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Beijing Downplay Pollution Fears – 24th June 2008

Beijing officials have once again sought to dismiss fears over pollution ahead of the Olympics amid increasing concerns over air quality in the Chinese capital.

With 45 days to go until the Games, China remain firm in their belief that they can deliver a “Green Olympics” after placing restrictions on motor vehicles, construction and heavy industry in Beijing.

However, many associations remain sceptical over whether targets will be met.

Track and field athletes from Australia and New Zealand will prepare for the Games in Hong Kong – with Australia’s endurance competitors training in Japan – while Canada will base themselves in Singapore ahead of the athletics events which begin on August 15, in the second week of the event.

Those athletes will miss the opening ceremony on August 8, departing for Beijing at the last possible moment, with the oppressive pollution – which is likely to be exacerbated by hot weather – believed to be the primary reason for this decision.

“As far as air quality is concerned, I’m fully confident that Beijing will fulfil its commitment of hosting a ‘Green Olympics’,” said Du Shaozhong, Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau deputy chief.

It has been reported that there have been significant improvements in air quality to back Du’s claims, with statistics showing improvements in nine straight years since the Olympic bid, and major pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, reduced by between 10% and 60%.

Public transport is set to be improved in a further effort to cater for those restricted from using private vehicles.

“We will add 2000 buses, open three new metro lines, and extend their operation hours to cater for the increased demand,” Zhou Zhengyu, spokesman for the Beijing transport committee and its deputy director, told China Daily.

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