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Beijing’s Fight To Clear The Air

0:52pm UK, Sunday July 20, 2008 – James Jordan, Sky News Online

Motorists in Beijing can only drive every other day as the city battles to clean up air quality for the Olympics.

The Chinese government is hoping to tackle Beijing’s smog for the Olympics

Cars with licence plates that end in an odd number are banned from the roads every second day, to alternate with cars sporting even-numbered plates.

There have been concerns about air quality in the Chinese capital ever since it was awarded the Games by the International Olympic Committee in 2001.

So far, more than £8.5bn has been spent by the city’s authorities to try to beat the smog.

The cash has been spent on shutting down factories, unleashing cloud seeders to encourage rain and now the car ban.

It is estimated that there are about 3.5 million vehicles on the roads in Beijing and the ban, first trialled in August 2007, will reduce road numbers by around one million a day.

Drivers will be compensated by not having to pay road and vehicle taxes for three months – at a cost of £93m to the government.

Also, 70% of all government cars and trucks owned by state-run enterprises will be banned from the roads for the two-month period.

At the British team’s final news conference in London before the Games, chef de mission Simon Clegg said: “With the smog, in the main, things are improving and there are still some substantial changes to be implemented – the reduction of cars on the road and implementation of Olympic lanes.

“I’m really confident the Chinese will be able to deliver a blue-skies games, which was their dream.”

It is feared that the pollution levels may trigger respiratory disorders like asthma and pose a health risk for the 10,000 athletes who participate in the Games from August 8-24.

The IOC has already indicated that certain events may be rescheduled if they deam the air quality is unsafe.

The British teams will wear specially designed masks, and Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie has said he won’t run the marathon for health reasons.

Australia has recently said its athletes will remain in Hong Kong during the opening ceremony to limit their exposure to polluted air.

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