Seeing Is Believing

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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

For all the talk of pollution in Beijing before these games, the predominantly blue skies we've had these last two weeks have moved the Olympics front and center and pushed pollution concerns out of the headlines. While the weather hasn't been perfect — some very hot and humid days ushered in the games and a few days of rain spoiled some events — it's been better than anyone expected. This is both good and bad.

Of course it's been great for athletes who have been competing in grueling outdoor sports. And with the smoggy haze lifted, it's made being out and around Beijing all the more enjoyable for spectators. Even a few of my expat friends who were considering leaving Beijing after the Olympics, have contemplated staying there if the skies could always be this clear and blue.

Foreign reporters will probably leave here thinking the pollution's not all that bad. And for these two weeks it hasn't been as bad as earlier reports suggested, but that's because only half of Beijing's cars are on the roads and many factories in and around Beijing have been shut down for the last month. But without all the media attention after the games, will the world spotlight remain on Beijing's air? Probably not.

The sad reality is that after these games and next month's Paralympics, Olympic host city Beijing will go back to being the way it was, with cars cramming the roads and factories running double time to make up for lost production. And the city's residents will once again be faced with murky skies. Unless that is Chinese environmental officials, having seen how wonderfully pleasant Beijing can be with blue skies, continue to implement measures to clean the air and keep it that way.

But it seems there's promise on the pollution front, as Beijing's deputy director of the environmental protection bureau, Du Shaozhong, said during a press conference this week that they plan to build on the "successful experiences" they've had with Beijing air quality during the games, making Beijing a "much more livable city."

China Daily's headline from this press conference declares, "Nothing But 'Blue Skies' From Now On." An ambitious goal, but only when they tackle air quality like they've won gold medals, can Beijing's 17-million residents breathe a fresh-air sigh of relief.