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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Fetid air

I'm worried about the Olympic athletes in Beijing. The air there is absolutely fetid. The pollution is so bad you can't even see straight in front of you. It makes Los Angeles look positively sparkling clean. I don't really understand why the Olympic Committee would allow an Olympics in a place that has such terrible pollution.

I have asthma. 90% of the time it is under control. I know how to take care to ensure that I don't have many big attacks. But every summer I end up with a doosy of one, mostly because the air is so thick due to hazy humid weather that I end up not being able to breathe. Every time it happens I'm totally surprised because I'm pretty used to breathing without an albuteral rescue inhaler in my hand.

Last night I wasn't so lucky. I coughed the whole night, which is the first sign for me that my airwaves are irritated. When Janice called this afternoon I was coughing a lot and I could feel my voice going. By this evening, I couldn't take a deep breath. Asthma. It does such a number on my body. I can't even imagine what it must be like for kids who don't respond to the treatments and end up hospitalized. The few times that has happened to me, it's been terribly scary.

Getting back to the Olympics, the air quality is terribly poor and many of the events are outdoors. Athletes that aren't used to breathing that kind of air are going to have a lot of coughing asthma. That not only isn't good for the foreign athletes who come from countries with clean fresh air, but it also gives the Chinese an unfair advantage. They're used to breathing in coal dust. It's pretty much what they know in Beijing.

Now the athletes are also worried about the food. China puts so many steriods into their food supply that the athletes are afraid to eat it because they might have a positive result in a doping test. I mean, is this REALLY the best place to hold the Olympics. A country that has made more than a million people homeless by knocking down whole neighborhoods in order to build Olympic stadiums. A country with such terrible air pollution that even if the cars they banned were to stay out of Beijing entirely, the air would still be bad for the athletes. And finally, a country that puts poison into the food supply, so much so that there is a good chance that athletes would be affected by the steroids and hormones.

I'm not a huge fan of the Olympics. I've never been to one, never really wanted to go to one, and if I did, it would be the winter Olympics because I find the sports more interesting to watch. However, I do have a strong opinion on the location of the games. I think it's ridiculous to pander to the Chinese government and allow them to behave in such a cruel manner all in the name of the Olympics. They now are enforcing etiquette rules to the citizens of Beijing, telling them what they can do to appear polite. I can't even imagine that going over in the USA. We just would laugh and do what we want. But in a repressive society, albeit one that is developing quickly into a first world capitalist country, people are afraid to go against the government. So they will sanitize the city and it's people, but the truth is that it's an unpleasant place with an unpleasant government and I fear for the health of all the athletes.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Dave2 said...

When I visited Beijing, my experience wasn't half as bad as you make it out to be... air quality is worse in the winter with the coal they burn for heat, but in the Summer it wasn't noticeably worse than any other major city I've been to. Yet China takes the bullet.

Construction projects on that scale are always going to cause problems for somebody... and it's NOT unique to China. When Tokyo built their new airport in Narita, they displaced a lot of people and paved over some very good farm land. Yet China takes the bullet.

As for "poison" in the food... it's all a matter of perspective. Some would say the high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified shit we eat is far worse. Yet China takes the bullet.

China has one of the oldest continuous civilizations on the planet, and Beijing is a fascinating city that I enjoyed very much. Life is very different than here and, yes, the government has some definite atrocities that need to be addressed... but it isn't like the US government is so spotless and without incident that we can lay judgement. Yet China takes the bullet.

And when it comes time to "teach politeness," this is hardly unique or even, in my opinion, repressive. Trying to halt the spitting on the street, cutting in line, and other activities that make things less pleasant for everybody is common courtesy. You'd think that they were caning people for spitting out their gum or something. Oh wait, that's SINGAPORE, but China takes the bullet.

At some point, we have to stop judging other countries by American standards and accept them for who and what they are. Otherwise, and you can trust me on this, the USA is the one coming up short.

21/7/08 10:08 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

It makes Los Angeles look positively sparkling clean

LA is a hell of a lot cleaner than quite a few cities.

Went to the Olympics in Atlanta. It was a ton of fun. Just a great time.

22/7/08 2:42 AM  
Blogger CharmingDriver said...

I think issues of air and food quality pale (pun intended) in comparison to welcoming black athletes to compete but not wanting them to socialize.

http://www.stereohyped.com/blacks-can-compete-in-beijing-but-they-might-not-get-into-the-bars-after-their-events-20080721/

22/7/08 4:08 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/

Check out James Fallows of the Atlantic.

he's currently lives in Beijing and has been blogging about the topic, with pictures, and everything else about preparations.

I tend to agree with you, but the air the past few weeks has been remarkably better.

22/7/08 8:09 AM  
Blogger Rhea said...

They took dog off the menus, too.

22/7/08 9:43 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Ryan, thanks for the link. I did read much of James Fallow's post on the readiness of the Chhinese to host the Olympics and nothing was particularly surprising to me other than that so few foreigners are expected. The current expectations, based on the packages sold (and required by the Chinese government) is about 140K people vs the 500L that were originally expected. Which means that many people have perceived that the Olympics aren't going to be very good in China for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with the pollution and fear of the food.

Dave, you can support china all you want, but the facts are the facts. China poisoned hundreds, no thousands of American pets by exporting poisoned feed. They did so because they do not have standards. That is a fact.

The chinese government took 1 MILLION homes away and left the people homeless. They did not find alternative homes for the people. They left them in the streets. I don't CARE what Tokyo did. I'm only interested in what CHINA did. That was the subject of my post.

Chinese food is so filled with chemicals and hormones that the Olympic athletes are getting special food from special organic farms that are off limits to the tourists. The point being that CHINA is hosting the olympics and they are being forced to produce special food for the athletes because their food contains so many steriods. I don't care about corn syrup...I don't eat it and I'm pretty clear you know my feelings on your diet (at least the diet that you publically admit to eating). I don't eat junk food or prepackaged garbage. But even if the athletes in China did, they wouldn't fail drug tests because of it. So yes, china DOES take the bullet.

Again, CHINA is hosting the olympics, not any other country. To compare them is falacious as we're NOT holding the Olympics here. If we were, I'd bitch about that. But we aren't. China is. And there are some obvious issues that make those Olympics tainted, not just for me, but for millions of other people as well.

I'm NOT judging by American standards. China can and will do what they want. But if they are holding a world wide event, they need to aquiesce to a world wide standard FOR ATHLETICS. Which is what this is all about.

BTW, I have a cousin who was in the Olympics and he was just talking about what a shame it was that China was the host. Not because he hates china, but because he thinks that the Chinese athletes are going to be advantaged solely because they are raised on the air and diet that others, like the Kenyans, would never be exposed to.

And yes, my cousin was on the Miracle team that beat the Russians in hockey. David Silk. He's a great guy and he has nothing against any race or creed. He is an athlete first and foremost.

22/7/08 3:42 PM  
Blogger Dave2 said...

Supporting China?? Where did I say it was okay that they displaced over a million people in the name of urban renewal?? I was merely pointing out that stuff like this is happening everywhere, all the time, and yet nobody seems to care until the Olympics comes to town.

23/7/08 11:06 PM  

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