Changing China

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Is it smog or ‘static breeze’?

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U.S. cyclist Friedman arrives in a maskWith sensitivities running high among Beijing officials who promised a Green Olympics, including clear skies, any suggestion that the air quality is actually less than clear has caused some hurt feelings among the hosts.

It’s a prickly issue, because some athletes are limiting their time in Beijing, while four American track cyclists arrived yesterday in black face masks.

In fact, weather conditions have run the gamut in the final weeks ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony — from delightful to downright awful — and that has revealed a sharp contrast in the terms many foreign journalists use and those used by Chinese officials and media, who cite a wide range of terms but generally avoid admitting there’s actually any pollution.

These include terms translated as “fog”, “haze”, “static breeze”, “adverse weather”, “sauna” conditions, “temperature inversion”, “cloudy days”, “dark days” and of course “blue sky days”.

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