As the Olympic countdown reaches hours rather than days before kick-off, speculation about the weather condition become less abstract – will the pollution clear? – and more real – has it or not? However even now the issue of air pollution is a little hazy (apologies); conflicting stories seem and contrasting conditions seem to be stirring up debate.
Until this weekend, most reports were that pollution was not clearing – though officials blamed the smog on climatic conditions rather than industrial emmissions. China beat explains the situation well:
At the start of last week, for the fourth day in a row, emissions made it hard to see down the street, despite the fact the government ordered half the city’s cars off the road and closed factories. Officials said they would implement an emergency contingency plan on top of the existing anti-smog measures if pollution lingers closer to the Games.
Twenty-four hours later, the difference was night-and-day: thanks to a series of thunderstorms, triggered in part by the government’s arsenal of rainmaking rockets, the following days were dramatically better, like a nice day in New York.
The rain making mentioned was discussed by Bob earlier this year.
Tim Johnson summarises the conflicting media stories well by highlighting an NYT article about US cyclists with specially-made face masks and a China Daily article which appears to claim that the pollution will not impact the athletes. Well worth a read!
Then, however the smog returned with a vengence, suggesting that while the officials were correct in a way – the climatic factors do play an important part – the general level ofpollution is such that only on exceptionally good days is it relieved.
Johnson also mentions that his Beijing bureau are now publishing a daily photo (see above) of the view from their balcony and linking to to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s website to the daily Beijing air pollution index on their Olympics home page. Great idea, though how realiable the official statistics are Bob would hate to speculate…