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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/6/08

Beijing Air Pollution Will Kill Several Olympic Athletes; US Trainer Takes Precautions; Olympians Wearing Masks?

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I must make it really clear right off the bat that I have always been contemptuous of Beijing holding the Olympics, because of my knowledge of the genocidal toll on the Tibetans that China has exacted since 1949, in which almost 20% of the Tibetan population was killed by Chinese genocidal thugs at the top levels of government. One of these genocidal thugs, Hu Jin Tao, became China's President, having orchestrated the 1992 "crackdown" in Lhasa. I have so many Tibetan friends, that, by osmosis, I have come to look at everything China does and says with skepticism, and sometimes, with outright hostility, much as traumatized European Jews continue to be angry with the National Socialist master-race genocidal ideologies and actions for having propagandized the commission of their ancestors' murders in concentration camps, as if 70 years later, Berlin were chosen to be a center for the study and practice of International Law.

China has epic ghastly pollution: the air, the water, and the very food it
exports. Regattas for sailing and yachting in the Olympics are supposed to
take place in waterways that are now totally choked with algae resulting from massive chemical pollution, and thousands, including military, have been conscripted into algae cleaning efforts.

No pet owner has forgotten the Chinese melamine that made its way into American pet food, killing thousands of US pets last year, and fake glycerine-in-actuality-ethylene-glycol from Chinese sources intent on saving a few yuan to make the switch, into toothpaste which killed hundreds in Central America, particularly in Panama.

Aside from whether China DESERVED to be given the hosting of the Olympics in 2008, at this point a moot question, the karmic stains from the Tibetan and Uighur genocides upon China remain as vivid and as nauseating to the very few who are conscious of such things, as the stains on our own nation vis-a-vis our atrocities in much of the Middle East, which will go on and on in their impacts for decades into the future in most of the Islamic World, which, don't forget, includes at least 40% of Africa.

I wrote as early as 2002 to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, recommending that Tibetans protest the Beijing Olympics to bring attention to the genocide of the Tibetan People, their perhaps last chance to address this matter, advice which some Tibetans have taken quite seriously.

I write this today hoping for a sense of reconciliation towards most of the world that we have alienated in the past 8 years with the Bushies and the Neocons, but I also am deeply concerned for the athletes' health going to Beijing. I regretfully predict that several will die there, not from terrorists, due to the massive security paranoia in the Chinese authorities, but from plain old air pollution, especially runners and cyclists doing long distances in that infernal smog.

[Thanks to the Wharton School]

Runners gagged as they limbered up and smog engulfed Hong Kong's Tsing Ma Bridge. Pollution index readings on this morning in February 2006 were at 149, and any reading over 100 is unhealthy, yet 40,000 runners in China's Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon, were unaware of the coming tragedy.

Later that day,Tsang Kam-yin, 53, a three-time marathoner, collapsed and died; 20 runners would be hospitalized, many for respiratory ailments and asthma attacks. "Everyone who took part in the marathon was at risk of harm to their health from pollution," wrote Anthony Hedley, of Hong Kong University's department of Community Medicine, upbraiding the oblivious marathon organizers.

Wharton's professor Z. John Zhang, has called the Beijing Olympics a "coming-out" party for the world's most populous nation. Governments are investing billions in sports venues like the Bird's Nest in Beijing, the stadium under construction; subway-line extensions, etc., to make the games a world-class spectacle. Yet I predict that the air pollution will crash the Olympic party and focus world attention on environmental problems. China has good cause to worry about its image. The government tried to transform Beijing into some phony Chinese "Beacon of Greenism."

Sun Weide, deputy director of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games, recently described the effort to bring Beijing's air pollution into line with global standards. The city has relocated more than 100 chemical, steel and pharmaceutical factories outside the city and replaced 300,000 polluting taxis and buses with less-polluting vehicles and plans to replace coal furnaces with natural gas, rushing builders to finish construction before the games so that dust from the building projects has a chance to settle, plus four new subway lines.

In 1998, Beijing recorded only 100 "Blue Sky" days with acceptable pollution, and by 2005, the capital had 244 Blue Sky days. "We will meet air quality standards of the Chinese government and most cities of the world," he said. A cleaner capital could be the legacy of the 2008 event, but at the expense of the athletes' health? China needs much, much more than a quick-fix for its broader environmental crisis stemming from its weak legal system, corruption, poverty, two decades of double-digit industrial growth putting job growth ahead of the environment, and Communist propaganda that promoted man's ability to conquer nature, rather than work in harmony with nature.

Meanwhile, factories spew toxins and particulates into the air, and rivers are choked with sewage. Acidification has spread to 30% of China's cropland, and the Georgia Institute of Technology reports that the range of ozone exposure in agricultural regions in the Yangtze River Delta is enough to reduce yields by 10%. In Southern Guanxi Province, 92% of the sewage from the province's cities flows into rivers, but installing treatment plants would cost $400 million in an area where yearly income is about $1,500 to

According to the World Bank, 16 cities in the world with the worst air pollution are located in China. The country's Ministry of Science and Technology has estimated that 50,000 newborn babies a year die from the effects of air pollution. Tens of thousands of factories in the Pearl River Delta, an area where U.S. retailers like Wal-Mart source products for stores, are blamed for polluting Hong Kong.

Chemical spills have flowed into eastern Russia, contaminating Russian drinking water, and Chinese pollution has been detected on California's coast. Reliant on coal, China's emissions of carbon dioxide, the global warming gas, are expected to surpass the USA'S in 2009.

Pan Yue, vice minister of China's State Environmental Protection, wrote in November 2006 in the Wall Street Journal:

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