By David L. Brown
The 2008 Olympics are only two weeks away and China is still struggling with its horrendous smog problem. Many of the teams are staying away until the Games open, and it is for good reason that they are doing their last two weeks of preparation elsewhere. This photograph showing the smog enshrouded National Stadium tells the story:
China has cut automobile traffic by half through an alternate-days program based on license plate numbers and banned heavy polluting vehicles such as older trucks. It has ordered smog-producing factories and power plants to reduce emissions. And still the capital of the Middle Kingdom is sunk in a cloud of noxious smog and hoped-for winds are failing to sweep it away.
According to a story on the web site of The Telegraph, a major British newspaper,
The area where the games will take place failed the government’s own smog targets, even as officials opened the Olympic Village with great fanfare.
The air was “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the city’s environmental protection bureau said.
The official targets are themselves much looser than those considered “safe” by the World Health Organisation.
“It doesn’t really look so good,” said Gunilla Lindberg, the vice-president of the International Olympic Committee.
I was in Beijing 23 years ago and the pollution problem was bad enough then, even though there were relatively few vehicles. I remember photographing a major intersection during the morning rush hour, and traffic was mostly bicycles and horse or donkey drawn conveyances. There was also the occasional bus, stuffed full of people like enormous sardine cans and belching great clouds of diesel fumes. Today, as I understand it, the problem is far, far worse.
Warning of possible terrorism during the Games, the Red Chinese masters have ordered 100,000 soldiers to encircle the city, setting up checkpoints and patrolling everywhere. They have also emplaced anti-aircraft batteries around the main venues where the games will take place (although an attack by air seems unlikely). In an earlier post I showed a ridiculous picture of black-clad anti-terrorist soldiers riding on Segways while aiming their rifles. There are sure to be protests, and if the authorities crack down with deadly force it will make the Tienenman Square massacre look like a tea ceremony.
This will be an Olympic Games to remember. If things really go awry, it may be the last one ever held. Coming up is London in 2012, and with the infusion of Islamic hatred of the west in Jolly Olde England there will surely be Paradise to pay. A survey of British Muslim university students last week revealed that one-third of them openly admitted that they felt it was OK for Muslims to kill in defense of their faith. One can assume that many of the other two-thirds may have felt the same, but been too canny to admit it to survey takers. No, Britain is not a safe venue for a future Olympics, not at all.