China promises cleaner and greener Beijing for Olympics

Chen Cheng Huan

Chen Cheng Huan

Chinese authorities are promising a cleaner, greener and a culturally vibrant Beijing.

The 2004 Athens Olympics ended with a resonant applause echoing in the closing ceremony. The next step is preparing China’s for the next Olympic games in 2008.

On July 13 of last year, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Games to Beijing, China’s capital city. Since then, organizers have vowed to transform the city from “gray” to “green” and started working on many of the city’s infrastructures, especially the public transportation system. Communist Party Secretary Jia Qinglin said the Chinese government wants to have the most outstanding Olympic Games with the highest standard of quality.

The Forbidden City — the pride and icon of Beijing — was once home to emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. During the late Ming dynasty, there was a peasant uprising, and it was at the Forbidden City that the head of the uprising assumed his throne as Emperor — but he was overthrown in 49 days.

The Forbidden City has also seen its fair share of love affairs and tragedies played out in its halls. With such a colorful history, the race is on to restore the landmark for the Olympic Games in 2008, when visitors are expected to flow in from all over the world.

At the Forbidden City, the facelift of the walls, stairways, and doors of the palace are undergoing heavy restoration. The work has proven to be highly challenging, given the difficulty, among other things, of finding the right type of materials. During the Ming dynasty, the palace was built using a specific type of wood known as nan wood. But from the Qing dynasty onwards, this type of wood could not be found, and pinewood had been used instead.

On the battle against air pollution, Beijing authorities have pledged to put more natural gas-driven buses on the streets. But as such buses require special fuel stations that are found only in specific parts of Beijing, they will comprise less than 20 percent of the total fleet. Other measures to tackle air pollution have been adopted, such as closing down or relocating factories guilty of polluting the environment — all to ensure that by 2008 the skies in Beijing will be cleaner and fresher.

Despite the excitement in the country, some are critical. One criticism shows that human rights are still an issue in China. The city government has been criticized for overpowering the city’s poor in order to build Olympic venues and roads. The government has been using Olympic preparations as a reason to demolish rundown buildings and improve its transportation system.

Another criticism reflects an old undesirable Chinese trait – keen on saving face. Critics question why the city government did not try hard to improve the air quality of the city, improve the water quality in its river, and rebuild sections of its old city wall until now knowing that it was elected as the host country for these international games.

To conclude, I would like to use a Chinese adage to echo this criticism, is “to embrace Buddha’s feet in one’s hour of need.”

Chen Cheng Huan is a graduate student from Taiwan.

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