In 2000, when Beijing made its bid for the 2008 Olympics, it promised to get all cleaned up if it could please, pretty please, be the host. Its wishes came true, but China’s goal of throwing a green Olympics seems ever out of reach. To quote ourselves:
China has promised to throw a “green” Olympics in Beijing in 2008 — but simple livability may be the megacity’s bigger challenge. Beijing has 15.2 million inhabitants; if current trends hold, that number could grow to 21 million by 2020. Gridlock is endemic, as the number of cars more than doubled in the past six years. Already-bad air quality is deteriorating. The city’s water supply is so overtaxed that some experts are calling for rationing. City officials are racing to replace thousands of old, stinky public toilets, while over a hundred construction projects related to the upcoming Olympics are hurtling forward. Critics blame decades of bad urban-planning policy for the city’s problems. “In the past, we never thought of the capacity of resources,” said Huang Yan, Beijing’s deputy director of planning. “We only focused on development.” She’s introduced a master plan that includes the bold goal of rendering Beijing “a city suitable for living.”
So it’s unfortunate, but not surprising, to hear news that China’s food is so chemical-laden that athletes who eat it may risk failing drug tests. Even those who didn’t take anabolic steroids before arriving in the country may get a healthy (well, unhealthy) dose from their chow mein. Of course, the Chinese folk who eat it every day get an equally unhealthy dose.
Many of the hundreds of millions of China’s farmers buy anabolic steroids for their livestock and antibiotics for their fowl from salesmen who promise better prices for bigger pigs and healthier ducks.
Dangerous pesticides, fertilisers and chemical additives to make the produce more attractive also combine with heavy metals washed into the food chain through contaminated rivers and streams.
Add to that poor hygiene and food handling, and the recipe for regular outbreaks of mass food-poisoning is complete.
But, uh, at least Olympians will have solar-powered showers to puke in.