TDN with wire dispatces
Beijing is considering banning 90 percent of private cars from its roads and closing more factories in a last-ditch bid to clear smoggy skies for the Olympics, state media reported yesterday.
With just 11 days to go before the start of the world's biggest multi-sports event, Beijing was blanketed in a dense white haze yesterday that cut visibility in the city of 17 million down to just a few hundred meters.
Last week Beijing ordered more than a million cars from the roads and closed dozens of polluting factories but the effort has failed to remove the stubborn layer of unhealthy haze.
Acknowledging the failure of the initial car ban introduced on July 20, Beijing authorities are expected to announce more stringent emergency measures soon, the China Daily quoted the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau as saying.
One plan under consideration put forward by a city environmentalist was to ban 90 percent of all private vehicles from the streets of the capital during the Games, the paper said.
The Beijing Olympic organizing committee was unable to confirm what new measures would be introduced.
"The new car ban represents the personal opinion of an environmentalist professor. As far as we are concerned we have not heard of any such new measures," said spokeswoman Zhu Jing.
Li Xin, an official with the environmental bureau, said that the emergency plan would go into effect before the Games start, according to the China Daily.
"We will implement an emergency plan 48 hours in advance (of the Games) if the air quality deteriorates," he was quoted as saying.
Yesterday, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) declared that the country's athletes will be allowed to withdraw from the Games if pollution their health and safety. AOC vice president Peter Montgomery said athletes had the freedom to pull out of events if pollution levels remained high but doubted whether anyone would withdraw from their events.
"For us the athlete's attitude to the event is paramount. They will be under absolutely no pressure to compete if they feel uneasy or don't want to compete," he told reporters, but he added that he felt that it was not very likely to happen. "It will be extremely unlikely that an athlete won't want to compete. Most of the athletes have been training for 10 years for this moment."
Meanwhile, all tickets to Olympic events in Beijing have been sold, organizers said yesterday, putting the games on course to be the first to ever sell out.
"Tickets to watch competitive events of the 2008 Games in Olympic venues in Beijing are now sold out," said a brief notice on the Beijing Games' Web site.
"BOCOG fully appreciates the consideration offered by supporters for Beijing Olympic ticket sales," it said, identifying the organizing committee by its initials