Being able to breathe seems to be a high priority for Olympic athletes – and in Beijing, that’s going to be a bit of a challenge. However, according to Associated Press sources, China is working hard at it….cough…cough.
Last week, Beijing’s air pollution index dropped to 44 from its more typical number which is double that. A reading below 50 is considered “good,” and between 51 and 100 is “moderate,” but “moderate” is still above the World Heath Organization’s guidelines for healthy air.
Their polluted air has prompted the government to begin drastic measures, including the halting of most construction, the closing of machinery, chemical and construction factories, and the imposition of restrictions on half the city’s 3.3 million vehicles.
Many of the 10,500 Olympic athletes are heading to South Korea, Japan and other places to avoid Beijing’s air for as long as possible. This is a kind of “reverse doping,” as the impact of the city’s pollution on the health and performance of these athletes is in question.
Yet another risk is that of Islamic terrorism. Some of you have been led to believe that jihadism is a reaction or reasonable payback to America and her friends for being bad, bad places. So it might seem strange to you to find out that a Muslim group, claiming responsibility for a series of explosions in Chinese cities, is allegedly planning to attack the Beijing Olympic Games. According to the AP, “earlier this year, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security said it had disrupted two plots to attack the Olympics. It claimed one group had been planning to kidnap athletes, foreign journalists, and other visitors, while a second had been manufacturing explosives and was plotting to attack hotels, government offices, and military targets in Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities….” Just yesterday we heard about sixteen Chinese policemen who were killed in an attack on a border post in the Muslim region of Xinjiang.
As if that were not enough, the Chinese government was planning to censor the Internet during the games. Reporters already in Beijing have been unable to access scores of web pages – particularly politically sensitive ones that discuss Tibetan succession and Taiwanese independence, as well as the sites of Amnesty International, Radio Free Asia and several Hong Kong newspapers.
Oh, you should know that the International Olympic Committee quietly agreed to the Internet limitations…that is, the blocking of sites that were not Games-related. There was such an uproarfrom other countries, however, that China has backed off on this deal, and on Friday, the Chinese government announced that it will not censor the Internet during the competition.
In 2001, when China won the right to host the Games, it made the commitment that it would improve its record on human rights and provide athletes with clean air. Without Friday’s announcement (made only because of outside pressure), that would have made the score zero for two.