Beijing planning to cut Olympic traffic
Updated: 2006-05-19 10:50

BEIJING - Faced with traffic and pollution problems as they prepare for the 2008 Summer Olympics, officials in the Chinese capital are drafting contingency plans that include an extended holiday for the city's huge government work force during the games or limiting the days residents can drive.

Partial traffic bans and special lanes for Olympic traffic on some roadways already are being planned, and other measures are being considered to deal with the city's smothering traffic and smog.

"We're striving to achieve better air quality by the 2008 Games to welcome the athletes and the Olympic family," Jiang Xiaoyu of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee said at a news conference Thursday at the end of a three-day inspection visit by the International Olympic Committee.

With soaring car ownership and other effects of economic growth, the city of more than 15 million residents regularly is choked in brown haze and jammed traffic, lengthening commutes and frustrating citizens and officials.

The IOC inspectors' visit occurred as a sandstorm coated the city in yellow grit. For much of Tuesday and Wednesday, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau recorded severely polluted air in the capital.

City and Beijing Olympic officials stress the situation is improving. Jiang said nearly two out of three days last year had air quality ranked good or better. He ticked off a list of measures being taken to improve traffic, from adding more highways to lengthening the subway system.

In reviewing Beijing's progress toward the Olympics, the IOC delegation expressed confidence in the city, said it was meeting its targets and praised the construction of sports venues, especially a futuristic swimming center and a national stadium known as the "Bird's Nest" because of its lattice steel exterior.

"You can't think of any other word than 'stunning,'" said Hein Verbruggen, the head of the IOC's coordination committee.

Page: 12