The persistent pollution problem that has received so much press in the long run-up to the Olympics is claiming more and more press space as more and more press arrive in Beijing: “Where’s the sun? Where’re the mountains? Where’s the next building?” Don’t look for the assault to let up. It is after all, Huabei Pingyuan, the North China Plain, which has a natural summer signature of heat and haze, which predates all the factories and cars by more millennia than I have fingers. Summers are at least as hot, though often hotter, and more humid on the Plain than they are in most places in China. This is not news. At 9 AM in Tianjin the temperature is 90º (32); humidity 75%; “feels like” 107, which is virtually the same as Beijing is this morning, though that is not always the case. With that in mind I can only shake my head when I read this pearl as reported in this AP story:
During the opening ceremony of the Athletes’ Village on Sunday, the housing complex was invisible from the nearby main Olympic Green.”No, it doesn’t really look so good, but as I said, yesterday was better,” said Gunilla Lindberg, an International Olympic Committee vice president from Sweden who is staying in the Athletes’ Village. “The day I arrived, Tuesday, was awful.”
If you remove the Olympic references, this could be someone talking privately to their doctor about the size of their tumor or a persistent rash that just won’t go away. It is also a poor attempt at spin: it’s better now than it was on Tuesday, therefore it will be much better in 12 days. Good luck with that one, Gunilla. You’re going way out on the limb here, and the guy with the saw is the one who’s telling you to believe that you’re not going to fall. Faith is fine, as long as it’s offset by reason, and the folks at the IOC have shown very little sense of ‘balance’ when it comes to just about anything involved with these Olympics.
Two weeks ago when I arrived in Beijing at 8 AM on a flight from Paris, I looked out the window as the plane landed and thought …. Well I won’t tell you what I thought, but it was neither a new thought nor a flattering one. Yesterday (July 27), when my wife arrived on a flight that included many French Olympic athletes, she had the same reaction.
One thing that has impressed in my decade here in China has been the level of recycling. The stacked-impossibly-high tricycle carts are truly impressive, and that work falls to migrant workers. Earlier this month recycling stations in Beijing began closing and the recyclers cleared out along with the rest of the migrant population, and this is another misfortune of the event. Today there was this from Reuters:
A relentless campaign by Beijing to present a sanitised, modern city to millions of Olympic Games visitors has led to a government shut down of scores of garbage recycling centres that provide these migrant workers with an income.
Besides this displacement of the people who keep the city cleaned up, there is the question of where all the trash from the Olympic crowd will go. Perhaps, somewhere, there’s a new hole, and, perhaps, it’s Olympic Green.