Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Turner Games '08: Day Two

Our pre-game coverage continues today with our second installment. What? You missed Day One? We forgive you -- click here to catch up.

Seeing Through the Haze

When the Olympics start this Friday Beijing might finally see some blue skies. An uptick in rain and windy conditions has helped clear out the smog for the time being. The question is, will the deadly smog return for the opening ceremony and the rest of the games? And how bad will the less-visible pollution be?

We’ve all heard about the monumental push that China is making to clean up its air by the start of the games. In early July, cars were being forced off the street. The government then began closing many of the factories surrounding Beijing and Tianjin, where the Olympic soccer matches will take place. More recently, a policy was instituted in Beijing which allows only half of the 3.3 million cars in the city on the road each day using an odd-even license plate system. Is it enough?

Many athletes just aren’t willing to take the risk that it isn’t enough. Some members of the American cycling team arrived in Beijing wearing protective masks due to the quality of the air. The world record holder for the marathon will not be running in that event because of fears about his health. Justine Henin has stated that she will not defend her gold medal in tennis. The names of other athletes who aren’t participating or who are delaying their arrivals at Beijing are piling up.

With these Olympics being China’s grand introduction to the world as a superpower, China’s international image is on the line. And there are plenty of things that could go wrong. But it’s China’s air pollution that is on the minds of athletes and spectators at this point. Despite assurances from the government, some officials worry that particulate matter and ozone in the air will make it hard for many endurance athletes, like marathoners or mountain bikers.

The only thing that we can do now is to watch and wait and see if China is able to keep the air clean for the Games.

But will these environmental reforms be extinguished once the Olympic flame burns out? The Chinese government claims they will keep instituting measures to reduce pollution after the Games conclude on the 24th. Obviously, some of the more drastic measures that China has introduced thus far cannot and will not be carried on, but will China keep its momentum rolling?

The measures China is taking already are so drastic and will effect China’s economy so adversely that the government may recoil from taking any more significant steps to reduce pollution in the near future after the Games. In an economy as volatile as China’s, it would be disastrous to keep factories shut down or cars off the road for very long.

After the closing ceremonies it would be wise for the international community to urge China to earn its own Green Medal in the coming years. Ascension on the world stage means more then building tracks and swimming pools. It means scoring some 10.0’s for the world at large.

-- Jake Dinerman

Up Next: Turner Games '08: Day Three -- Checkin' Out the Ladies


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