Beijing squeaks by to hit "blue sky" target

BEIJING Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:20am EST

Workers erect scaffoldings for the 2008 Olympic Games countdown event in Beijing August 2, 2007. Strong winds over the weekend helped clear Beijing of a blanket of smog by Sunday, meaning it finally hit its target of 245 ''blue sky days'' in 2007 on the second-to-last day of the year. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

Workers erect scaffoldings for the 2008 Olympic Games countdown event in Beijing August 2, 2007. Strong winds over the weekend helped clear Beijing of a blanket of smog by Sunday, meaning it finally hit its target of 245 ''blue sky days'' in 2007 on the second-to-last day of the year.

Credit: Reuters/Claro Cortes IV

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Strong winds over the weekend helped clear Beijing of a blanket of smog by Sunday, meaning it finally hit its target of 245 "blue sky days" in 2007 on the second-to-last day of the year.

Beijing's notorious air pollution is a major concern for athletes and the organizers of next year's Olympics, which it will host in August.

City officials, who are setting a more ambitious target of at least 256 days with relatively good air quality in 2008, were relieved that this year's mark wasn't missed, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"We anticipated the last 'blue sky' day more than 10 days ago, but lingering fog and sandstorms frustrated us in the past week," Xinhua quoted Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, as saying.

Beijing's standard for a "blue sky day" has not been widely recognized by international scientists.

But the narrowness of achieving this year's target underlines the challenges city officials face in ensuring that next year's Games are not marred by noxious air pollution.

Olympic chief Jacques Rogge has said that some events may have to be rescheduled if the air quality is not good enough.

The host city has already spent 120 billion yuan ($16.4 billion) on environmental programs to combat pollution, and city officials have said more efforts are planned.

($1=7.30 yuan)

(Reporting by Jason Subler; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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