And we thought the air in LA was bad!

posted at 8:15 am on July 28, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

When Los Angeles won the 1984 Olympics, organizers encouraged Angelenos to change their driving habits for two reasons.  One, they wanted to reduce the amount of congestion on the freeways, and in that they succeeded; alternative hours, home officing, and carpooling made commuting a breeze during the Games.  They also wanted LA to rid itself of its notorious summer smog, with only modest success — but the LA air was pristine next to Beijing’s:

The area where the games will take place failed the government’s own smog targets, even as officials opened the Olympic Village with great fanfare.

The air was “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” the city’s environmental protection bureau said.

“Unhealthy for sensitive groups”?  If the accompanying picture had come from Minnesota, we’d assume that it was taken during a mild snowstorm.  I grew up in Los Angeles during the 1960s and ’70s, and we never saw air that bad all the way down to the ground.  That’s unhealthy for anyone, and one has to wonder how the athletes will be able to compete, especially in the endurance events.

Some teams have decided to train elsewhere instead.  The British, among others, won’t arrive in Beijing until just before the opening ceremonies.  Other national teams have already arrived and will have to acclimate themselves to the heavily polluted air.

Officials hope that the wind will revive the air in Beijing next month and clear out the heavy smog.  The IOC had better pray that it does.  Otherwise, they may have to answer for their award to Beijing not just in regards to the prop it gives the oppressive Chinese government, but also for the risks it places on the physical health of the athletes.


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Don’t worry. It’s just a little misty.

JammieWearingFool on July 28, 2008 at 8:21 AM

Dang. That looks like an early morning fog after a rainy night. I wonder what time of day the picture was taken; there doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity in the vicinity.

hillbillyjim on July 28, 2008 at 8:21 AM

Nonetheless, Du Shaozhong, the environmental bureau’s deputy director, said conditions were 20 per cent better than during the equivalent period last year.

Wow, it’s hard to imagine it worse than it looks in the pic. That sucks for the athletes. Not to mention the people who live there.

4shoes on July 28, 2008 at 8:25 AM

Ironic too…China declares the Olympics a SMOKE-FREE event…

JetBoy on July 28, 2008 at 8:27 AM

Explain it to me again.

The IOC awarded the games to China because……………?

pilamaye on July 28, 2008 at 8:28 AM

Wait a minute Ed, I thought the Oscar winning fat man told the world that America is to blame for the destruction of the earths atmosphere!!!! How is it possible that America sends all of it’s contaminated air over to China?

Message to Al Gore… Take your bullshit crusade to China and pin those folks down for the next decade or so. At least point your finger at the right country. Oh, wait a minute; no money to be made in China since the citizens don’t have any & the government “fat cats” already flipped big Al the bird. Idiot!

Keemo on July 28, 2008 at 8:29 AM

All I can say is, between the pollution, the medals goals, the Western media, and the Chinese government’s insistence on information control, these Olympics are going to be a fascinating study.

BigD on July 28, 2008 at 8:31 AM

That smoke isn’t pollution, it’s the CO2 that’s bad. They’re blocking out the sun to fight global warming!

forest on July 28, 2008 at 8:34 AM

There will be two disasters on TV this year, the Olympics and the Democratic convention. Both run by bureaucracies with a penchant for micromanagement, one in the food they eat and the other, well, the air they breathe. And both will cry all to bloody hell when they fail.

Gwillie on July 28, 2008 at 8:36 AM

That photo looks a lot like this one;

London Smog of 1952

And, I suspect, for exactly the same reasons.

So, why aren’t the deep-ecology people in the Forbidden City, confronting the Communist Party’s leadership, and demanding that the People’s Republic of China clean up its act?

Oh, wait. I just answered my own question, didn’t I?

cheers

eon

eon on July 28, 2008 at 8:39 AM

That is bad. They need to hand out gas masks to the spectators…and the athletes. yuk!

becki51758 on July 28, 2008 at 8:42 AM

there doesn’t seem to be a lot of activity in the vicinity.

hillbillyjim on July 28, 2008 at 8:21 AM

No one wants to do the “jerky silly bullet dance”.

