Beijing, IOC growing desperate on air pollution

Feng Li/Getty Images With the 2008 Olympic Games just 10 days away, Beijing officials are scrambling to improve the city’s awful air quality. One drastic measure that city officials are considering would essentially ban 90 percent of private-owned automobiles from the roads. This comes after an initial ban has already forced residents to drive every ...

593713_080728_beijing5.jpg
593713_080728_beijing5.jpg

Feng Li/Getty Images

With the 2008 Olympic Games just 10 days away, Beijing officials are scrambling to improve the city's awful air quality. One drastic measure that city officials are considering would essentially ban 90 percent of private-owned automobiles from the roads. This comes after an initial ban has already forced residents to drive every other day.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Commmittee has been setting a "gold standard" for unfounded praise of the Chinese capital. Just look at this press release from early July:

Feng Li/Getty Images

With the 2008 Olympic Games just 10 days away, Beijing officials are scrambling to improve the city’s awful air quality. One drastic measure that city officials are considering would essentially ban 90 percent of private-owned automobiles from the roads. This comes after an initial ban has already forced residents to drive every other day.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Commmittee has been setting a “gold standard” for unfounded praise of the Chinese capital. Just look at this press release from early July:

The city feels ready; it looks ready, with the stunning venues all completed. The quality of preparation, the readiness of the venues and the attention to operational detail for these Games have set a gold standard for the future.

Uh huh. That’s why many athletes are staying in South Korea and Japan for as long as possible to avoid Beijing’s smog. The U.S. Olympic Committee is even providing protective masks for American athletes. And where does the IOC stand on ozone and particulate levels that might interfere with some of the outdoor events? Here’s Gunilla Lindberg, an IOC vice president:

No, it doesn’t really look so good, but as I said, yesterday was better. We try to be hopeful. Hopefully we are lucky during the games as we were with Atlanta, Athens and Barcelona.”

Right. Barcelona and Athens were pure luck. That’s why, according to the World Bank, Beijing boasted twice the particulate matter of either of those two former Olympic cities. Twice last week, the air-quality readings in the Chinese capital were nearly double the targeted levels for developing countries set by the World Health Organization.

Maybe the resourceful Chinese can turn things around by August 8, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.