BEIJING 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.
(Reporting by Jason Subler; Editing by Alex Richardson)