Zhang: Spielberg decision 'regrettable'

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NEW YORK -- Steven Spielberg's decision to step down as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony is "very regrettable," Chinese director Zhang Yimou has told China's top political advisory body, adding that the decision will have no effect on the sporting extravaganza.

Zhang, best known in the West for the 2004 hit "House of Flying Daggers" starring actress Zhang Ziyi, made the remarks Monday in Beijing at the opening of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Zhang is a member of the national committee of the CPPCC, a largely toothless advisory body.

Spielberg was to have served in the post alongside Zhang and Australian director Ric Birch, who designed the opening ceremonies at the Sydney Games in 2000. All three were appointed by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games in April 2006.

Spielberg, whose films are well regarded in China, announced his decision to quit the Beijing Olympics in February, citing concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which he linked to the Chinese government.

Ge Fei, an Olympic gold medalist in badminton and a national lawmaker, echoed Zhang's opinion, Xinhua said.

"The Olympics is simply a sporting event. Political issues shouldn't be involved in it," said Ge, a deputy to China's top legislature, the National People's Congress. "But there are still some people who wear 'colored spectacles' while watching China and always exaggerate some issues."
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