With the 2008 Olympics set to begin in just a few days, I thought it might be interesting to look at the intersection of the Olympics and politics. Over the next few days, I’ll post some special entries on the topic. Stay tuned! For today: China’s Olympic preparations.
When China beat out its competitors (Istanbul, Osaka, Paris, and Toronto) to win the host job for the 2008 Olympics, it made a number of promises, including to improve environmental quality to improve its human rights record.
Air quality was a particular concern, as some athletes have limited their participation—some are flying in just a day or two before their competition and flying out as soon as they are done—in an effort to avoid breathing the air of one of the world’s most polluted cities. Over the past few weeks, the Chinese government has taken increasingly drastic steps to improve environmental quality in Beijing. It has closed down hundreds of the city’s most polluting factories and taking more than 1 million cars off the road.
Greenpeace praised the government’s efforts: “A number of Beijing’s achievements represent best environmental practice. In our analysis from the information available, Greenpeace found that Beijing achieved and in some cases surpassed original environmental goals.”
What impact will this have on the Olympics? China has put a great deal of effort into hosting the Olympics. Successful Games would give a boost to China’s international reputation, confirming its status as a major player on the world stage. Games marred by grey skies filled with pollution would certainly undermine this image. In the end, all the efforts of the Chinese government may actually depend on the weather…if it rains, the skies will clear and the air quality will improve. If not, look for grey skies. The success of the Beijing Olympics—and China’s perceived status on the world stage—now depends on Mother Nature.