Bei­jing’s bid for Win­ter Games may turn cold

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Peo­ple’s re­sponse to Bei­jing’s bid for the 2022 Win­ter Olympic Games has been luke­warm, dif­fer­ent from the warm re­sponse to the city’s bid to host the 2008 Sum­mer Olympics. Per­haps Bei­jing’s smog-cov­ered skies and the se­ri­ous air pol­lu­tion in North China are to blame for that. Bei­jing has many ad­van­tages when it comes to host­ing the Win­ter Games, in­clud­ing the legacy of the Bei­jing 2008 Sum­mer Games. The Bei­jing Sum­mer Olympics showed the rest of the world how com­pe­tent China was in host­ing in­ter­na­tional sport galas. With enough venues and fa­cil­i­ties, as well as fi­nan­cial strength, Bei­jing could host the 2022 Win­ter Games.

Be­sides, the co-host city of Zhangji­akou in He­bei prov­ince has great ad­van­tages in terms of nat­u­ral re­sources and win­ter sport fa­cil­i­ties. Also, the 40-minute jour­ney be­tween Bei­jing and Zhangji­akou on the pro­posed high-speed rail­way will make trans­porta­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion in the two cities more con­ve­nient for ath­letes and of­fi­cials, as well as spec­ta­tors.

But for the pub­lic, th­ese ad­van­tages hardly off­set the neg­a­tive in­flu­ence of air pol­lu­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the me­dia, half of the 7,400 peo­ple cov­ered by a sur­vey on China’s lead­ing In­ter­net por­tal Sohu said Bei­jing’s poor air qual­ity could pre­vent it from win­ning the bid for the 2022 Win­ter Games.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion’s air qual­ity re­port, the num­ber of days that Bei­jing’s air qual­ity met the re­quired stan­dard in the first half this year was much less than the na­tional av­er­age, and its PM2.5 and PM10 air pol­lu­tion in­dexes were much higher. PM2.5 refers to par­tic­u­late mat­ter with a di­am­e­ter of 2.5 mi­crom­e­ter or less, and PM10 means par­tic­u­late mat­ter be­tween 2.5 and 10 mi­crom­e­ters. The sources of PM2.5 in­clude toxic or­ganic com­pounds, heavy met­als, auto emis­sions, waste burn­ing and smelt­ing, and that of PM10 in­clude smoke, dirt and dust from fac­to­ries, spores and pol­lens, and crush­ing and grind­ing rocks and soils. Though both are harm­ful to hu­man health, PM2.5 is more dan­ger­ous.

Given the im­por­tance of air qual­ity for sports events, it’s un­der­stand­able that peo­ple are skep­ti­cal of Bei­jing’s chances. But the of­fi­cials who have bid for the Win­ter Olympics haven’t ig­nored Bei­jing’s en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lem. They chose Zhangji­akou as Bei­jing’s co-host for the Win­ter Games be­cause its air qual­ity, though less than sat­is­fac­tory, was the best in the re­gion north of Yangtze River in the first half of this year.

Bei­jing, how­ever, can­not avoid the air qual­ity prob­lem dur­ing the eval­u­a­tion process for can­di­date cities, be­cause Zhangji­akou is only its co-host. Bei­jing is in­fa­mous for its poi­sonous smog, poor vis­i­bil­ity and “Bei­jing cough”, which is bad news be­cause en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions are one of the 11 im­por­tant tech­ni­cal cri­te­ria in the se­lec­tion of a city to host the Win­ter Games. The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee re­quires cities bid­ding to host the Win­ter Olympics to pro­vide their en­vi­ron­men­tal data, in­clud­ing those on carbon monox­ide, PM10, PM2.5, sul­phur diox­ide, ni­tro­gen diox­ide and ozone. Go­ing by the cur­rent state of af­fairs, Bei­jing will fail on this front.

But there are peo­ple who see Bei­jing’s bid as an op­por­tu­nity to in­ten­sify the fight against air pol­lu­tion in North China. While bid­ding for the 2008 Sum­mer Olympics, Bei­jing had promised to spend $12.2 bil­lion to im­prove the cap­i­tal’s en­vi­ron­ment and ended up spend­ing $23.4 bil­lion for the pur­pose.

Be­fore the host city for the 2022 Win­ter Games is se­lected in July 1915, Bei­jing has to sub­mit an en­vi­ron­men­tal plan to con­vince the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee that it is in­deed ca­pa­ble of host­ing the event. And if it wins the bid this time, more pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries have to dras­ti­cally re­duce their emis­sions, or be shut down or shifted, ex­pe­dit­ing the process of air pol­lu­tion man­age­ment in North China.

But los­ing the bid does not mean Bei­jing should take the fight against air pol­lu­tion any less se­ri­ously. It’s time the au­thor­i­ties re­al­ized the power and in­flu­ence of the en­vi­ron­ment and awoke to the fact that given its cur­rent en­vi­ron­men­tal state, Bei­jing can hardly be­come a truly pros­per­ous and mod­ern me­trop­o­lis. The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. Email: wangy­iqing@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

The opin­ions ex­pressed on this page do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily USA.

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