2010 Oct 11 Beijing Reels Under Heavy Weekend Pollution
After a “Golden Week” of clear skies, Beijing welcomed returning vacationers with a weekend of severe fog and pollution. Yesterday the city was rated as the most polluted of the 47 Chinese cities monitored by the China National Environmental Monitoring Center, although this still only earned it a “poor” categorization from the centre – “hazardous” apparently requires something akin to nuclear fallout. The weekend’s “fog” closed roads, affected the China Open and reduced daytime light levels in the capital on Sunday to something resembling nighttime.
The “fog” – China’s euphemism for pollution so bad that you can’t see buildings ten feet away – that came in Friday closed down highways and was responsible for car accidents across the country. Saturday the Global Times reported that the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Highway was closed because of the fog, though the paper didn’t specify exactly where the closures occurred on the 2,500-plus km route.
The fog was also a problem for tennis players at the China Open. The Global Times quoted Novak Djokovic, "We had so many long rallies, and it's hard to recover when you don't have fresh air. A box of oxygen or something on the bench would be great.” Officials denied any problem however. Li Shuang of the China Open Organizing Committee told the Global Times that the organizers “Do not see a problem here. What do you expect us to do? Provide oxygen bottles for every player?" Play was graciously delayed due to rain on Sunday evening.
Mercifully heavy rain last night cleared the air by this morning, and after sitting well over 400 for the last few days, the US embassy’s air particle index was sitting at a comfortable “Very Unhealthy” rating of 224 at midday today.