Beijing really wants to throw a good party next year. But just how high does its ambition reach? Let’s review the sometimes preposterous, always awe-inspiring feats of organization and engineering the central government has announced to make sure the Olympics go smoothly:
1. Beijing wants to put on the most wide-ranging torch relay in Olympic history. They want the torch to be carried 85,000 miles, for 130 days, across five continents and up Everest. To that end, they’ve announced that they will start building a US$20 million highway up Mount Everest. The highway will rise to a base camp at 17, 060 feet. Everest is 29, 035 feet high.
What might go wrong: Taking the torch up Everest means entering Tibet, which is sensitive territory for the central government. Tibet has been the major lens through which the rest of the world views China, thanks to the likes of Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys, and a protest or two along the brand-new highway would not be completely unexpected.
2. Everyone knows the air in Beijing isn’t exactly fresh (‘heavily polluted’ may be a more accurate descriptor), so what’s the government going to do about it? They’re going to shut down factories and construction for two months around the Olympics, that’s what. They’re already relocated or closed 190 chemicals plants to date. On top of that, they’re talking about stopping heavy vehicles and other traffic measures to make sure athletes get the oxygen-rich air they need to perform well. Talk about zealous.
What might happen: Beijingers may get so used to seeing the sky that they’ll demand it for the rest of the year. It might be difficult to readapt to constant smog after the Olympics.
3. The heavens are fickle, but Beijing will have none of that. In order to improve on the 50% chance of rain during the Games, the government has announced plans to force rain in the run-up, through a process known as cloud-seeding. Officials recently had a chance to test this plan out when they fired (SCMP pay-wall link) 39 silver iodide rockets into the air to seed clouds to flush away toxic algae choking Tai Lake in Wuxi. The good news is, it worked.
What might happen: A slim chance that it won’t rain doesn’t mean no chance. A downpour during a critical Games event could put a damper on the bureaucrats’ rainmaking attempts.
Any other examples of Beijing’s over-zealousness you know of? We’d love to hear about them. Leave us a comment.