BEIJING Haze settled over Beijing on Wednesday,
two days before the start of the Olympic Games that have been
beset by worries over pollution, but experts were predicting
clear skies for the opening ceremony.
Compounding weather worries, Hong Kong, where equestrian
events are scheduled to start on Saturday, raised a warning for
an approaching tropical storm.
Tropical storms often develop over the South China Sea in
the summer months, growing into full-fledged typhoons
threatening China, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and
"Severe" Tropical Storm Kammuri was centred about 130 km
(80 miles) south-southwest of Hong Kong and was forecast to
That could mean welcome rain later in Beijing, but possible
troubles in Hong Kong, where competitors had discussed the
possibility of a delays in the competition due to the weather.
Cloudy skies were forecast for Wednesday and Thursday in
Beijing where the Environmental Protection Bureau showed that
levels of particulate matter were within the "fairly good"
But humid, still weather and the temperature hitting 34
degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) meant stubborn smog hung over
the city, which has already pulled millions of cars off the
roads and halted factory production to ensure a better Games
environment. Chronic pollution has been one of the biggest
worries for Games organisers who have had to deflect
international criticism over air quality.
For athletes of endurance events, the smog could pose a
major problem and the International Olympic Committee has said
it might reschedule events if the pollution is too bad.
But a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences
predicted Beijing's air quality would stay in the "fairly good"
range for the opening ceremony on Friday, Xinhua news agency
"I think the city's comprehensive and strict measures to
control pollution have paid off," Xinhua quoted Wang Zifa, with
the Academy's Institute of Atmospheric Science, as saying.
Beijing's Meteorological Bureau was forecasting overcast
weather, but Wang predicted rain, which could clear the haze
and brighten prospects for blue skies on Friday.
But the metropolis of 15 million will also see winds from
the south in the next few days, Xinhua quoted environmental
experts as saying, meaning pollution from neighbouring
provinces could waft into the city.
Although officials have a back-up plan to take more cars
off the road in Beijing and nearby Tianjin and close additional
factories in the surrounding province of Hebei, they are
holding off in the hope the weather will clear by itself.
"We haven't been told to implement any additional
measures," Li Jianguo, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal
Bureau of Communications, told Reuters.
The problem of pollution in outlying areas underscores the
complicated challenge the city faces in trying to contain the
environmental effects of decades of breakneck economic growth.
(Additional reporting by Jim Bai; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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