Alden Pyle on July 28, 2008 at 8:44 AM

I’ve been in Beijing twice. The first time in early 2003 and again in late 2004. The air quality is indescribable. I would walk out of the hotel and it was like being slammed in the face with a brick.

During my first visit you could taste the steel particles from the mills outside the city. Those had been shut down by the time of my second visit, but I would still gasp for air for a minute or so when going outside.

All I can say is, my wife’s home city was far worse.

When she first arrived and met my family, my father asked her what she thought of America so far.

She replied “The air is so clean!”

She spent a good 6 months detoxing. When one of her sisters immigrated, she went through the same process.

Now would be a good time to open an oxygen store. ;)

evilned on July 28, 2008 at 8:44 AM

“Sensitive groups” = oxygen breathers.

Dash on July 28, 2008 at 8:44 AM

OK, so there’s one benefit of all of our manufacturing going to China. It does not outweigh all the loses.

When you put lead in toothpaste, the air gets a little misty.

Kind of like airborne MSG.

Hening on July 28, 2008 at 8:45 AM

The Week Magazine had an article recently with a few more details. Some quotes:

Last September, Adam Craig of the U.S. mountain biking team dropped out of a training race in Beijing, citing the pollution. “My lungs stopped working,” he said. “It started with a routine deep breath on a descent, which produced a sharp pain and a fit of hacking, then progressed rapidly to a state where I was unable to take more than a quarter of a breath.” More recently, four American boxers jogging outside in Beijing developed breathing problems. So they began training by running up and down the corridors of their hotel. Jarrod Shoemaker, a U.S. triathlete, says Beijing air is so dirty that you can taste it. “You can feel the grit in your teeth,” he says. “In 2007 we wore masks when we weren’t racing.”

The U.S. track-and-field team is training in the eastern port city of Dalian, and its coaches are advising the athletes to wear dust masks once they get to Beijing. The Canadians will work out in Singapore until a few days before their events; the entire British delegation is holed up in Macau. Australia’s track-and-field team will skip the opening ceremonies, remaining at training camps outside China until it begins competing. Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, the world’s fastest long-distance runner, has announced that while he’ll compete in the 10,000-meter race, he’ll pass on the marathon. “It’s going to be the hardest marathon in history,” said Gebrselassie. “I’d love to go for it, but health is my first priority.”

The article also says,

In any event, the International Olympic Committee will monitor air quality every day and decide if endurance events such as the triathlon may proceed safely.

Those encounters should be rich, given how cooperative the Chinese have been thus far with spectators and the media.

Quisp on July 28, 2008 at 8:50 AM

Two families of Olympians we know are there. They both phoned and said it is worse then you can imagine.
Fortunately Water Polo will be inside, but any outside athletes will be suffering.
What will the long distance runners do?

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 8:59 AM

Curious that the IOC will not make available the actual data on what they claim. They instead offer up nonsense like the pollution in Beijing is no different than what was seen in Athens or Atlanta.

Let’s go to the photo evidence. Seems that there’s a huge difference.

lawhawk on July 28, 2008 at 9:05 AM

[hillbillyjim on July 28, 2008 at 8:21 AM]

Sooo, you are skeptical the photo was chosen to inaccurately portray the pollution problem in Beijing? How could you think that might be the case?

Well, me too. I’ve been to Beijing and it’s a lot more likely this is early morning mist than Beijing smog. But then again, if carbon dioxide is a pollutant, what is dihydrogen oxide, chopped liver?

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 9:05 AM

BTW, the smog was made a big issue before the 84 Olympics in LA, but was not an issue during the event. The air was pristine…not so in Beijing.
The IOC threatened not to have the games in LA, twenty years later, no problem, not an issue, or at least no threats.
They may even allow athletes to use “inhalers”. It is so bad they will allow athletes to use banned drugs.
And most all of them will be wearing special breathing masks.

Colby Pearce, 35, an Olympic hopeful in track cycling from Boulder, Colo., said he saw smog floating inside the velodrome in Beijing. His throat became scratchy and he developed bronchitis, he said, because of air pollution.

