Tue, August 19, 2008
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Samaranch: China to top Olympic gold medal table

2008-08-19 13:20:58 GMT2008-08-19 21:20:58 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Honorary President Juan Antonio Samaranch (C) visits the Forbidden City in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 19, 2008. (Xinhua/He Junchang)

BEIJING, Aug.19 (Xinhua)-- Former International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Samaranch said on Tuesday China would top the gold medal count at the Beijing Games.

Asked whether China could keep its gold medal lead to the end, Samaranch said, "Yes, I think so."

By early Tuesday evening, China had 40 gold medals to the United States' 24. China also eclipsed its previous best tally of 32 gold medals at Athens in 2004.

The Spaniard made the prediction while visiting the Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing, the imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) to the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

During his tour, Samaranch, together with Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, was shown around a pottery gallery that houses more than 400 piece of pottery.

Exhibited in a chronological order, the pieces showcased the improved ceramics craftsmanship in terms of color, design and delicacy.

"These exhibits, part of 350,000 ceramics the Forbidden City keeps, represent a 10,000-year history of Chinese ceramic development," Zheng Xinmiao, curator of the Beijing Palace Museum, an official name of the Forbidden City.

Samaranch said he was deeply impressed by the amount of ceramics in the museum.

The 88-year-old, who served as IOC chief for more than 20 years, also congratulated the Chinese people on the Beijing Games, saying "you've got a great victory."

He said great changes had taken place since his first visit to the country in 1978. "What is particularly remarkable is that most people live much better than 30 years ago."

Samaranch is expected to stay in the Chinese capital until the end of the Games.

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