Olympics progress 'considerable' but pollution and traffic an issue

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2007, 12:00am

Games preparation in Beijing has made 'considerable progress' in the past six months, but the environment and traffic still stand out as potential problems, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegation said yesterday at the close of their eighth visit to the 2008 host city.

'We are confident to say that Olympics preparations are at the level we would expect them to be,' IOC Co-ordination Commission chairman Hein Verbruggen said after three days of meetings and site visits.

While he spoke highly of the stadiums, the chairman said: 'there is still a lot of work to be done, although it's normal.'

Mr Verbruggen said it was no secret that in terms of the environment 'the problems are not solved yet', and contingency plans - previously required in Seoul and Los Angeles - had been drawn up by the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympics (Bocog) to ensure optimal air quality during the Games.

He said that over the past two years 'everything promised by Bocog has been delivered' in solving environmental problems. But rapid economic development had added unforeseen complications such as the plague of dust created by the enormous number of construction sites around the city.

'We are very aware of the problem and have worked together' on it, Mr Verbruggen said. 'We are confident that Bocog will deal with it.'

Mr Verbruggen said that while Bocog continued to pin down the factors that might affect air quality during the Games, traffic restrictions and the closing of construction sites and industrial plants would be some probable plans for addressing the issue.

Traffic problems were also highlighted and Mr Verbruggen said the matter was traditionally a difficult subject and had also been a major issue during the Athens Games.

'We still need more details than what have been presented to us for the time being' to assess the potential difficulties that might arise during the Olympics, Mr Verbruggen said.

More than 24 test events will be held this year that Mr Verbruggen stressed were important tools to help Bocog fine-tune its preparations.

On the sensitive topic as to whether the 2008 Olympics torch relay would make a stop in Taiwan, Bocog vice-president Jiang Xiaoyu said it would be 'the common wish of the people of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and mainland' to see the torch on the island.

'I believe that under the IOC principles we can work together to fulfil this common goal,' Mr Jiang said. The exact torch relay route schedule will be announced by end of this month.