“When you are coughing up black mucus, you have to stop for a second and say: ‘O.K., I get it. This is a really, really bad problem we’re looking at,’ ” he said.

And this little beauty:

To combat the problem of air quality…countries with sufficient money have been in silent, clandestine competition, each trying to devise a better plan.

Imagine, have a secret plan to overcome the smog and beat the competition in a “breathing” contest.

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Pollution levels on a typical day in Beijing, some researchers say, are nearly five times above World Health Organization standards for safety.

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 9:15 AM

Been there a few times. The first time, coughed up black stuff after a few days. Dark soot was swept off the ground in the grassless parks. One time, sand storms–blown in from Gobi desert. Most recently, in the Spring, blue skies, clear air, hadn’t rained in like two years–trees and flowers everywhere. No one got sick. No problems breathing.

It’s a crapshoot.

JiangxiDad on July 28, 2008 at 9:17 AM

Here’s pictures of the opening of the Olympic Villag, in northern Beijing, yesterday.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 9:20 AM

“Unhealthy for sensitive groups”? If the accompanying picture had come from Minnesota, we’d assume that it was taken during a mild snowstorm.

It’s all Bush’s fault. If he had only signed Kyoto, air pollution would be a thing of the past. Oh, right — China was exempt from Kyoto…

The real story about the Olympics is the inability of the Chinese to attract foreign visitors. 90% of the audience will be Chinese, which makes the event a total bust for China (which specifically intended the Olympics to attract foreign tourists).

It was foolish to award China the Olympics. Now the IOC and the Chinese will both pay for their stupidity.

Outlander on July 28, 2008 at 9:21 AM

I visited Beijing last year. That is routine. I could not imagine running any significant distance in that air, just walking across the street is irritating. I still do not know what the IOC was thinking.

JamesB on July 28, 2008 at 9:43 AM

90% of the audience will be Chinese, which makes the event a total bust for China (which specifically intended the Olympics to attract foreign tourists).

But that’s their own fault. You don’t increase tourism by putting more restrictions on tourist visas.

It’s hard to identify a logical thought process in any of this.

Quisp on July 28, 2008 at 9:44 AM

To combat the problem of air quality…countries with sufficient money have been in silent, clandestine competition, each trying to devise a better plan.

Imagine, have a secret plan to overcome the smog and beat the competition in a “breathing” contest.

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Wow, that is just pathetic.

4shoes on July 28, 2008 at 9:47 AM

I think =cough= that China ought =cough= China ought to =cough=hack= never mind.

jgapinoy on July 28, 2008 at 9:47 AM

We just got back from Las Vegas and the smoke in the casinos nearly killed me. I can only imagine what it will be like for an olympic athlete to have to compete in that smog!

I’m sure all the minions of the Al Gore Church of Global Warming will be rushing to demand that China reduce its emissions. sarc off/

pullingmyhairout on July 28, 2008 at 9:57 AM

Here’s pictures of the opening of the Olympic Villag, in northern Beijing, yesterday.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 9:20 AM

No smog there…of course those are from the official China news agency…

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM

ahh.. The sweet smell of communism. I believe it is either 3 or 4 of top 5 most polluted places on Earth are in the former Soviet Union & China.

Makes you wonder about kyoto & all the global warming plans which pin all the blame on the west, in an effort to transfer wealth.. While excluding the kings of the filth.

saus on July 28, 2008 at 10:09 AM

I’ve spent a lot of time in Los Angeles going back over 30 years and there were well-documented problems, but nothing even remotely close to what’s going on in China. In my most recent visit tis year I thought the air quality was far better than even in the late 1990′s.

JammieWearingFool on July 28, 2008 at 10:18 AM

But that’s their own fault. You don’t increase tourism by putting more restrictions on tourist visas.

It’s hard to identify a logical thought process in any of this.

Quisp on July 28, 2008 at 9:44 AM

No, it does make sense. The Chinese want happy tourists to come and enjoy themselves and come back to their home countries and say things like “wow, China is great, we should invest more money there.” But then China’s human rights record resulted in people wanting to come to China to protest. And then China got worried about Islamic terrorists. Protestors and terrorists aren’t happy tourists. So then the SSB got involved and clamped down.

