthmatic, has already pulled out of the marathon because of fears for his health. And other endurance athletes from the U.S. and reportedly from Japan plan to wear masks.
JARROD SHOEMAKER, USA TRIATHLETE: This past year I wore a mask all the way up to the race and after the race, kind of as a test to see if it would work, and I felt perfectly normal, perfectly fine. So, I definitely think it worked, and that's my plan again for this year, is to wear a mask.
VAUSE: Doctors says high levels of pollution will impact performance, especially for endurance athletes like marathon runners, who breathe in around 100 liters of air every minute, compared to six liters for an average person not playing sport.
MALCOLM GREEN, BRITISH LUNG FOUNDATION: Pollution goes down into the lungs. It can cause inflamation, it can cause people who have asthma to get asthma episodes. And so generally, it is not helpful to athletes.
VAUSE: And with this city shrouded in grey, it's a long way from the "Green Games" Beijing had promised when it won the right to hold the Olympics seven years ago. John Vause, CNN, Beijing.
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Is This Legit?
ANDY ROSE, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Is this Legit? In ancient times, Olympic athletes competed in the nude. True! In most of the ancient Olympic competitions, the athletes didn't wear a stitch of clothing. The reason? To illustrate the ideal of harmony between mind and body.
AZUZ: Well, that would increase the ratings, not to mention a little bit of controversy. Turns out, that's happening anyway. Not because of what athletes aren't wearing; because of what they are. Chris Lawrence examines a new type of swimsuit that's helping break records and making some waves.
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CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN REPORTER: He's only in high school, but Max Eliot's ready to trade his suit for the Speedo LZR.
MAX ELIOT, HIGH SCHOOL SWIMMER: The new ones are ultrasonically bonded, so they actually don't have seams.
LAWRENCE: But these suits are submerged in controversy. Swimmers have set more than 40 world records in the Speedo LZR, and it just came out in February. The world record-holder says it turns "mediocre swimmers into Martians." And foreign swimmers are revolting against their own sponsors to get it in time for the Olympics.
JESSICA HARDY, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: I think if they don't wear it, they're at a disadvantage for sure.
LAWRENCE: Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy broke two records wearing the suit.
HARDY: When I jump in the water, like literally, the water bounces right off of it.
LAWRENCE: An Italian coach called the LZR "technological doping." But the Olympic committee ok'd its super-light fabric because the suit doesn't provide buoyancy. And some say it's part of an ongoing evolution from Mark Spitz winning gold medals with shaggy hair.
JASON SCHWARZ, L.A. SWIM CLUB: In the 70s, nobody really thought to shave. If you notice, he swam with a moustache.
LAWRENCE: And when Jason Schwarz started training, it was all about the smallest suit possible.
SCHWARZ: At the time, we thought that the skin was the fastest thing against the water. We would shave our legs; we would get the dead skin off, we'd get the hair off.
LAWRENCE: Full bodysuits designed to reduce drag first caused a stir in the 1992 Olympic trials. But Speedo says the LZR does more: Its "core stabilizer" helps swimmers maintain a streamlined position through the end of a race.
ELIOT: But I'd say it's 40% is the technology and 60% is really mental. You get one of these suits on and it's like, "Yeah! I got a Fastskin on. I'm gonna go fast!"
LAWRENCE: If you want to feel what the Olympic swimmers do, it'll cost you. The LZR goes on sale to the public in October, but will cost up to $550. Chris Lawrence, CNN, North Hollywood, California.
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AZUZ: And with that $550 swimsuit, we're hopping out of the pool for the summer. But we'll be diving back in to the new school year with daily shows on August 18th. Make sure to check us out on Headline News, and online at CNNStudentNews.com and on iTunes. For now, we're going to leave you with a look at a sporting event taking place in Asia that includes track and field, feats of strength. But it's not the Summer Games. It's the "Olympets," a contest that's truly gone to the dogs. Enjoy the end of your summer, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz.