BEIJING — With heavy smog still shrouding the city and the Olympics only 10 days away, Beijing is considering a series of emergency measures to fight pollution, including the removal of up to 90 per cent of cars from the streets.
The emergency measures could also include the shutdown of more factories and the complete closing of all construction sites in the capital, the Chinese state media reported yesterday. Factories and residents in the nearby city of Tianjin and the neighbouring province of Hebei could also be affected by the emergency measures, the government said. The haze in Beijing was so bad yesterday that visibility was reduced to just a few hundred metres. Olympic stadiums were barely visible behind the smog.
The city's air quality has been dangerously unhealthy for the past four days, exceeding the national standards for the pollution index, the state-run China Daily reported yesterday. The emergency measures will be officially announced soon, and will be put into effect within 48 hours if the air quality deteriorates during the Olympics, the newspaper said. It cited the recommendation of one environmental expert who suggested that up to 90 per cent of private cars should be removed from the streets every day
Being able to enforce a 90% road ban for all private automobiles is what I call the ultimate in totalitarian government and makes me wonder how long before the chi-coms demand rickshaws replace taxis?
What if you held an Olympic games but no one wanted to risk their health by simply showing up in order to compete?
Many athletes are worried about the smog. Some top competitors, including marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, have decided to skip the Games to protect their health. The International Olympic Committee says it might delay some outdoor events if pollution levels are unhealthy. Some athletes have considered wearing masks during their training sessions in Beijing. Canada is sending its entire track-and-field team to Singapore for its pre-Olympic training camp. The athletes will remain in Singapore even during the opening days of the Olympics, to minimize their exposure to Beijing's pollution. The Australian Olympic Committee said yesterday it will allow its athletes to withdraw from any Olympic competition if they feel pollution is a threat to their health.
When I first heard the IOC had awarded the 2008 games to China my reaction was to question the sobriety of the committee members when the vote was cast. I couldn’t believe anyone in their right mind would award the games to one of the last of the big time totalitarian governments – I mean, wasn’t that all very anti-1991 of them?
I questioned whether any athlete, after investing umpteenth amount of time in maintaining their health at peak performance would really want to play Russian Roulette with their body by competing in China. Turns out, I had a little more common sense than your standard IOC committee member.