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September 21st, 2008:

Goodbye Games, Hello Gripes And Gridlock

Reuters in Beijing – Updated on Sep 21, 2008

Beijing was grinding back to its congested normal condition yesterday after two months of traffic restrictions and factory closures that kept the city’s notorious pollution at bay for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The capital is one of the world’s most polluted cities and there has been widespread debate about whether the traffic controls should be retained. Although the Olympic regulations did not officially expire until midnight last night, cars with both odd and even number plates were already on the streets by mid-morning.

The ban on vehicles on alternate days according to their registrations – aimed at taking 45 per cent of cars off the roads – was not only successful in clearing the skies, but also eased congestion.

The jams and frustration are likely to resume with the return to work tomorrow.

“If there are no restrictions in the street, maybe the Beijing roads will become big parking lots some day,” an internet surfer called Dao Madan wrote on

Car owners had opposed the controls, citing the lack of sufficient public transport.

“If you do not allow me to drive, make sure you can provide enough seats on buses and subways,” Xiao Pao wrote on the same forum. “Don’t force me into that sauna.”

Restrictions on government-owned cars, which make up some 10 per cent of Beijing’s more than 3 million vehicles, will continue, in a move some experts see as a necessary pre-requisite to imposing wider controls.

Worse pollution than normal might be expected this autumn as factories and power plants in Beijing and surrounding provinces strive to reach their annual production targets despite the two months when they were forced to reduce emissions.

Dust can also be expected to add to the pollution from the hundreds of building sites around the city that had to suspend operations from July 20.

Prostitutes have returned to certain streets, while shops are now openly selling pirated DVDs again.

Security checks at the city’s 11 municipal parks, including the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, will also cease, the media reported.

Beijing saw high levels of security for the Olympics and Paralympics to deter terrorist attacks which the government perceived to be the biggest threat to the events.

The Olympic media regulations put in to place in January last year, which allowed foreign journalists more freedom to report around the country, expire next month.