Clearing the Beijing Air

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Editor's Note: Jodi Noffsinger, an American living in Beijing, is filing regular updates on the scene at the Olympics in The Beijing Blonde column on

A much needed rain showered Beijing Sunday night. Living in Beijing, one comes to love the rain because it usually guarantees clear skies the next day. Let's hope that's the case for the athletes' sake.

I was never one to obsess over weather before moving here, but after seeing how much it affects pollution levels, I can't help myself. I know this is the case for a lot of foreigners living here. Interestingly though, the Chinese people I know aren't so bothered by the constant haze over Beijing. Perhaps its because they've never known anything else.

Occasionally, I've seen locals wearing thick surgical masks on bad air days, but usually these mask are worn if a sandstorm is blowing into the city. I'm sure the pollution will still be one of the major headlines of the games as it fluctuates over the next two weeks.

Besides the air dominating headlines, China's growing medal count is also big news here. A week ago, I imagined after the games started and China won gold, I'd be seeing people running through the streets celebrating and waving Chinese flags, but it's still oddly quiet in Beijing, at least in residential areas where there are no Olympic venues.

There were definitely fewer people out during my morning walks in the park and evening strolls around the neighborhood this weekend. Even at my local park, the morning after the opening ceremonies, it looked like many of the older Chinese who faithfully practice Tai Chi had slept in.

Maybe it was the heat or late night Olympic matches that kept people in, but my guess is that everyone's also watching the games at home. I'm curious to see if things pick up as the workweek starts. I also hope to check out a few of the official public viewing screens that have been set up across the city to catch the action there.

Near where I live, Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola has set up it's "Olympic Shuang Zone," (Shuang meaning something like "chill-out,") where there are large TV screens airing the games, among other Olympic-themed areas. Surprisingly, even this massive display wasn't all that crowded Sunday afternoon.

I've also seen TV screens tuned to the games popping up in malls, businesses and restaurants. It seems no one wants to miss any of the action if they do happen to be out. But for those who have TVs, they seem to be staying in the comfort of their homes.

I'm sure that was the case tonight as the much-anticipated USA vs. China basketball game comes to a close. If only China had pulled off a major upset, then I may have seen the Chinese finally get rowdy on the streets! I guess I'll just have to wait for that.