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August 24th, 2008:

Roads And Sky Monitored For A Smooth Last Day

Al Guo – SCMP – Updated on Aug 24, 2008

Beijing authorities will impose strict traffic controls on roads close to the Olympic Green today to ensure tangle-free roads for the Games’ closing ceremony, while the weather bureau has hundreds of rockets aimed at the sky to dispel any rain clouds.

The traffic ban, which extends to almost all the roads in the city’s north, is on a similar scale to that ordered for the opening ceremony. Motorists have been told to avoid these areas from early afternoon until the end of the closing ceremony at about midnight.

Those attending have been urged to take public transport to the area as no car parks will be available.

Seven Olympic venues will host events on the last day of the Games, and temporary traffic controls will be tightened around those arenas during the competitions.

Since it is a Sunday, authorities were not concerned about general commuters needing to use the city’s road or public transport systems.

In addition to efforts on the ground for the closing ceremony, Beijing’s weather officials have plans to ward off any clouds that could threaten to dampen the finale.

There have been many predictions for cloudy weather – but no rain – in Beijing during the closing ceremony. But the capital’s meteorological department is taking no chances: it has hundreds of rockets at the ready to break up the clouds.

More than 1,000 rockets were fired into the atmosphere on August 8, the opening day of the Games, preventing rain clouds from forming.

Weather monitors will update their forecasts every 15 minutes today to decide whether or when to fire the rockets.

“We guaranteed good weather for the opening ceremony, and now we will deliver good weather for the closing ceremony,” a weather official was quoted by the Beijing Morning Post as saying.

Even so, with one day remaining, Beijing officials could not wait yesterday to declare the event a success, especially in terms of air quality and operations.

“I’m glad to tell you that all 76 Olympic venues have been running smoothly and highly efficiently, and our organisation of the Games has received warm applause and praise from all parties,” said Liu Zhi, a spokesman for the Beijing municipal government.

He had reason to beam. The Air Pollution Index, a major gauge of air quality, dropped by more than 20 percentage points during the Olympics period compared with the same time last year, and the city’s major air pollutants have dropped 40 per cent on average, according to statistics released by the authorities.

Athletes seem satisfied with the air and none were reported wearing face masks during events.

Kara Goucher, a US women’s 5,000- and 10,000-metres runner, told her hometown newspaper, The Register Guard of Eugene, Oregon, that her running had not been affected by the air quality.

“There are the days where it’s hazy … but the weather has not been what we thought. It’s been way better. The air has been good. It’s been as good as it could possibly be. It hasn’t been bad,” Goucher was quoted as saying.