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'Air Quality Important for Olympic Athletes'
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Nearly half the vehicles in Beijing will be ordered off the roads during the "Good Luck Beijing" sports events to test the city's air quality. Test results will be used to revise the Olympic Air Quality Guarantee Scheme.

In an interview with the Beijing News on August 9, Ms. Tang Xiaoyan, an expert invited for the drafting of this scheme, member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, professor at Peking University, and scientific advisor for the Beijing municipal government, talked about this air quality test and traffic restrictions during the Olympic test events.

The Beijing News (BN): Beijing has ordered some vehicles off the roads to test the air quality. How important is air quality to the Olympics?

Tang Xiaoyan (Tang): Since 1998, Beijing has taken measures to control air pollution, and air quality has consequently improved. For next year's Olympics, air quality is of the utmost importance to the athletes. The key issue is to prevent high concentrations of air pollutants.

BN: In which aspects will air pollutants be highly concentrated?

Tang: Take inhalable particles for example. This kind of pollutant contains many small particles which cause atmospheric visibility to decline. The particles consist of even smaller particulates, their size ranging from nano to micrometer. They can enter into the human body very easily, and if they get into the respiratory tract, or even the lungs, respiration might be affected. So air quality must be guaranteed for the sake of the athletes.

BN: Has air quality been taken into consideration in Beijing's bid for the Olympics?
Tang: In its bid for the Olympics, Beijing promised to keep air quality in line with national standards and try to meet WHO requirements.

Last year, the Beijing municipal government invited a group of experts to carry out research on air quality during the Olympics. They have studied the desirable standards, goals, as well as measures to be taken. An Olympic Air Quality Guarantee Scheme has been submitted to the municipal government, covering the city itself as well as its surrounding areas.

BN: What pollution controls are covered in the Scheme?

Tang: It includes controls on coal burning, industrial emissions, vehicle emissions, and raised dust.


Citizens Cautiously Optimistic for Traffic Drill

From August 17 to 20, about 1.3 million vehicles – nearly half of the total 3 million in Beijing – will be banned from roads as part of pre-Olympic tests.

During the drill, vehicles with license plates ending in an odd number will be allowed on the roads on August 17 and 19, and plates ending in an even number permitted on August 18 and 20.

Most citizens say they would support the drill

20 metro and bus riders and 20 private car drivers were interviewed by the Beijing News last Thursday, and all said the four-day-drill would not seriously impede their commuting.

Most of those who typically take public transport are not car owners. They believe that Beijing should take actions to cut down on number of private cars out on the streets. "I would applaud the decision even if it were for the whole year," said Ms. Liao, who lives in the Fangzhuang area.

Two private car drivers echoed her view: "Beijing's traffic congestion will never be eased if people feel they must drive everywhere. The city would be better off with some vehicles restricted."

Another 10 drivers said they would manage to do without a car for the drill. They believe the small sacrifice would be worthwhile for the Olympic Games.

All of the 40, however, shared a common concern: Is the city's public transport system capable of handling an extra million passengers?

Will public transport crush under pressure?

1.3 million vehicles kept away from the roads would add massive pressure to the public transport system, and many fear a breakdown during rush hours.

An official from the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communication noted that the government would take the necessary actions to increase transport capacity in downtown and the suburbs, large communities in particular.

Moreover, over 95 percent of the 66,000 taxis in the capital would be available for passengers from August 17 to 20, with some stationed at major stadiums for contingencies. Rush hour services of metro systems will be extended to three hours, 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM, from the usual two hours, 7 AM to 9 AM.

In addition, intervals between trains of Metro Line 1 and Line 2 will be shortened during non-peak times, and ten backup trains will be prepared.


Vehicles Ordered off Road for Olympics Drill

Beijing yesterday announced a drill to test the effectiveness of the Olympic host city's efforts to improve air quality and ease traffic congestion.

From August 17 to 20, about 1.3 million vehicles - nearly half of the total 3 million in the city - will be ordered off the roads as part of pre-Olympic tests, according to the capital city's environmental and traffic authorities.

On August 17 and 19 (Friday and Sunday), only vehicles with the license plate number ending with the odd numeral will be allowed on the roads.

On August 18 and August 20 (Saturday and Monday), it's plates ending with an even number.

The rule applies to Beijing-registered vehicles as well as those from outside the city.

Du Shaozhong, spokesman for the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said air quality will be monitored during the vehicle-reduction days.

"Let's see the correlation between air quality and the number of running vehicles," he said.

"Data from the tests will be collected and analyzed to improve air quality," Du said, adding vehicle emissions are a leading cause of urban pollution.

In addition to the 27 air quality monitoring stations spread across all the 18 districts and counties, three new stations and two new mobile monitor vehicles will be put to use, he added.


(China.org.cn August 13, 2007)

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