Rain free Beijing opening ceremony guaranteed

BEIJING Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:38am EDT

A man walks past the official logo for the 2008 Beijing Olympics during a countdown ceremony in Hong Kong, in this March 27, 2007 file photo. Beijing's meteorological bureau believes it can manipulate the weather to guarantee a dry opening ceremony at next year's Olympic Games, an official said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A man walks past the official logo for the 2008 Beijing Olympics during a countdown ceremony in Hong Kong, in this March 27, 2007 file photo. Beijing's meteorological bureau believes it can manipulate the weather to guarantee a dry opening ceremony at next year's Olympic Games, an official said on Wednesday.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing's meteorological bureau believes it can manipulate the weather to guarantee a dry opening ceremony at next year's Olympic Games, an official said on Wednesday.

Rainfall is often made heavier by cloud seeding in the drought-stricken Chinese capital but scientists have also been testing "artificial mitigation of rainfall" and found it can be effective in small areas.

"We are talking about limited areas, the area around the National Stadium," Zhang Qiang, head of the office of weather manipulation, told a news conference.

"We will provide a guarantee for the main Olympic stadium...we take various artificial measures so the rain falls before it arrives at the area."

The opening ceremony will be open to the elements after a decision was made two years ago to cut costs by not building a roof on the National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest.

Wang Yubin, the chief engineer at the bureau, said studies of the weather patterns over the last 30 years indicated there was a 50 percent chance of some rainfall on the day of the opening ceremony, August 8 2008.

"The rain might have a negative impact on the opening ceremony," he said.

"We have already conducted tests of artificial mitigation of rains, we will take necessary preparations for rain mitigation for the opening and closing ceremonies.

"Our measures are quite effective in a limited area but over a large area we cannot reduce this rainfall to the minimum, to be frank."

AIR QUALITY

Before Beijing hosts prestigious guests or events, there is often heavy rainfall which has the effect of clearing the city's heavily polluted air for a few days. Many locals credit the meteorological bureau for the rainstorms.

Wang Jianjie, deputy director of the bureau, conceded that there were positive side-effects in air quality but said the main motivation was to help with Beijing's water shortage.

"Rainfall is a good natural element to clear the air," she said. "We sometimes need certain conditions to be in place anyhow. If those conditions are there, we will try to increase the rainfall."

There was good news about Beijing's other weather blight, the sandstorms that whip across the city.

"In the past 50 years, there have been no sandstorms in August," said Guo Hu of the Beijing observatory. "We can be assured there will be no sandstorms during the Beijing Olympic Games."

The weather bureau has an intricate and detailed plan for forecasting the weather at every venue for the duration of the Games but its officials are not pinning all their hopes on science.

"The statistics show that heavy rain and extremely hot weather are unlikely during the Games," said Wang Yubin. "But we believe god will bless us and there will be no heavy rain."

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