Monica Graves: Will Olympics change China's approach to pollution?

Monica Graves

When I was growing up, my family couldn't wait to watch every bit of Olympics coverage we could. As I've gotten older, I still look forward to the Games, but each time I am more and more disappointed. Not by the Games themselves, but by the controversy that always surrounds them. It could be drugs, politics, terrorism or the environment. Maybe these things have always been a part of the Games and now I'm just more tuned in to the bad aspects.

Amid all of the controversy over this year's Games, I find the air pollution problem to be the most intriguing. In order to help with air pollution, China has required that factories shut down and cars be pulled off the road. There is still a significant problem, but there has also been a big improvement. My question is this: Would America do the same thing? If we were hosting the Olympics in Southern California, which has the dirtiest air in the U.S., according to an air quality map at, would we be willing to take such extreme measures? In the United States, things would have to be much more voluntary than in China because of different government types. Would the American citizen be willing to make personal sacrifices for the health of foreign athletes?

My next question is, will China continue any of these measures once the Games are over? They have one of the largest cities in the world and therefore one of the largest pollution problems. Until the Games were slated to be in Beijing, China was not very willing to work on pollution. So is this just a PR trick or a real change in policy?

Some of the measures Beijing has taken for the games are not so wonderful. They have a severe water problem in the capital city. To solve it for the Games, they are digging canals to drain water away from rural farming areas that have been relying on river water to survive. Hopefully this won't cause famine in China, but I'm not sure that a country with the population of China can afford to import all of their food.

I don't claim to understand the Chinese thoughts on these actions. I admit I am from a completely different culture, government and religion. But I think one of the most interesting things about these Olympics will be what happens to China after they're over.

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