Traffic would be a major challenge for Beijing to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members said Saturday.
Peter Tallberg, Chairman of the IOC Athlete's Commission, expressed his concerns on the road congestion in Beijing when being asked what the 2008 Olympic host city should pay special attention to.
"One problem which we all realize now in Beijing would be traffic, so that's one of the big problems for you," the ex-Olympic Dutch sailor told Xinhua.
Tallberg is paying a visit to Changsha, together with six other IOC members, at the invitation of the Fifth Chinese City Games Organizing Committee. He has been to Beijing many times on business although it's his first time to visit the central Chinese city.
The IOC member since 1976, however, also expressed optimism on the Beijing organizing committee's capability and suggested that traffic control would be of help.
Though many new roads have been built or streets been widened over recent years especially after Beijing won the 2008 Olympics, Beijingers are also buying more cars. By August this year, there had been a total of two million automobiles registered in Beijing, of which some 800,000 are private cars, according to the Beijing Municipal Traffic Commission.
As a result, traffic jam remains a big headache for the Chinese capital. In the rush hour, it takes three or four times longer to drive downtown.
Wu Ching-Kuo, IOC member from Chinese Taipei, echoed Tallberg's comment.
"The problem can't be settled only by road construction. Measures to control car-driving or some limitations are also needed," he said.
Wu, also a member of the coordination commission for the 2008 Olympic Games, takes charge of the engineering and construction section of the commission. Earlier this week, he attended a meeting in Beijing to evaluate its venue construction.
Cokmel Antonio Rodrigrez, the president of the Argentine Olympic Committee, stayed in Beijing for three days to advise on its preparation work for 2008 before flying to Changsha. He thought of the traffic problem as a common concern for international metropolis.
"On this matter, Beijing could draw on the successful experience of Sydney, which did a good job in traffic management for the 2000 Olympic Games," he said.
The Beijing Municipal Traffic Commission, headed by Zhao Wenzhi, has proposed a 10-point suggestion to tackle the city's worsening traffic situation.
According to Zhao's report presented to the Beijing Municipal People's Congress on late September, Beijing in the next few years may raise the charges for license plates of private cars, and also impose a so-called "road congestion fee" on private car owners.
The proposal met strong opposition and criticism from many private car owners, as well as some leading traffic experts including Professor Mao Baohua, vice-president of the School of Traffic and Transportation of the Beijing Jiaotong University.
The opposers asserted that the limitation measures would exert a very negative impact on the auto industry, which plays an important role in boosting the country's domestic demand.
China's Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005) for National Economic and Social Development encourages Chinese families to buy private cars. Many Chinese provinces and regions have endorsed car-making as a "pillar industry" in the local economy.
(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2003)