After months of rumors that the Chinese authorities would ban Bibles during the Beijing Olympics, it may now be taken as gospel that Christians will be free to practice their religion during the Games. A British-based Christian charity has confirmed that 50,000 special bilingual booklets containing the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will be made available in the Athletes’ Village in Beijing and five other Olympic cities. Ten thousand Bibles and 30,000 New Testaments will also be printed.
It is the first time that Bibles have been distributed freely in China outside registered shops and with the full blessing of the Communist Party. Far from suppressing their distribution, the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) is putting its official stamp on the initiative by allowing the free use of its logo on the Scriptures. The Bible Society, in Swindon, Wiltshire, is funding the £200,000 cost of the Olympics Bibles, which will be printed by Amity Printing Press, at a £2.3 million facility opened in Nanjing last month. Amity, which turns out one Bible every second, produced its 50 millionth in September.