The air is much worse today, July 24 China time, with fifteen days to go until the opening ceremonies, than it has been in the last two weeks or so, even after the Big Shutdown of factories and traffic that began five days ago.What does it say about the IOC that its chosen city for 2008 can do no better than to "cover up" a problem of such magnitude -- temporarily sanitizing itself -- for the sake of hosting a single athletic competition? Millions of Chinese children deserve better than to grow up in such a polluted city as Beijing has become. How many of today's would-be Chinese Olympians have their dreams cut short by asthma, cancer, or other byproducts of China's reckless growth?
Television pictures of gagging and gasping Olympians might be disquieting to viewers -- not to mention dangerous for the athletes themselves -- but such a spectacle might just prod China to finally make improved air quality a national priority. If the Olympic Games fail for environmental reasons, not only China but governments around the world might resolve to make the cities of tomorrow safe for outdoor physical activity. What a testimony to the Olympic spirit! By failing, these Games might succeed like none other before.