Gag, cough, wheeze - Beijing mulling Olympic-sized pollution control measures

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Beijing (China) – With the Olympics only 11 days away from the August 8th start date, Beijing is still in the grips of choking, visibility-obscuring smog.  In fact, just one week after curtailing traffic and factory output, the smog in the city is the worst in more than a month.  Now, officials are thinking about ordering 90% of all private automobiles off the road and even more factory closures.

According to other media reports, pollution in the city yesterday reduced visibility to less than half of a mile, but Chinese Olympic officials are still confident that the skies will be clear for the opening ceremonies and blame the smog on the lack of wind.  China has poured tens of billions of dollars worth of new buildings, airports and infrastructure to host this year’s Olympic games and has undertaken some amusing methods of beautifying the city.

City workers are busy putting up thousands of billboards and posters with fake buildings, trees and even sky to hide unsightly construction sites and smog.  You can view pictures on ESPN’s Olympic photo wire here.

On July 20th, the city banned approximately half of all private automobiles with an even-odd license plate numbering system – even ending plates could drive one day, while odd plates could drive the next.  Official cars like those driven by Olympic delegations, government officials and the military were exempt from the rules.  The government ‘asked’ nearby factories to either reduce output or completely shut down in return for tax incentives.  

Olympic delegations from several countries have voiced their concerns about Beijing’s air quality.  The Japanese delegation has purchased hundreds of industrial strength face masks to filter out the particulate pollution.  Other athletes have simply refused to participate in long distance running events.

Perhaps the government could order each citizen to install the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze on their porch.  Ten million of these things working in unison should clear things right up.