Getting the air clear for Beijing Games will require a little help from Mother Nature

It may take a bit of good fortune to guarantee clean air for the Beijing Olympics.
Though a top environment official is confident it will happen, he acknowledged this week that weather conditions in August will be critical.
"There's a saying we've repeated over and over," said Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Agency. "In order to change the quality of Beijing's air we need to rely on the efforts of people, and we need the heavens _ the weather _ to help out."
Beijing is hoping for some rain during August _ the city's hottest and most humid month _ to clear the air. Officials are also counting on favorable winds to blow away the smog. August, however, usually isn't windy. The winds pick up in September and October, generally considered the best weather months in the city.
Du said an unspecified number of factories in Beijing and five surrounding provinces would be closed during the games and some construction would be halted. Cement, coke and steel plants are being targeted. There is also talk of banning about half the city's vehicles, of which there will be 3.3 million by the time the games open.
Du said about 100 million square meters (1.07 billion square feet) were "under construction" in Beijing. That is equal to about 100 square kilometers (38 square miles), the size of a small city.
"The control of construction dust is a very important task," he said. "Law enforcement is not adequate so we have asked for self-initiatives from the factories and construction sites."
When Du was told that many foreigners were skeptical that Beijing could provide clean air _ or that clean air would come at a price to be paid after the games _ he said foreign reporters had a duty to get out the message.
"We need your help from the media to tell the facts about Beijing," Du said. "With your help the problem can be solved."
MORE MANNERS: Last year, the 11th of each month was designated "queue-up day." Now Beijing organizers, obsessed with making a good impression when the Olympics open on Aug. 8, have designated the 22nd of each month as "seat-giving day." It's aimed at getting younger commuters to give up their seats to the elderly and pregnant women.
The number "22" is supposed to represent two seats. The number "11" was chosen because the figure resembled two people standing behind each other in line.
"With this move, we aim at creating a harmonious and orderly riding environment, and raising passengers' awareness," said Liu Xiaoming, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Transportation Commission.
Beijing's buses and subways are jammed and Liu has promised to have his staff watch closely and "expose those" who refuse to give up their seats.
LOTTERY: China is launching an Olympic-themed lottery. Details are expected late in March. In 2007, China's total lottery sales exceeded US$13.7 billion (euro9 billion), an increase of 20 percent over 2006, the state-run Xinhua new agency reported.
China launched its first lottery in 1987. Lottery ticket sales are one of the major sources of money for building community sports facilities and financing the country's social welfare programs.
THE FLAME: A Chinese scientist said he's sure the Olympic flame will not be extinguished by wind or a lack of oxygen when the torch is taken up Mount Everest.
The torch is scheduled to go to the summit of the world's highest mountain in May, though the exact date will depend on the weather. The mountain is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet.
"We are quite sure that the torch won't go out on Mount Everest, and we'll let everyone see the flame," said Ma Lin, director of the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission. He said three tests have all been successful.
"Our design has been further improved," Ma said.
ANOTHER LINE: Beijing is opening another new subway line _ the No. 10. The line curves through the city and connects newer areas in the northwest with areas in the southeast. The Olympic line that is under construction will run as a spur off line No. 10.
Line No. 4 will also open before the Olympics and will run north and south through west Beijing. A No. 5 line opened last year, and a line serving Beijing's sprawling new airport terminal will also be completed before the Olympics.
TIDBITS: Beijing is spending about US$16 million (euro11 million) to restore cultural sites for the Olympics. The project includes 28 cultural sites with tourist information in English and Chinese. ... College students will take part in a series of cooking contests. According to the China Cooking Association, the winners will have a chance to work in Olympic-related dining halls.

Updated : 2021-01-28 21:19 GMT+08:00