Typhoons may strike host cities, weather chiefs warn

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2008, 12:00am

Forecasters predict treacherous weather during Games

Organisers of the Beijing Olympics could be left praying to the heavens after forecasters predicted a range of treacherous weather during the 17 days of the Games.

Some of the country's top meteorologists warned yesterday that two or three typhoons could affect several coastal co-host cities, including Hong Kong, this weekend after the opening ceremony on Friday.

On top of that, Beijing's August weather may be muggier than normal, stoking further concerns about the health of athletes.

Rain also threatens to disrupt the much-hyped opening ceremony, which organisers have long feared might happen.

'We estimate two or three typhoons will hit China's coastal areas during the Games,' said Qiao Lin , a senior weather official at the China Meteorological Administration. 'They might have Qingdao , Hong Kong and Shanghai in their paths. We will closely monitor and issue early warnings if they do develop into a substantial threat.'

Qingdao is hosting the sailing events, Hong Kong the equestrian events and Shanghai some of the soccer preliminaries. Beijing, however, presents a different sort of challenge.

'Beijing will experience more precipitation and higher temperatures in August compared to a normal year,' said Wang Jianjie , deputy chief of the Beijing Municipal Meteorology Bureau.

But Ms Wang said she believed the hot weather 'wouldn't pose any substantial threat to the smooth running of the sports events', without elaborating.

Sun Jisong, chief weather official at the bureau, said: 'Compared to Atlanta, Sydney and Athens, the Beijing Games are subject to much more complicated weather conditions, including heavier rainfall and more days of treacherous elements.'

While many athletes have listed heat as their top concern, for the organisers of the 31/2-hour opening ceremony the arrival of rain is their biggest nightmare.

'We don't forecast strong downpours on the opening ceremony day but intermittent rainfall is very likely,' Ms Wang said. 'We will issue detailed forecasts for August 8 on Wednesday.'

There are particular fears that the rain could disrupt the 50-minute centrepiece gala show that features a spectacular fireworks display.

Zhang Qiang, a weather manipulation official from the Beijing municipal government, said that although her team was prepared to intervene in the weather for the opening ceremony, with cloud seeding if necessary, she was not sure how effective the measures would be.

'The technology remains at an experimental stage,' she said.

Organisers, nevertheless, do want more rainfall when events start - to help dispel the capital's smog.

'The crystal clear air quality in the past few days owes a lot to favourable weather conditions, including rain,' said Guo Hu , chief of the bureau, referring to the markedly improved air quality in the capital over the past few days. 'We hope the trend will carry on during the Games.'