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Environment

Smog measures must not destroy Beijing life: official

BEIJING (Reuters) - Measures aimed at providing clean air for August’s Olympics must not be too disruptive to the city’s economy or the lives of the people, organizing committee official and Beijing vice mayor Liu Jingmin said on Wednesday.

People walk in smog in Beijing February 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The Chinese capital’s notorious pollution is one of the major problems facing organizers of the August 8-24 Games, and many athletes and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have expressed concern over the issue.

Beijing and five surrounding provinces will reduce production at big polluting factories and power plants from late July under contingency plans that are also expected to take up to half of the city’s 3.3 million cars off the roads.

“The plan is under evaluation,” Liu told reporters at a meeting of the sports group of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to China’s national parliament.

“We should guarantee the air quality for the Olympics, but we should also guarantee the orderliness of industry and people’s lives,” he added.

Beijing has yet to announce what measures it will take to curtail the number of vehicles on the roads during the Olympics and September’s Paralympics, but Liu scotched reports that restrictions would start as early as May.

“The plan is undergoing study and will only be enforced close to the Games,” said Liu, executive vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG).

“It is not appropriate to start too early and affect citizens getting out and about.”

With just over five months to go until the opening ceremony, Liu said pollution was not the only problem for the organizing committee.

“The biggest challenge for us is to get down to details of final preparations and put them into effect, integrate the power of government as well as society, and check out all venues, equipment, systems, programs and teams,” he said.

Liu also alluded to the rights issues that have dogged China in this Olympic year.

“We are also facing other problem like accusations on ... human rights from some NGOs and western media who are tying up the Olympics with politics,” he said.

Jiang Xiaoyu, also an executive vice president of BOCOG, said his main worry was the weather on August 8.

“What I’m concerned the most about is the possibility of a lot of rain for the opening ceremony,” he said.

(Take a look at the Countdown to Beijing blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)

Writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Alex Richardson

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