News & Current Affairs

June 21, 2009

Stonehenge crowds cause gridlock

Filed under: Latest, Reviews, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:17 am

Stonehenge crowds cause gridlock

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

A huge crowd gathered to witness the dawn of the longest day

Thousands of people have flocked to Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the Summer Solstice, causing roads in the area to become gridlocked.

English Heritage, which manages the ancient monument, said the car parks were full hours before sunrise.

Crowds who made it through the traffic saw Druid ceremonies at the stones as the sun rose on the longest day.

Earlier, Wiltshire Police said they expected numbers for the event to exceed last year’s figure of 30,000.

The event to mark the dawn of the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere has grown in popularity since a four-mile exclusion zone around the site was lifted nine years ago.

Police for the most part are wishing people a happy Solstice and so are the security guards
Druid King Arthur Pendragon

Police drafted in extra officers and warned warmer weather and the fact that the event falls on a weekend would increase numbers further.

They also said there would be a zero tolerance approach to drugs and drunkenness, with an alcohol limit of four cans of beer or a bottle of wine per person imposed by English Heritage.

Druid King Arthur Pendragon told the news shortly before sunrise: “It’s a very nice atmosphere and everything’s fine at the moment.

“There have been more police present this year, more security, but everything’s passed off very jovially and everyone’s in a good mood.

“And the police for the most part are wishing people a happy Solstice and so are the security guards.”

English Heritage issued an advisory note to visitors which warned: “The police will be on site during the access period and will take immediate action against anyone flouting the law.

“Summer Solstice is not a good time to experiment with drugs – the crowd, the noise and the sheer size of the place are likely to make any bad reaction much, much worse.”

Meanwhile, a limit of 200 tents was set at a field near the Avebury Ring after residents complained about the number of visitors to that site in 2008.


Are you celebrating the solstice? Let us know about your experience

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August 7, 2008

Beijing air ‘safe for athletes’

Beijing air ‘safe for athletes’

Security personnel stand in front of a Bird's Nest stadium hidden by haze on 7 August 2008

Concerns over air quality have persisted in the run-up to the Games

Beijing’s air quality poses no risk to athletes’ health, Jacques  Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has told reporters.

Mr Rogge said checks were in place to protect competitors amid persistent concerns about poor air quality.

He was speaking as dignitaries from around the world gathered in China’s capital for Friday’s opening ceremony.

Among them is US President George Bush, who earlier expressed “deep concerns” about Beijing’s human rights record.

Speaking in the Thai capital, Bangkok, before travelling to the Games, Mr Bush praised China’s economy but said only respect for human rights would let it realize its full potential.

China later rejected Mr Bush’s criticisms as “interference” in its internal affairs.

Air target missed

A day before the Games, a BBC reading suggested Beijing’s air quality was far below World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

It put levels of particulate matter (PM10) at 191 micrograms per cubic metre. This far exceeds the WHO target of 50 micrograms/cubic metre, and also exceeds the WHO target for developing countries of 150 micrograms/cubic metre.

Graph

But Mr Rogge insisted there was no threat to Olympic competitors.

“Of course we prefer clear skies, but the most important thing is that the health of the athletes is protected,” Mr Rogge said in the news conference.

He said there was “absolutely no danger” to the health of athletes taking part in events that last less than one hour. But he said if the pollution was bad, events which lasted more than that could be shifted or postponed.

Mr Rogge urged reporters to distinguish between fog and pollution – a point, correspondents say, often made by Chinese authorities.

“The fog, you see, is based on the basis of humidity and heat. It does not mean that this fog is the same as pollution,” he said.

And he praised China’s efforts to clean up the air around Beijing – efforts, he said, which would “continue and have a lasting influence on the climate of Beijing”.

Separately, Mr Rogge said athletes would be prevented from making any political statement or protest in official venues – in accordance with Rule 51 of the Olympic charter, which forbids athletes from making political, religious, commercial or racial propaganda.

But he said they were free to do this in protest areas provided by Chinese authorities, and that “common sense” would be used to judge violations.

China defense

Earlier in the day, the Olympic torch began making its last stops on a journey that has seen it pass through five continents.

America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists
President Bush

Patriotic crowds lined the mist-shrouded Great Wall waving fans and cheering, while streams of confetti shot into the air as the torch was lit from the Olympic flame.

The torch, while welcomed in many nations, has also been a magnet for protesters critical of China’s respect for rights.

Mr Bush hit out at China’s “detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists” before he arrived in China for the opening ceremony.

But China offered a robust defence of its record in response, insisting it “put its people first”.

In other developments:

  • The two Koreas said they would not march together at the opening ceremony, a reversal on the last two Olympic Games
  • Tibetan groups have held large protests in both India and Nepal on the eve of the Games
  • China has selected basketball star Yao Ming to carry the national flag in the opening ceremony.

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