Thinking Beyond the Olympics in Beijing

<p>With the 2008 Olympics heading to Beijing, Chinese officials are looking at ways to reduce pollution and improve air quality by the time the games begin. But locals are also starting to think about life after the games.</p>
January 10, 2008, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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"With Beijing preparing to play host to the 2008 Olympic Games, the official Blue Sky ratings are the city's own measuring stick for how well it is cleaning up its polluted air."

"Thursday did not bring good news. The gray, acrid skies rated an eye-reddening 421 on a scale of 500, with 500 being the worst. Friday rated 500. Both days far exceeded pollution levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization. In Beijing, officials warned residents to stay indoors until Saturday, but residents here are accustomed to breathing foul air."

"For Beijing officials, Thursday was especially depressing because the city was hoping to celebrate an environmental victory. In recent years, Beijing has steadily increased its Blue Sky days. The city needs one more, defined as scoring below 101, to reach its goal of 245 Blue Sky days this year. These improving ratings are how Beijing hopes to reassure the world that Olympic athletes will not be gasping for breath next August."

"For the city's estimated 12 million residents, pollution is an inescapable health and quality-of-life issue. Skepticism about the validity of the Blue Sky ratings is common. Moreover, the concern is whether the city can clean itself up long after the Games are over."

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Published on Saturday, December 29, 2007 in The New York Times
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