Chinese pour cold water on Kiwi rowers

By JOHN MATHESON

Last updated 19:48 24/05/2008

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The dirty tricks have already started as hosts China play the roll of bully in the build-up to the Olympics' rowing regatta on the outskirts of Beijing.

New Zealand officials have had their plans to base their champion team in a hotel near the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park snuffed out by Olympic organisers.

Sunday News understands Rowing NZ had paid out nearly $110,000 in accommodation fees so the team could stay in a local hotel. Team bosses were concerned the daily 60-minute round trip from the athlete's village to the rowing and canoeing venue would be too taxing for their athletes.

The venue is the furthest away from the Olympic Village than any of Beijing's 31 designated Games' sites.

At least three other countries had been booked into the hotel but recently all of the teams were told their bookings had been cancelled.

The other federations involved include Great Britain, Italy and France.

It is understood the Chinese team has now booked out the entire hotel.

Rowing NZ spokesman Richard Gee confirmed there was "an issue" with the hotel but said he was not ready to go to the press with the story.

"There is a story here," he said last night, "but we are still trying to work out exactly what has happened."

Gee confirmed the team including world champion Mahe Drysdale and former Olympic champion Rob Waddle had booked into the hotel.

Kayak team boss, Olympic legend Ian Ferguson, has heard the rowers have been kicked out of their hotel.

"It's a worry for them," he told Sunday News. "If we had the money we would have been in the hotel too.

"They say the venue is a 30-minute bus ride from the Olympic Village.

"But by the time you add 10 minutes to each side of that trip to get yourself down to the bus, and remember that you are making the trip twice a day for the different sessions, all of a sudden you're spending nearly three hours of your day travelling.

"Three hours when you are trying to peak as an athlete is not good."

When told the Chinese rowers are rumoured to have booked into the former New Zealand hotel, Ferguson called the move the lowest of the lows.

"If the Chinese have kicked our rowers out and put themselves in, that is the dirtiest low-down trick I've ever heard of. Mind you, they do play low."

Ferguson was now worried his team may struggle to get things like food supplements and vitamins into China "if they (want to) play hardball".

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