Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Who's Fooling Who

Friends and family always ask me about the air in Beijing.

And now with 30 days to go... is it really clearing up in time for August 8?

Granted these last two weeks it's been overcast and rainy which does clean the air a bit, it hasn't been enough to show a blue sky.

When Beijing bid for the 2008 Olympics, it promised its air would meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

So the BBC recently put the Chinese capital's air to the test by using a hand-held detector to test for airborne particles known as PM10.

These particles are caused by traffic, construction work and factory emissions.

And the city's air quality failed to meet WHO standards on PM10 six days out of seven.

On one of the days, Beijing's air quality was SEVEN times over the WHO air quality guideline.

Beijing Olympic organizers still insist there's still time to clear the air.

Last year I'd read factories and construction would stop in the spring, but even today workers are still madly finishing up buildings.

Apparently July 20 is the magic day when half the city's over 3 million cars will be taken off the roads in a temporary measure where cars with license plates ending in even and odd numbers alternate.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was in Beijing this week for last minute briefings on the Games preparations and one of the concerns raised was air quality.

Local officials cited the temporary car policy as well as shutting down factories in north China as the plan for improving the air.

Earlier this year IOC President Jacques Rogge hinted Beijing may have to postpone the marathon and other endurance events if air quality doesn't meet certain standards.

This was quickly rebuffed by Beijing Olympic officials who said the events would be run on a tight schedule and there would be no room for changes.

It will be interesting to see come August what IOC officials think of the air quality then.

Beijing's last minute efforts to clear the air are too little too late; it may be able to control its people, but it has no jurisdiction over Mother Nature.

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