IOC never expected so much traffic in Beijing

The IOC had not envisaged how fast Beijing’s traffic situation would worsen, and are waiting to see the city’s plans for avoiding gridlock during the 2008 Summer Games, a senior Olympic official was quoted saying on Sunday.

Hein Verbruggen, who leads the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for the Beijing games, said the rise in vehicle numbers had taken the IOC by surprise, but indicated it didn’t see that as an insurmountable problem.

“We have not foreseen five years ago that we would be in such a situation,” Verbruggen told China’s official Xinhua News Agency during a visit to Doha for the Asian Games.

Beijing has undergone a boom in private vehicle ownership since the games were awarded in 2001, with about $2,8-million vehicles now clogging the capital’s roads. Massive traffic jams have become routine, despite a steady expansion of the subway and road system, and controlling gridlock is considered a key logistical hurdle for the Olympics.

City leaders have been working on the issue and Beijing last month ordered bureaucrats not to drive, ordered government agencies to halve car use and appealed to private citizens to keep off roads.

The measures, seen as a preview of those that could be applied in 2008, were credited by officials with reducing traffic in the city of 13-million people by about 30%.

Beijing has been undergoing a boom in new construction and public consumption fed by China’s roaring economic growth, while at the same time trying to ramp up for the complex task of staging an Olympics.

Traffic and pollution, much of it generated by the soaring numbers of private cars and official vehicles, routinely top the IOC’s list of concerns about 2008 and were raised at an October meeting with Beijing Olympic officials.

Verbruggen said the IOC was confident Beijing would come up with a plan that worked, saying local organisers had met its Olympic commitments so far.

“We are confident because I know they will resolve it,” Verbruggen said. - Sapa-AP

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