I was thinking last night about what it would be like to participate in the Olympics in Beijing. You know. Like run the marathon — and in air quality conditions that may prove to be a little difficult at best. So I got up this morning a little earlier than usual. And I went and jogged for a while behind a Metro bus. Well, not really. But you get the idea.
Here’s the story as reported in the Wall Street Journal online this morning (by subscription only):
BEIJING — China has gone to Olympian lengths to try to ensure that its skies are clear for the Summer Games, which formally kick off in 10 days. It has spent $17 billion on antipollution measures in recent years. Last week, it forced more than a million cars off the streets, halted construction in and around the city, and temporarily closed hundreds of factories in surrounding provinces.
Good. And silly me. I thought all the officials in China were doing these past few months was cracking down on protesters and figuring out ways to limit the reporting of visiting journalists. What do I know?
Yet according to an article in The Washington Post, “Air Pollution Worsens After Controls Kick In,” things aren’t going exactly as planned:
Beijing’s air pollution index rose steadily this week at the same time the city has tried to cut traffic volume in half. Readings Thursday and Friday were over 100 and considered unhealthy for children, seniors and those with allergies or asthma.
The climb from a reading of 55 on Sunday to 110 on Friday — despite six days of forcing Beijing motorists to drive on alternate days — underscored the formidable challenge authorities face in trying to clear the air before athletes begin competing in the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Games.
Already, one marathon world-record holder has refused to compete in Beijing because of health and pollution concerns, and International Olympic Committee officials have said endurance events might have to be postponed because of the city’s unrelenting smog.
Oh boy. Athletic mask anyone? Well, yes. That’s actually the plan.
That’s the only Olympic event worth watching anyway.