Top Four Controversies at the Beijing Olympics - TheStreet

It wouldn't be an Olympics without some controversy.

It seems that every four years when the Games are ready to begin there is a new round of problems and speculation. This year is no different, as the Beijing Games, just one week away from the opening ceremony, have already experienced plenty of scandals.

Here are a few big ones that could remain a major factor throughout the 2008 Games.

The Host Country

There has been no shortage of protest over China itself since it was announced the country would host the Games, and there are concerns that the public outcry could continue throughout the events. Organizations such as Amnesty International have been critical of China's human-rights policies, as well as its involvement in Darfur -- and the list goes on. Pro-Tibet protestors have had a strong disruptive presence throughout the torch relays.

In addition, the Olympic planning committee and Chinese government have come under scrutiny for the displacement of thousands of citizens in order to build for the Games. Some groups have put the estimated number of evicted residents anywhere between 300,000 and 1.5 million, although exact numbers vary and are mostly pure speculation. Still, China's handling of the situation and others like it has come under intense fire, and it's a safe bet that protestors will continue to play a large role throughout the Games.

Steroid Scandals

Steroid use is the most frequent controversy to plague the Olympics, with some of the most memorable moments arising as a result of possible drug use. Ever since sprinter Ben Johnson's

steroids-driven downfall in 1988

, the Olympics Committee has been dedicated to removing steroid use from the Games -- but the scandals remain.

Last week, U.S. swimmer Jessica Hardy tested positive for a banned substance and her Olympic eligibility is now in jeopardy. Earlier in the week, an unnamed member of Jamaica's running team also tested positive. Thursday morning Julien Dunkley was removed from the team, although it has not been confirmed if he was the athlete who failed the test.

Also on Thursday, two Romanian runners were kicked off the Olympic team after testing positive for the blood booster EPO, and a staggering seven Russian women track athletes were suspended on doping charges.

With the steroids scandals already swirling before the Games even get under way, there is no reason to think it won't continue well past the opening ceremonies. Expect to see plenty more controversy before the Olympics are up, and perhaps an athlete or two caught after a winning performance and stripped of medals.

Iraq's Involvement

Late this past Tuesday, the International Olympics Committee announced it would revoke its ban on Iraq for the 2008 Games, allowing the country to send two rowers and two track and field athletes. The announcement finally brought what should be an end (but probably won't be) to an unlikely source of controversy.

In May, the IOC announced it was banning Iraq from participating in the Games due to the country's political interference. Recently, the Iraqi government had its national Olympic Committee dissolved amid corruption allegations. It's unclear whether the lifting of the ban will put an end to the turmoil between Iraq and the IOC, but as of now, it looks to be one scandal that may quiet down and stay that way.

Age Issues

Last week, it was revealed that two of China's best female gymnasts, one of which is an early favorite to win gold, might be too young to participate. The minimum age to participate is 16, and as recently as May the China Daily newspaper listed the age of He Kexin as only 14.

Kexin is regarded as one of the elite gymnasts in the world, already owning two world records on the uneven bars. She is seen as China's best hope at a gold medal and the strongest competition to the American women this summer.

It has yet to be determined if the gymnasts are in fact too young, but if so it would be another embarrassing blow to China leading up to the Games. The host city has already lost a swimmer and a wrestler to blood doping scandal, and the loss of its gymnasts in this latest controversy would do even more harm.