Giant on the move
On the first day of the Copenhagen climate change summit, Beijingers were experiencing what authorities called a ‘slightly polluted’ day.
Air quality in the capital has improved, thanks in part to the movement of factories elsewhere and new traffic restrictions first experimented with ahead of last year’s Olympics.
Official weather monitors boasted over 80 percent ‘blue sky days’ in the first half of this year – the best air quality in over a decade (though the reliability of results is disputed – see the US embassy monitor’s take on Monday’s air quality here…)
With an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 new cars hitting the city’s roads every day, residents like Mr. He (see video) are still waiting for a breath of fresher air.
For those of us who live in Beijing, the air during the Olympics has been a real treat. It smells sweet and breathes in nicely. Even better, I feel like I can see forever — buildings that are more than a mile away, even the purple outline of the Fragrant Hills to the west of the city.
There were a lot of worries about the Beijing smog expressed by athletes and foreign journalists before the Games began. But for the last week, there has been a lovely salmon tinge to the clouds — real clouds, not smog! — in the evenings.
But how bad is the Beijing air really? Is it miserable beyond endurance for athletes busting their lungs to deliver peak performance? Or are the smog stories a smokescreen, part of the exaggeration attendant on any Olympic Games?
With 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.
I flew into Beijing today and was pretty surprised to find clear blue skies. Smog? What smog?
Maybe it will last, maybe not, but it’s clear that the issue of drugs in sport is not going away. Italian fencer Andrea Baldini became the latest athlete to fail a doping test in the run-up to the Games, as it was revealed on Friday that the gold medal hopeful had tested positive for the diuretic furosemide in Kiev last month.