Special report: 2008 Olympic Games
BEIJING, July 28 (Xinhua) -- With just 10 days to go
before the opening of the Beijing Olympics, the Games' organizers, who seem to
have had everything under control, have to face an uncontrollable challenge --
While a whole week of hot and humid weather with no
rainfall and a persisting haze dampened people's mood and undermined a
newly-built confidence in the city's air quality, a "weather modification"
project is also underway to guarantee that the Games' opening ceremony won't be
spoiled by a downpour.
Tipped by meteorologists and scientists, officials of
the Beijing Olympic organizing committee now pin their hope on the arrival of
"Liqiu", a term on the Chinese lunar calendar which literally means "the
beginning of autumn," on Aug. 7 and the state-of-the-art weather engineering
"Starting from Aug. 7, the weather of Beijing will
gradually enter the best period of the year, with both temperature and humidity
on the drop, and air quality on the rise," Guo Wenli, director of the climatic
center under the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau, told Xinhua on Monday.
The past week from July 21 to 27 recorded an average
daily temperature of 27.4 degree Celsius for the Beijing region, 1.9 degrees
higher than the average level in the previous years, according to the
Adding to the woe was a rare absence of wind
throughout the week, which led to the accumulation of particulate matters in the
air and the forming of the haze that severely crippled visibility, said Guo Hu,
head of the Beijing Meteorological Observatory.
When the Olympic Athletes' Village opened to
athletes, coaches and officials from all over the world on Sunday, some foreign
athletes were conspicuously missing from their delegations that checked in the
village. They chose to stay in Japan or South Korea for training till the last
minute, reportedly for fears of the city's "filthy air."
Han Song, a writer with an office on the 15th floor
of a high building near Xuanwumen in central Beijing, took a picture of the city
through his office window every morning in the past week, only to find the city
shrouded in haze all the time.
Astonished and disappointed, Han wrote in his blog:
"Is this what we got, seven days after we pulled half of the city's cars out of
In the final month before the Games, Beijing rested
two thirds of government vehicles, and imposed a traffic ban on private cars
with odd and even number plates on alternate days as of July 20. The policy cut
the number of cars hitting Beijing roads every day by about two million.
Other pre-Games environment measures included closing
polluting factories in Beijing and some neighboring provinces, suspension of
most urban construction projects, and removal of vehicles failing to meet
emission standards. The most significant step over the years, however, was a
thorough relocation of the gigantic Capital Steel company which used to occupy a
large area in west Beijing.
"We did see more sunny days and bluer skies since the
beginning of July. It's really weird that the trend seemed to take a reverse
over the past week despite the new traffic ban," said He Xin, 35, an office lady
who is a native of Beijing.
It was all the treacherous weather to blame,
explained the city's environment watchdog, adding that some critical progress in
pollution reduction might be invisible to the public, but well supported by
Ever since the traffic ban, the density of carbon
monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matters in the city air has kept
falling, scoring a 20-percent year-on-year decrease, said Du Shaozhong, deputy
director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.
"Despite the haze factor, the capital's daily
pollution reading remained at Level II, or fairly good on Monday," said Du,
citing the national air quality monitoring report.
"It's just like in a public sauna room -- maybe you
can't see clearly afar, but it's not because of pollution," he quipped.
When it rains and the air cools down, the city would
see clearer skies, the official predicted.
The meteorological bureau supported the prediction by
saying that in the following week starting from Monday, Beijing will see
frequent rainfalls again, perhaps in five out of the seven days.
It is certainly good news to environment officials
and those who hate the haze and heat, but for Zhang Yimou, chief director of the
Games' opening ceremony, it means disaster.
Zhang, who is heading a team of elite artists
designing and preparing the ceremony in top secrecy, has repeatedly said that
rain was what he feared most as it could easily ruin the long-practiced
performance set to be staged in the roofless national stadium, the Bird's Nest.
The ceremony is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. on Aug. 8,
and historical data indicate a 41 percent precipitation chance on that date. It
was reported that the Beijing organizers had proposed the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) to kick off the Games, ideally on Aug. 15, but the final
decision from the IOC left Beijing no choice but to prevent any possible
rainfall, at least around the sky of the Bird's Nest.
Currently, the Beijing weather engineering office,
under the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau, is carrying out an Olympic
weather modification project.
Assisted by satellite monitoring, the office will
apply the latest cloud seeding technologies to prevent rain from falling during
the three and half hours -- from 8:08 p.m. to around 11:30 p.m. -- onto the
It's still hard to say whether this project will work or not. However, as Zhang's team is reportedly holding a full dress rehearsal of the ceremony at the end of the month, a testing ground may be offered to the cloud seeders as well if it happens to rain.