BEIJING – Only the Olympics could bump Mao Zedong, the founding leader of communist China, off a Chinese banknote.
To commemorate the Beijing Olympics, China's central bank is issuing a new 10-yuan note, according to a report by Monday's official Xinhua New s Agency. The note is worth $1.45, the starting price for a taxi ride in the capital.
Mao is gone from the note, replaced by a sketch of the new National Stadium — the Bird's Nest — and the emblem of the Beijing Games, according to the report. Both are set against the backdrop of the Temple of Heaven, one of Beijing's iconic sites.
The back of the note features a statue of a Greek discus-thrower and the year 2008 written in Arabic script.
The bank said it will issue 6 million notes beginning Tuesday, a tiny distribution meant almost as a souvenir. The new note is slightly larger than the ordinary 10-yuan note, which will continue to circulate.
Also on Monday, the China Daily reported that free copies of the Bible will be provided during the Olympic Games to athletes, spectators, tourists and anyone else who wants one.
About 10,000 bilingual copies of the Bible will be distributed in the Olympic Village, which houses athletes and media, the newspaper reported, quoting Li Chunnong, general manager of the Nanjing-based Amity Printing Co., the country's largest publisher of Christian works.
Another 30,000 copies of the New Testament will also be available during the Games, he said.
According to earlier Olympic practices, the Bibles will be available mainly through churches or the Olympic Village. None will be provided in public hotels. Places of worship for other religions will also be available at the Olympic Village, said Chen Guangyan, head of the Islamic Association of China.
The Rev. Xu Xiaohong of the Shanghai-based China Christian Council in charge of publishing, was quoted as saying that 50,000 bilingual editions of the four Gospels are being shipped to the six cities hosting Olympic events.
The cover of the Gospels — the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — will sport an Olympics logo, he said.
"As far as I know, this is the first time an Olympics logo will be used on a religious booklet," Xu was quoted as saying. "The Olympic spirit and the spirit of living a purpose-driven life that Christians believe in come together in the combination."
China faces routine criticism for its human rights violations and its repression of religious freedom.
Last fall, China had to combat allegations of religious intolerance when false media reports surfaced that Bibles would be banned during the Games. A U.S. senator called up the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. to demand an explanation.
Angry Games organizers flatly denied the reports, while the Foreign Ministry said the inaccurate reports from a religious news agency and European media were started by people who wanted to sabotage the Games.