Beijing’s bid for Winter Games may turn cold
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: email@example.com.
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