How China got blue skies in time for Olympics

blue sky

The blue skies greeting Olympic athletes here this month are a stark change from just a decade ago when the city’s choking air pollution was dubbed an “Airpocalypse” and blamed for scaring off tourists.
Beijing’s air still has a long way to go but is measurably better than past years when smog often made it difficult to see nearby buildings and people wore masks to protect themselves from pollution, not COVID-19. The city’s notorious pollution also made news in 2016, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself jogging in the haze through Tiananmen Square with a smile on his face. Some mused on social media that he was trying to ingratiate himself with Chinese authorities.
Yet at this month’s Beijing Games, the air is clear enough for athletes to see the mountains surrounding the city.
A look at what’s behind the transformation.
WHAT CHANGED?
After pollution hit record levels in 2013 and became a source of international attention and widespread public discontent, China launched an ambitious plan to improve its air quality and said it would fight pollution “with an iron fist,” according to a recent report from the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago. That was also around the time the country bid on this month’s Winter Games.
The ensuing efforts were similar to the measures China had previously taken to ensure clear skies for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, but on a larger scale, the report notes. Tougher emissions standards were imposed on coal-fired plants and the number of cars on the road.