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China to stop flights during Olympic opening ceremony

At least two airlines say they were told Friday to stay away from Beijing's international airport during the opening ceremony of the Olympics, while further scrutiny was applied to foreign entertainers in the latest security moves ahead of next month's games.

No official announcement has been made, but local media and airlines said Friday that Beijing's airport will close for about four hours during the opening ceremony, affecting dozens of flights.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said it would postpone one flight after receiving word from Chinese authorities that the airport would be closed during the ceremony, set to begin at the auspicious time of 8 p.m. on Aug. 8.

Cathay Pacific spokeswoman Carolyn Leung in Hong Kong said she was informed that Beijing Capital International Airport would be closed from 7 p.m. to midnight on Aug. 8.

She said a flight from Hong Kong scheduled to arrive at 9:45 p.m. will instead land at 1 a.m. the next day.

A customer service spokesman of Olympic sponsor, Air China, said the airline had also received a notice that the airport would be closed.

But a spokesman from the airport denied the reports, saying they welcomed all flights to Beijing. He didn't give his name, as is customary among Chinese officials.

A warning for entertainers issued Thursday appears to be part of a set of measures China has put in place ahead of the Olympic Games to stop political protests and physical attacks.

The performance rules, which were first introduced in 2005, are being reinforced to guard against performances that could tarnish the country's image. Authorities were alarmed in March after Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet! Tibet!" at the end of her concert in Shanghai.

A notice on the Ministry of Culture's Web site said her outburst "broke Chinese law and hurt Chinese people's feelings," and vowed to be stricter on foreign performers.

"The content of the performance should not violate the country's law, including situations that harm the sovereignty of the country," the notice said, adding that entertainers also should not harm "national security, or incite racial hatred and ruin ethnic unity."

Live music performances have waned in bars since clubs were told they need a license for live performances.

The South China Morning Post reported Friday that police forced managers in Beijing's popular Sanlitun bar district to sign agreements pledging they would not allow blacks into bars during the Olympic Games, as well as other "undesirable" elements.

But local authorities and bar managers denied the report.

"We have just confirmed that no such thing happened. We recommend that you go to the bars there at night and check. You will find that there're still a lot of black people inside," said an official from the propaganda office of the police station that oversees Sanlitun. He would give only his surname, Li.

The manager of the Rickshaw, a popular watering hole open 24 hours, said she had not received such a warning, and expected to welcome all visitors during the Olympics. She refused to give her name.

Will Bernholz, a manager with Kro's Nest, a chain of popular pizza restaurants, said some bars and restaurants were forced to close in the lead-up to the Olympics.

"We've all felt the impact of the Olympics really hurting the social scene ... but people are going to make do, people are going to go where they can," he said.