Haze hovers over Beijing ahead of Games

Haze settled over Beijing on Wednesday, two days before the start of the Olympic Games that have been beset by worries over pollution, but experts were predicting clear skies for the opening ceremony.

Compounding weather worries, Hong Kong, where equestrian events are scheduled to start on Saturday, raised a warning for an approaching tropical storm.

Tropical storms often develop over the South China Sea in the summer months, growing into full-fledged typhoons threatening China, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

”Severe” Tropical Storm Kammuri was centred about 130km south-southwest of Hong Kong and was forecast to move west-northwest.

That could mean welcome rain later in Beijing, but possible troubles in Hong Kong, where competitors had discussed the possibility of a delays in the competition due to the weather.

Cloudy skies were forecast for Wednesday and Thursday in Beijing where the Environmental Protection Bureau showed that levels of particulate matter were within the ”fairly good” range.

But humid, still weather and the temperature hitting 34° Celsius meant stubborn smog hung over the city, which has already pulled millions of cars off the roads and halted factory production to ensure a better Games environment. Chronic pollution has been one of the biggest worries for Games organisers who have had to deflect international criticism over air quality.

For athletes of endurance events, the smog could pose a major problem and the International Olympic Committee has said it might reschedule events if the pollution is too bad.

But a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences predicted Beijing’s air quality would stay in the ”fairly good” range for the opening ceremony on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

”I think the city’s comprehensive and strict measures to control pollution have paid off,” Xinhua quoted Wang Zifa, with the Academy’s Institute of Atmospheric Science, as saying.

Beijing’s Meteorological Bureau was forecasting overcast weather, but Wang predicted rain, which could clear the haze and brighten prospects for blue skies on Friday.

But the metropolis of more than 15-million will also see winds from the south in the next few days, Xinhua quoted environmental experts as saying, meaning pollution from neighbouring provinces could waft into the city.

Although officials have a back-up plan to take more cars off the road in Beijing and nearby Tianjin and close additional factories in the surrounding province of Hebei, they are holding off in the hope the weather will clear by itself.

”We haven’t been told to implement any additional measures,” Li Jianguo, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Communications, told Reuters.

The problem of pollution in outlying areas underscores the complicated challenge the city faces in trying to contain the environmental effects of decades of breakneck economic growth. – Reuters

Make sense of your world

Subscribe to Mail & Guardian at R10/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Lindsay Beck
Guest Author

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Landmark battle over River Club imperils Amazon HQ plans

If the high court in Cape Town rules for an interim interdict in the River Club project to halt building on heritage land, Amazon is likely to pull out

Worry about food prices, not heavy rains

Farmers face higher input costs such as hikes in fertilisers and fuel prices as well as the expected 20.5% electricity hike requested by Eskom, says AgriSA

What will it take to halt institutional decay and defend...

Selfless leaders and engaged citizens must protect their nations from seeping into failure during their transition to democracy

Kidnapping in Mayfair: Claims and counterclaims

More revelations in multimillion-rand Mayfair kidnapping

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…