You have to give the Chinese credit for trying to clean up Beijing during the 2008 Olympics. Their methods, while borderline authoritarian, have resulted in a significantly cleaner and friendlier looking China — the perfect reflection of a global economic superpower that should be hosting the games.
Several weeks before the games, officials attempted to curtail pollution by shutting down or constraining many of the factories in the region. While air quality has still been poor — one out of three cyclists in a recent race had to drop out because of the conditions — rain and cooler temperatures are now helping the conditions improve.
Other measures taken have had broader, more ominous impact among the resident population. At the same time that factory pollution cuts were mandated, residential vehicle traffic was also halved to cut down on emissions. Commuters were forced to take other transportation to work and trains and buses hemorrhaged with passengers as millions of Chinese jockeyed through Beijing trying to get to work.
In another district of the capital, developers decided that a particular neighborhood reflected poorly on the image of the country. Their solution? Build a wall around it. Despite the fact that multiple businesses and storefronts faced the street, an eight foot wall was erected around the region, blocking out the questionable content and creating a cleaner, more “tourist friendly” look.
Take a look at this brief video put together by the Boston Globe. Would you be happy with a wall like this in front of your storefront? .