Beijing’s 2008 Ch(O)ke-lympics


(photo credit: James Fallows)
I just received a short note from Atlantic Monthly national correspondent James Fallows who is living (and coughing a lot because of the ridiculously high levels of pollution) in China this year.
He shared these two blog posts — first and second — that I want to pass on.
I was in Los Angeles for the 1984 Olymics and know that in anticipation of them, L.A. did much to correct what was then a surging air quality problem. Beijing clearly has some work to do.
I’m a fan of marathons — and would not want to see anyone have to run for a tough 26.2 miles breathing that miserably dismal quality of air.
— Steve Clemons


8 comments on “Beijing’s 2008 Ch(O)ke-lympics

  1. Linda says:

    Steve, forgot you were in LA in 1984. Smog was never as bad as in China, but there was more concern about traffic jams–so employers did change hours, encourage vacation taking, etc. to cooperate. Traffic flowed very smoothly.
    LA was the only city to bid on the 1984 Olympics because all others were afraid after Montreal Olympics in 1976 were such a financial disaster. Peter Ueberroth made it work as a private enterprise that cost taxpayers little and ended up with a $200 million surplus. I still regret that Ueberroth dropped out of the 150 person race for Governor that Arnold won.
    However,remember that US boycotted the 1980 Olympics–so in return the entire Soviet bloc boycotted the LA Olympics–probably why so many Americans won. But it was a peaceful and profitable Olympics.


  2. arthurdecco says:

    There have been days when Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s air looks just like the air in the photo above, thanks to a full compliment of full-steam-ahead, deregulated coal-fired electrical generation plants operating without modern pollution controls throughout the American mid-west.
    That’s a lot closer to home than Beijing.
    Anybody here concerned about that? …Or about its effect on the health and quality of life of your closest neighbors?


  3. Pacific Coast Ron says:

    I was playing sports every day in L.A. from the 50’s thru June 68, we were used to 10 or 20 miles visibility, and then there was kind of a grey curtain out on the horizon. I never noticed any bad effects on my development, it usually got to one’s eye’s before the lungs … and now my lung capacity seems to about twice a normal person’s.
    And then a few days a year, after a rain, you could see the 10,000 foot mountains that were just 30-40 miles away, just for contrast.
    And it usually got worse in the afternoon. To have less than half-a-mile visibility at 8:30 in the morn … that’s really bad. Is a lot of coal being burned there?
    Knowing the Chinese government’s ability to “do whatever it takes,” the situation can only improve … but they may have to ban all coal burning within 120 kilometers and take way more than a million cars off the roads.


  4. ... says:

    closing the walmarts for a few hours a day might help, but i don’t know if americans could handle it.


  5. Chek Dem Lungs says:

    Ah Beijing, on a clear day you can see clear across the street. Mmmm, just take a deep breath and smell the hydro-carbons. Yum! Golly, will China be able to “watch” their Olympics? Los Angeles ala 1969 didn’t look that bad. Mao Tse-tung must be so proud.


  6. Tom says:

    Not sure where I read this, I’ll try to dig up links later, but I recall reading a month or so ago Beijing was going to enact some seriously restrictive pollution controls, temporarily, in order to clean up the air before the Olympics started. But, based on what I’ve read they would need to outlaw all motor vehicles in order to make a dent.


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