Outlander on July 28, 2008 at 10:21 AM

[right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM]

Of course, they are. What’s your point? That they control the skies; that a news agency doctored the photos; or that the photos were taken by Xinhua at the most opportune time for use by me to tut-tut an AFP/Getty pic as misleading in this post?

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 10:24 AM

Breathe deep the gathering gloom.

Another day’s useless energy spent.

Jaibones on July 28, 2008 at 10:32 AM

And thanks, Ed, for that trip into the happy past.

Jaibones on July 28, 2008 at 10:32 AM

I have spent summers in China, my wife was born there, and it’s the only place that I’ve experienced eye-stinging pollution.

Oh it’s real bad.

Mojave Mark on July 28, 2008 at 10:42 AM

That’s what happens when the IOC makes decisions based on politics.

TooTall on July 28, 2008 at 10:43 AM

That’s what happens when the IOC makes decisions based on politics.

TooTall on July 28, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Exactly. This organization has about the same credibility for clear thinking as the Nobel committee.

Jaibones on July 28, 2008 at 10:54 AM

[right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM]

Of course, they are. What’s your point? T
Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 10:24 AM

A little testy are we?
Here let me take you down memory lane:

Well, me too. I’ve been to Beijing and it’s a lot more likely this is early morning mist than Beijing smog…

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 9:05 AM

That is you minimizing the smog

Here’s pictures of the opening of the Olympic Villag, in northern Beijing, yesterday.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 9:20 AM

This is your link to pristine photos (yeah, you were just keeping us informed of the opening ceremonies on a blog discussing smog).
See how the two tie in? First you post “no problem”, then you post pictures showing “no problem”…and I state that the pictures are from the official Chinese news.
And you get testy…why?

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 11:02 AM

Performing athletics there could be hazardous to you health.

I think any athlete from a free democratic country should boycott China.

It is a country that sells dissidents organs and abuses child labor.
If you even watch the Beijing Olympics on TV, you are a traitor to freedom!

TheSitRep on July 28, 2008 at 11:02 AM

First you post “no problem”.

[right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 11:02 AM]

You infer too much. But that is the case with you right2bright when a story pops up that hits one of your emotional nerves. My point, concurring with hillbillyjim, was aboslutely clear that the photo was misleading and I said nothing about whether pollution in Beijing was a problem.

I’ll be happy to agree with you there is pollution in Beijing because I’ve been there. I’ll also not bother arguing with you when you use/defend evidence that’s “fake but accurate” when it suits your purpose.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 11:29 AM

“fake but accurate” when it suits your purpose.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 11:29 AM

ummmm, I believe you are the one who posted the “pretty” pictures. No inference, the “no problem” was shorthand for your inferring that the picture was propaganda (misleading as you stated…your inference, not mine).
Hundreds of stories, hundreds of links, and you think this picture was “misleading” and you posted pictures stating the opposite…whom is inferring?
Your posts speak for themselves.
Just say your post was misleading, and move on…

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 11:40 AM

[right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 11:40 AM]

I did not post pretty pictures, I linked a site with some 24 pictures in which many of them had panoramas that might indicate a more accurate representation of the smog in the city since it was during the day when the sun was out and not what was likely some early morning photo of fog.

That you are too absentminded to keep to the subject of smog and whether the photo posted here is an accurate representation of the conditions it is purporting to report is just another reason why it is not worth arguing with you, right2bright.

Wanna buy a nuke plant cooling tower pollution photo from Beijing, right2bright? Anything to prove your point there is pollution is okay by me. LOL.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 12:02 PM

Following up to an earlier post I made…

My wife just got back from visiting her family in China. She went over in May so she could get back before the Olympics. She did not want to get caught up in that mess.

Addendum…

When I was in China it was the winter. First tome was February, the second early december. I spent most of my time in northern China.

