Beijing struggles to clear air in time for Olympics
The good news: Beijing narrowly achieved its air-pollution goal of 245 “blue sky days” in 2007. The bad news: Skepticism abounds that the city will offer wholly breathable air when it hosts the upcoming Summer Olympics. “We’re definitely hoping for the best,” says Jon Kolb, a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, “but preparing for the worst.” While Beijing has undertaken significant environmental initiatives in the lead-up to hosting the Games, it has also emphasized rapid urbanization. Polluting factories have been moved or closed, but 1,200 new vehicles hit Beijing’s streets each day. Coal-burning furnaces have been replaced, but more than 1.7 billion square feet of new construction has been started since 2002, increasing fine-particle pollution. Nonetheless, says Liu Qi of the city’s Olympics organizing committee, Beijing is “determined to ensure that the air conditions meet the necessary standards in August 2008.” And hopefully beyond.