Another Olympic Problem _ Squat Toilets

(AP) Among all the protests, pollution concerns and talk of boycotts surrounding the Beijing Olympics, a more basic problem has arisen for organizers: the toilets.

At the more than 30 test events held by organizers, the presence of squat toilets at many of the new and renovated venues has drawn frequent complaints.

"We have asked the venues to improve on this, to increase the number to sit-down toilets," Yao Hui, deputy director of venue management for the Beijing organizers, said Wednesday. "Many people have raised the question of toilets."

The issue came up again over the weekend when the San Diego Padres played the Los Angeles Dodgers at the new Olympic baseball venue. The portable toilets trucked in were of the style used widely in Asia, but rarely in the West.

Yao suggested it would be difficult to change every permanent toilet in the 37 venues, 31 of which are in Beijing. So he said the focus would be on satisfying three groups of visitors: athletes, journalists and the Olympic family, meaning primarily VIPs.

He said renovation was underway at the three most striking venues for the Olympics, the 91,000-seat "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, the "Water Cube" and the National Indoor Stadium. He said most of the toilets there "should be" the sit-down style.

Beijing is expecting about 500,000 foreigners to attend the Aug. 8-24 games.

"Most of the Chinese people are used to the squat toilet, but nowadays more and more people demand sit-down toilets," Yao said. "However, it will take some time for this transition."

Beijing is reported to be spending at least $40 billion on the venues and related infrastructure, all designed to feature a modern country that has grown in three decades to a political and economic powerhouse.

"I believe the Olympic games will be a great opportunity for us to speed up this transition," Yao said. "I believe the situation will get better and better."

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