Friday, July 06, 2007

Scratch & Sniff

This is a followup to the post I wrote a week ago about pollution in Beijing, where I imagined soccer players at next summer's Olympic tournament wheezing through 90 minutes in delicious mix of oxygen and coal smoke. Well, maybe not that much oxygen.

The new part of this story involves the Chinese government leaning on the World Bank concerning findings alleging that pollution causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually in China.

This means that when the World Bank isn't busy shaking down a used car salesman, it doctors a report that casts a light on one of the China's most well-kept secrets. Lest we forget, on days when there is no rain or wind, ozone and fine dust are often two to three times the maximum levels suggested by the World Health Organization, making the Chinese capital one of the world's dirtiest cities.

Of course, this isn't the first time a major weeks-long sporting event was held in a smoggy city. Who can forget the 1994 World Cup Final, or the '84 Olympics:
In Los Angeles, British runner Steve Ovett collapsed with respiratory problems after the 800-meter race. Ovett is convinced that pollution was the culprit. "Many suffered from the bad air, but hardly anyone said anything," Ovett complained in an article in the scientific journal Nature.
Whether China can get any kind of handle on it's pollution remains to be seen. Either way, it doesn't seem to be hurting the country's tourism numbers.

China 'Forced World Bank' to Doctor Pollution Report [Der Spiegel]
Wolfowitz Walks [Forbes]
Pollution Dangers Cast Shadow over 2008 Olympics [Der Spiegel]
China heads for top spot in tourism rankings [Sydney Morning Herald]


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