Changing China

Giant on the move

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Smogwatch

With only 10 days to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, the iconic Bird’s Nest national stadium in Beijing was visible again on Tuesday (July 29). The stadium had been shrouded in smog for days previously, despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue. The temperature on Tuesday was forecast to be around 34 degrees Celsius with 69 percent humidity, but rain is forecast, which many in Beijing hope will clear the smog.  
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was showing the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) on Tuesday as between API 51 and 71. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) to the present day. This range counts as a “blue sky day”.
    Beijing could restrict more cars and shut more factories if air pollution persists during the Olympic Games, a report said on Monday, as an environmental group said endurance athletes could face problems.
    The authorities have ordered many cars off roads and halted much construction and factory production in an effort to cut smog before the Games open on August 8. But the city has still endured hazy skies over the past week, and again on Monday (July 28), raising fears that the sultry heat Beijing often experiences in August could make for a cocktail of haze, fumes and dust for tens of thousands of athletes and visitors.
    An official newspaper indicated authorities may take more drastic steps to choke off pollution.
    “More vehicles could go off the roads and all construction sites and some more factories in Beijing and its neighbouring areas could be closed temporarily if the capital’s air quality deteriorates during the Olympic Games,” the China Daily said.
    Pollution has been one of the biggest worries for Games organisers who have said they may reschedule endurance events to prevent health risks to athletes.
    The environmental group Greenpeace mixed praise for Beijing Olympic organisers’ energy- and water-saving efforts with warnings that air pollution, especially particulate matter, remains a long-term problem.
    Beijing’s measures of PM10 — particulate matter 10 microns in diameter, about a seventh the thickness of a human hair — have consistently stayed above Chinese national standards and stricter World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, Greenpeace said in an assessment of the Beijing Games. 
    Cars are now banned on alternate days depending on their licence plate number — odd or even — and many government cars have been ordered off the roads. Taxis, buses and Olympic vehicles are exempt. Around Beijing, heavily polluting factories, such as steel plants, have also been closed.
see the latest smogwatch video from around the Olympic Green here

Smogwatch

Only two weeks before the start of the Olympics Beijing is still suffering from smog.
Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, smog still shrouded the iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest on Friday (July 25), only two weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games. The temperature on Friday was forecast to be around 29 degrees Celsius with 70 percent humidity, so more humid than the day before.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Thursday (July 24) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading bewteen API 115 and 135. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day.  API 115-135 is grade three in the Chinese system, meaning “slightly polluted”, and doesn’t count as a “blue sky day”.
    Environmental experts have in the past cast doubts on the Beijing’s claims of improvement in air quality, particularly the much-vaunted “blue sky days” tally that the authorities use to measure the improvement. Beijing says the blue sky index is aimed at helping Beijing residents understand the differences in air quality.
    The city’s chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers. In addition to traffic restrictions the city has called a halt to all building work, giving the construction dust a few weeks to settle before the Opening Ceremony.
see the latest smogwatch video here

Smogwatch July 24

    The iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest in Beijing was barely visible through smog on Thursday (July 24), despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue. The temperature was forecast to be around 34 degrees Celsius with 79 percent humidity.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Wednesday (July 23) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 89. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day, but the air quality on Thursday was visibly even worse than the day before.
    API 89 is still grade two in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing.
    Environmental experts have in the past cast doubts on the Beijing’s claims of improvement in air quality, particularly the much-vaunted “blue sky days” tally that the authorities use to measure the improvement. Beijing says the blue sky index is aimed at helping Beijing residents understand the differences in air quality.
    The city’s chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers. On Sunday the authorities have restricted traffic and called a halt to all building work, giving the construction dust a few weeks to settle before the Opening Ceremony.

 see the latest smogwatch video from around the Olympic Green here

Smogwatch 23rd July

Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, smog still shrouded the iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest on Wednesday (July 23). The temperature on Wednesday was forecast to be around 30 degrees Celsius with 66 percent humidity.    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Tuesday (July 22) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 66. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day, but the air quality on Wednesday was visibly worse than the day before.

    API 66 is grade two in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing.

Smogwatch

    With just three weeks to go before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, the blue sky which had been seen over the Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing recently, was giving way to smog again.
    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Thursday (July 17) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 77. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT), but the air quality at 0800 local time (0000 GMT) on Friday (July 18) was visibly much worse than the day before, when a blue sky could be seen over the Bird’s Nest.
    API 77 is grade 2 in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing. On Friday, the sky was dull at 0800gmt just before it started to pour with rain in Beijing, with the temperature at 27 degrees and 78 percent humidity.
    Beijing has spent 140 billion yuan ($20.34 billion U.S. dollars) on environmental improvements over the last decade, the problem persists, however, particularly when there is no wind or rainy weather – as there will be in August.  Further measures start this weekend, when Beijing will close more factories and force 19 heavy polluters to reduce emissions by 30 percent from July 20. 
    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it might reschedule endurance events such as the marathon to prevent health risks to athletes competing for more than an hour.
    See the latest video of air quality conditions around the Olympic Green here

Smogwatch

With just three weeks to go before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, the blue sky which had been seen over the Bird’s Nest National Stadium in Beijing recently, was giving way to smog again.

The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Thursday (July 17) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 77. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT), but the air quality at 0800 local time (0000 GMT) on Friday (July 18) was visibly much worse than the day before, when a blue sky could be seen over the Bird’s Nest.

Politics and the Olympics over the years

WASHINGTON – The Olympics are supposed to be all about sports, not politics, right?

Wrong.

Although the Games began in 1896 with the hope that sporting events between nations could bring about a more peaceful world, they have not escaped politics.

Long March to the Bird’s Nest

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Workmen walk on the roof of Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium as the Good Luck Beijing China Athletics Open is being heldWatching athletics at the“Bird’s Nest” National Stadium is a dream for many Chinese people but it turned into nightmare for me last weekend.

We set off last Friday to see the titanic building and a relatively low-key athletics meeting mainly contested by young Chinese athletes.

Liu Xiang’s game for a laugh

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China’s world and Olympic champion Liu reacts as an official indicates he false-started in the Men’s 110m Hurdles semi-final at the Good Luck Beijing China Athletics OpenLiu Xiang, China’s top athlete, was the undoubted star of the show at the China Open Beijing Olympic test event at the Bird’s Nest last weekend and cruised to an easy victory over a weak field in the 110 metres hurdles.

Such is the national obession with his retaining his Olympic title in August, though, that two false starts in three days caused some consternation among his many fans.

Inside the Bird’s Nest

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Workers make final preparations at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, in BeijingPicking my way through chaotic traffic, dust and unmade footpaths on my way to the Bird’s Nest stadium this morning, I had a flashback to the Olympic Stadium in Athens four years ago.

The difference was that when I was stumbling through the debris in Greece, it was just a few days before the Games rather than the 114 days that remain before the Opening Ceremony here in China.

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