By Jim Yardley
The New York Times
March 11, 2008
For the world’s athletes, Beijing’s air may be a problem next summer. For the city’s 12 million residents, the pollution is far more serious.
Every day, monitoring stations across the city measure air pollution to determine if the skies above this national capital can officially be designated blue. It is not an act of whimsy: with Beijing preparing to play host to the 2008 Olympic Games, the official Blue Sky ratings are the city’s own measuring stick for how well it is cleaning up its polluted air.
Thursday did not bring good news. The gray, acrid skies rated an eye-reddening 421 on a scale of 500, with 500 being the worst. Friday rated 500. Both days far exceeded pollution levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization. In Beijing, officials warned residents to stay indoors until Saturday, but residents here are accustomed to breathing foul air.