I was hoping for some of that there global warming to stop in for a visit too. ;)

evilned on July 28, 2008 at 12:08 PM

“Watch light fade in every room…”

Akzed on July 28, 2008 at 12:17 PM

$100 says we see athletes wearing masks during their races…

CliffHanger on July 28, 2008 at 12:27 PM

Some teams have decided to train elsewhere instead. The British, among others, won’t arrive in Beijing until just before the opening ceremonies. Other national teams have already arrived and will have to acclimate themselves to the heavily polluted air.

The teams that won’t arrive until the last moment are making a mistake. They will get throat infections and stuff like that. They need to spend a little time for their body to adapt.

I get a throat infection every time I go to China, and I don’t even stay in Beijing. Oh and my snot goes black.

I’ve told my (chinese) wife about how it’s just NOT NORMAL, and not good, but she says she won’t know what I’m talking about until I bring her to England. Every time I come home I’m so relieved to breath fresh air at last.

Although, when I go, I stay in Dalian, which is a port city, and not quite so bad (but it’s still bad).

I missed a flight home to England because of the smog. All flights to Beijing had been cancelled, and the highway had been closed too! Really pissed me off, only had a couple of days left on my visa. I did get home though. That was less than a month ago.

They said the flights had been cancelled due to “fog”. Hah.

MattMacD on July 28, 2008 at 12:50 PM

I was hoping for some of that there global warming to stop in for a visit too. ;)

Ohhh, I’m the complete opposite. I hate heat even with clean air. But my time spent in Xi’an in the hottest part of summer? I would kill people to get rid of that memory. Utterly horrible. I could hardly breath on many days. Had to keep drinking water.

MattMacD on July 28, 2008 at 12:52 PM

more accurate representation of the smog in the city since it was during the day when the sun was out and not what was likely some early morning photo of fog.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 12:02 PM

As I said, you inferred that the picture was not smog…here read this again.

MattMacD on July 28, 2008 at 12:50 PM

These are people who are there, as is two families who have kids participating in the Olympics called and told me, the pollution is like nothing they have ever seen, they were concerned.
These are real people, giving you real information, not 24 pretty pictures from the Chinese Government.
I don’t know what your beef is…you say the picture (HA post) isn’t accurate, and others with personal knowledge say it is…you have your sources (Chinese Government) I have mine, people who are there now…it only becomes an argument when you think your sources are worth defending and more accurate, or I think my sources are worth defending and more accurate…you take the Chinese Government photos, I will take first hand knowledge.
You think the Chinese Government photos are accurate (“…might indicate a more accurate representation of the smog…” and tell a more accurate picture of their pollution, I don’t think so. We agree to disagree…

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 1:39 PM

As I said, you inferred that the picture was not smog…here read this again.

[right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 1:39 PM]

I infer nothing by my comments. Readers infer. Writers imply. That’s basic commonsense. What I implied was, um, you know, that the severity of the problem appeared exaggerated by kind of like saying, something to the effect that the “photo was chosen to inaccurately portray the pollution problem in Beijing”. But I can’t keep you from inferring that what I wrote means “No smog there”, just as I can’t keep you from saying other photos which show a much different level of smog than a dark grey, quarter mile visibility is less accurate because it’s a commie government owned camera that snapped the pictures at a different time of the same day and in a slightly different location in the city and it’s much brighter and clearer with a much higher visibility.

But you can always one up me go get some pictures without a flash inside of a closet in Beijing where it’s pitch black and visibility is zero call that pollution, too. Make sure to use a free and independent owned camera because they’re the only ones that take accurate pictures of what you want to show me.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 2:11 PM

Why they picked Beijing in the first place is beyone me.

The Ugly American on July 28, 2008 at 2:49 PM

I infer nothing by my comments. Readers infer. Writers imply. That’s basic commonsense. (except when something like this happens…the picture infers that there is not a problem with Beijing air quality…oops, guess Webster was right. r2b notes)

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 2:11 PM

Want to get semantical…being a little coy are we? (“infer implies arriving at a conclusion by reasoning from evidence”, by reason of evidence (a photograph) you inferred, then you implied…sheesh, good try strawman)
As I said, I will use the testimony of people who are there, along with some posters who have no dog in this fight…you can use your source, the Chinese Government.
My sources have no reason to exaggerate, they were concerned about their daughters health. MattMacD on July 28, 2008 at 12:50 PM was just posting about his recent experience.
The Chinese, do you think they have an interest in promoting “smog”…yes I am “implying” and inferring that the Chinese have an agenda…now be a good comrade and accept that.

