Beijing says "blue sky days" bode well for Games

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing is on track to ensure clean air for August’s Olympics after marking the least polluted first quarter in the Chinese capital in nearly a decade, Xinhua news agency quoted an environmental official as saying.

Beijing notched up 67 “blue sky days” from January to the end of March, 12 more than the same period a year earlier and the highest in nine years, Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau Vice-Director Du Shaozhong said, according to Xinhua.

“Beijing is prepared in terms of air for the Olympic Games,” Du said on Monday, according to Xinhua.

The city’s standard for a “blue sky day” has not been widely recognized by international scientists and some foreign media have accused local officials of fiddling with measures to get the desired results.

Smog that regularly blankets Beijing is a major worry for athletes. Marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie said earlier he would not compete in the Games because of the pollution.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has said some events could be rescheduled if the air was too polluted.

China has invested some 120 billion yuan ($17.11 billion) over the last decade to improve its environment and has promised a spate of special measures to guarantee breathable conditions come August.

Along with cleaning up Beijing, China has also given nearby provinces targets to reduce pollution by using air-cleaning technology and closing some industry.

(Take a look at the Countdown to Beijing blog at

Reporting by Simon Rabinovitch, editing by Mary Gabriel