Filed by staff writer Herman Wang
The first thing you notice about Beijing is the air pollution. A blanket of haze envelops the city, blocking out the sun for days at a time, and even buildings just three or four blocks down are obscured. It was incredible to see it through the windows of my plane flying in, and as we descended for landing, the only thing you could see was a dense gray layer, until a runway appeared just seconds before we touched down.
Coal heaters and stoves, immense auto traffic and nearby manufacturing plants are largely to blame, along with lax environmental regulations, and Im told spring is the worst time of year for it.
Tuesday night, a dust storm blew through, carrying away much (but not all) of the haze, and Wednesday, I got my first glimpse of the sun since Ive been here. I had heard about Beijings pollution problems, but its still quite something to witness, even for this Los Angeles native who was used to seeing and breathing smog.
The second thing you notice about Beijing is the construction. The city and the country as a whole is rapidly modernizing, and construction cranes are literally on every corner. Its a bit sad to see the citys hutongs, or old traditional neighorhoods, being razed for shiny new high-rise condos and apartments, but progress is progress, I suppose. There is a big push to get a lot of the projects done before the 2008 Summer Olympics, which Beijing is hosting.
My fiancee, Megan, and I visited the construction site of the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, and she was able to take a few photos before a policeman chased us away. Apparently taking pictures of the uncompleted stadium is forbidden.
E-mail Herman Wang at firstname.lastname@example.org
Construction is well under way on this Olympic
stadium in Beijing