Beijing’s Olympic shutdown begins, a drastic plan to lift the Chinese capital’s gray shroud of pollution just three weeks ahead of the games.
Half of Beijing’s 3.3 million vehicles will be pulled off the roads and many polluting factories will be shuttered. Chemical plants, power stations and foundries left open have to cut emissions by 30 percent — and dust-spewing construction in the capital will be halted.
In a highly stage-managed Olympics aimed at showing off the rising power of the 21st century, no challenge is greater than producing crystalline air for 10,500 of the world’s greatest athletes.
“Pea-soup air at the opening ceremony would be their worst nightmare,” said Victor Cha, director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University.
Striking venues and $40 billion spent to improve infrastructure cannot mask Beijing’s dirty air. A World Bank study found China is home to 16 of the 20 worst cities for air quality. Three-quarters of the water flowing through urban areas is unsuitable for drinking or fishing.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has repeatedly warned that outdoor endurance events lasting more than an hour will be postponed if the air quality is poor.