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Traffic Controls Back For Opening Ceremony

Al Guo – SCMP – Updated on Sep 06, 2008

Strict traffic controls will return to Beijing from noon until midnight today for the Paralympics opening ceremony at the National Stadium.

Roads on the city’s north side will be closed off to ensure smooth transport for those attending the event.

Given the odd-even day vehicle ban still in place, traffic jams should not be a great concern.

The measures came as no surprise to residents. Similar, if not tougher, controls had been rolled out during the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, and on peak competition days.

The looming question is whether the odd-even day controls will be extended beyond September 20, the end of the official Games’ period.

A survey of more than 5,000 people sponsored by The Beijing News found that 68 per cent wanted the controls to stay, while 19 per cent opposed an extension.

Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications deputy director Zhou Zhengyu did not give a clear answer when asked to comment on a ban extension yesterday.

“The thinking and discussion on the issue reflect progress in society … but I think it takes a collective effort from both the government and city residents to solve the issue in the long term,” Mr Zhou said.

Beijing’s air quality has improved dramatically since July 20, when the city imposed the odd-even traffic restrictions that restrict vehicles to alternate days on the roads.

The city registered 14 days of “class-one” air quality last month and air quality has been good this month too, with the air pollution index below or close to 50, considered excellent.

Those who support extending the ban argue that the improved air quality was a direct result of the measure.

Others, including Mao Shoulong of Renmin University, say the better air is the result of a combination of measures.

“The shutdown of construction sites in Beijing, in fact, played the key role [in improving air quality],” Professor Mao said.

Fears about tonight’s weather, meanwhile, have been dispelled.

The Beijing Meteorological Bureau said there would be no rain during the opening ceremony, and the temperature would stay relatively cool and comfortable at 19 to 29 degrees Celsius.

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