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Olympics tops Russia in Asia

Games getting more coverage than conflict

Despite competition from the Olympics, the Russia-Georgia conflict has dominated media reports in Europe and America — but in Asia has largely played second fiddle to the Games, which are a much bigger local story.

In Spain, the Olympics dominated the weekend news but the media had caught up by Monday when El Pais, Spain’s most-read quality daily, and pubcaster TVE both led with the South Ossetia conflict.

Rather than make an issue of the region’s key role as a supply route for oil to Europe, TVE’s mid-afternoon newscast covered the accusations from the U.S., Russia and Georgia; Europe’s positive role in the conflict, urging the Georgian president to declare a ceasefire; and the horrific effect of bombardments on civilians in Ossetia and Georgia.

In Germany, a country that nurtures strong relations with Russia, Russia has largely been portrayed as the aggressor, with emphasis on its unrelenting attack on Georgia despite the latter country’s unilateral ceasefire.

German pubcaster ARD’s Moscow correspondent Thomas Roth, who is in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, has described the situation for Georgia as “hopeless.”

The pubcasters have closely followed French efforts to broker a ceasefire and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s planned visit to Moscow on Tuesday(Aug 12) to talk to Russian leaders.

Commercial web Sat.1 on Monday led its news with reports that some 50 Russian aircraft had bombed Georgian cities and villages, citing Georgian government sources.

The war even led commercial broadcaster RTL’s usually fluff-filled morning news, which cited unconfirmed reports that several thousand had perished in the conflict and that some 10,000 refugees were fleeing the fighting.

Meanwhile, Monday’s edition of the South China Morning Post led with story on a lethal fire, followed by seven pages of Olympic stories.

By the evening some regional media were catching up with the Russian Georgian story, including Taiwan’s China Post, which led with the story, ahead of that about deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fleeing from the Beijing Olympics to exile in London.

(Ali Jaafar in London, John Hopewell in Spain, Ed Meza in Berlin and Patrick Frater in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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