Wednesday, August 13, 2008

the rift on air quality during the Games

Regarding everyone's favorite Olympic environmental topic, air pollution, it seems like we've reached the stalemate I wondered about at the end of my very first post on this blog. Depending on who you ask, China should either be congratulated for meeting its air quality goals or chastised for allowing athletes to compete in such horrible pollution.

On the one hand, the constant refrain from both the IOC and the Chinese media is that the air poses no risk to the athletes. From Reuters:
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had warned it might reschedule events if the air quality posed a threat, but on Sunday it said there were no problems.

"The readings that we were looking at indicated that we have no cause for concern at this stage," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davis.
On the other hand, we are still seeing many reports with detailed descriptions of how bad it is here. From The Oregonian:
Last weekend, when days were hot, humid and still, the smoggy haze hung thick as a wool blanket. In her blog, [distance runner Kara] Goucher wrote:

"I have to say that the pollution and smog in Beijing is much, much worse than I imagined. It's a bit eerie how the sun never comes out all day. If you are walking around the village and you look ahead, you can't see all of the buildings. The pollution creates a fog that clouds over everything. It is unimaginable. I am shocked by how bad it is."
CNN summarizes, "Despite official assurances that the air is safe for competition, athletes and fans have expressed concern over the thick smog covering the entire city."

However, not everyone is convinced that the air is all that bad. From the New York Times blog:
A handful of track and field athletes worked out on a rainy Sunday morning at the United States Olympic compound at Beijing Normal University, and most said they had not been bothered by the air quality in Beijing. They were adjusting to the humidity, but the pollution, they said, had not been an issue.
This rift - between those who find Beijing's air quality acceptable and those who find it intolerable - that has opened up over the past few weeks is fascinating to me. Perhaps most interesting is that fact that the debate seems to be playing out on so many levels: technical, medical, psychological, political, and more. (I hope to blog in more detail on this topic later.)

In any case, no matter which side you take, at least we finally have some idea of what the air quality is going to be like during the Games. Since 8/8, the API has been up and down. And yet, with the API not "down" enough to make all the foreigners happy and not "up" enough to exceed the Chinese cut-off of 100, the result? Stalemate.


DH said...

Yo Vance, Gotta tell you that after the start of the games I heard almost NOTHING about air quality from any of the major news sources. Seems like maybe they just decided it wasn't a story anymore. Plus none of the athletes wore those Batman-style gasmasks so there may have been no real "story" to cover...

Vance said...

Hey Dan, thanks for the comment. I mentioned it in a recent post here.

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.