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 3:24 PM

[right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 3:24 PM]

No I am not being coy whatsoever. I am being forthright, clear and unambiguous. Infer implies just what the definition is not the tenor you want to place on it. Oxford is also forthright, clear and unambiguous in that it says, “But each has it’s own job to do, one at the giving end and the other at the receiving.”

As for what I inferred from the photo, it wasn’t so much as what I inferred from Ed’s “Breathe deep the gathering gloom” and “but the LA air was pristine next to Beijing’s”, the latter inference, IMHO, being quite close to what Ed implied. And I think I am in good company as you defending the use of it.

But your clownish twisting can’t obliterate that fact that I implied exaggeration because I used the word exaggeration, a word, by the way, that implicitly acknowledges a condition you assert I denied altogether. For the most part, I chalked up your poor use of the language to a rush to comment but you make a continual effort to deprive me of my rationale for giving you the benefit of the doubt.

Yup, stick with the folks who have no dogs in this fight — just the ones with children in the fight, like your sources do. Nope, no agenda that belies a reason for exaggeration there.

No, I don’t think the Chinese have an interest or agenda in promoting smog. I think their country is driving down the same damn economic development road we are driving down only they are 50 years behind us. Now be a good little ELFist and sign Al’s petition to convert all our energy production to wind power in 10 years.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 4:49 PM

I like it. This is always what I thought the olympics was supposed to be. You go to where the country is and you compete. If the country has snow on the ground, you run in snow. If the country is jungle, you run in the heat. If the country is smothered in smog, you suck it up.

These people want the world to be too pretty, too sanitary. Mount Olympus this ain’t. We have temperature controlled swimming pools and artificial rapids. Springy floors that add two feet to your jump. And who knows what makes up those vaulting poles. What’s next? Country’s complaining about the specific gravity of the water and it’s trace elements? They want Evian?

Let them swim in mud. Now that would get me to watch again.

flicker on July 28, 2008 at 5:54 PM

Now be a good little ELFist and sign Al’s petition to convert all our energy production to wind power in 10 years.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 4:49 PM

Besides being unbelievably incoherent in your post…what does that last sentence have to do with anything.
I have no idea what you mean by that…are you trying to take this down a road to obfuscate what you wrote?
Elf (Elvish Linguistic Fellowship)as in J. R. Tolkien (trying to say I am inventing languages)? And what petition?
Wow, just Wow…

right2bright on July 28, 2008 at 6:02 PM

It’s ok, they have free healthcare.

- The Cat

MirCat on July 28, 2008 at 6:16 PM

Besides being unbelievably incoherent in your post = an assertion with no backup is boring opinion.

Earth Liberation Front, silly. You’ve heard of them, right? Those are your comrades, right? After all you are for a better environment, so you must be an EL’er just like I argue that a photo on smog in a Beijing is an exaggeration of the condition, so I must be a communist comrade.

Oh, and the last sentence can’t obfuscate, but it can distract.

I could just say, “Wow, just wow …” but I refuse to let you prevent me from giving you the benefit of the doubt.

Dusty on July 28, 2008 at 6:28 PM

Jeez, dudes. I didn’t intend to start a flame war.

Just to be clear, I wasn’t implying that Ed was trying to be deceptive; it’s more likely sloppy work from AFP/Getty. It is not unheard of for these wire services to use photographs that are misleading or unrelated to the accompanying stories and captions.

Also, to be clear, I have no doubt that there are severe pollution problems there, otherwise why would they have instituted their odd/even automobile policy and shut down factories for miles around?

Anyhow, lighten up, folks. It’s only life.

hillbillyjim on July 28, 2008 at 6:40 PM