Getting Mist

Mark writes :
There’s a lively Twitter community here in Beijing and yesterday’s hot topic wasn’t the demo near Tiananmen Square or the deaths on the north western border, but why it was hard to get a good view anywhere in the city.

One Twitterer was convinced : “it’s called mist, it’s a meteorological phenomenon- athletes get over it and do your job” was one defiant view, another was “i’m in my office looking out- they tell me there’s a road below, but i can’t see it” while others pronounced it smog and that’s it.

Whatever it was, and i’m no weather man, it does affect everything you do. There are stories here that factories on the outskirts of the city are being told to close for half a day. Because of the smog ? No, because apparently the authorities are worried about using too much power and the last thing anyone wants is the lights to go out in the Bird’s Nest during the Olympic Ceremony.

The Twitterers are happier today “just taking in those blue skies” was an early one – “what blue skies ?” said another, who clearly, like me is a newcomer to Beijing.

During previous games, one area of the city becomes a focal point for people to to gather – the Centennial Park (before the bomb) in Atlanta, Circular Quay in Sydney and for Beijing it’s….perhaps predictably, Tiananmen Square.

Well, maybe not predictably. The authorities are very uneasy about the place- for obvious reasons. “cultural” events are staged there every day to keep the vast place full and busy. TV live pieces from there are restricted (which is why you’ll see backdrops of the admittedly wonderful stadium behind your own tv anchors)and too much discussion about 1989 isn’t encouraged.

However, in the evenings, the place fills up and people just…well, walk around. It’s not defiance exactly but there’s something there about “the people” deciding that’s the place they want to celebrate the Olympics.My colleague James will do a piece about this for the World Today – obviously not live, oh no.

By the way, James was doing a bit of research for his piece – his Wikipedia entry on the square briefly loaded and then was removed.

We have a top interpreter with us and she’s more than done you proud – she’s arranged for 5 Chinese people to come to the Fish Nation restaurant on Thursday to take your questions. None of them want to be referred to by their real names and only agreed because it was you- not the BBC- putting the questions. Nelsoni and others, thank you already, please keep them coming.

And finally, i have had business cards made up because i obviously fancy myself as someone important, but also because they are useful for making contacts. My job title roughly translates as “horse of ethics” in Chinese characters. Horse of Essex more like….

12 Responses to “Getting Mist”

  1. 1 Brett
    August 5, 2008 at 12:18

    What if it was like the Mist from the movie! *gasp*

    Lol stay safe! Have fun 🙂

  2. 2 selena
    August 5, 2008 at 13:00

    I sense an excitement, a kind of euphoria. Am I dreaming?

    Trying to think of a good question but the brain falters…

    As always thanks for the update. 🙂

  3. August 5, 2008 at 13:17

    My dearest Mark : Hi… I do have a question for all of you guys down there in Beijing, and especially for James and Dan who both have been BBC correspondents in Beijing for a while : Has anyone of you guys experienced any change while reporting from Beijing during the Olympic period i.e. lesser restrictions and more freedom than before to move around and interview ANY Chinese citizen you guys want to interview no matter of what the views of that Chinese citizen actually are, even if they were very critical of the policies of the Chinese regime ?! And if those positive changes do really exist, does anyone of you guys think that they’ll actually last after the Olympics ?! And do you guys think that the Olympics has induced or will induce a real profound and long lasting change in China ?! With my love… Yours forever, Lubna…

  4. 4 Vijay Srao
    August 5, 2008 at 13:23

    Have the Chinese put in sprinkler systems to supress the dust and smog ,or even seede the clouds with silver nitrate to encourage rain(gets rid of smog).

  5. 5 nelsoni
    August 5, 2008 at 13:28

    Hi Mark,

    It’s great to know that you are doing great.
    You have done us proud by making WHYS from China a real possibility. I know this is not in the Editorial hand book but please can we suggest non chinese names for our five guests? We understand why they don’t want to be looking over their shoulders after the show.

    Thanks for the update

  6. 6 Nick in USA
    August 5, 2008 at 13:54


    I hope you’re enjoying China. The mist you’re referring to is undoubtedly smog. It was the hardest thing for me to deal with while living in Taiwan. I’m sure you’ve done some scootering while there. Have you noticed that your nose is completely filled with black stuff after a few hours of scootering? You may also notice that the sides of buildings are covered with the same black stuff. You can pick up little smog masks pretty much anywhere. I definitely recommend it while traveling on a scoot.

  7. 7 Venessa
    August 5, 2008 at 13:56

    Hi Mark,

    I’ve been to Beijing and not to discount the fact that the air is less than ideal I would say the smog is far worse in other places in China.

  8. 8 ZK
    August 5, 2008 at 14:15

    If someone agrees to be a source for you and asks for anonymity, as a journalist you guard that all the way. I don’t see any difference here, moreso since these guests could face persecution and prosecution if they are named and say something wrong on air. If they have asked not to be named, I would be opposed to any effort made to name these guests publicly.

    And congrats on successfully finding people willing to stay up until 2-3 am to discuss the issues.

  9. 9 Pangolin-California
    August 5, 2008 at 20:06

    That ‘mist’ looks suspiciously like the smoke we had here for a month from multiple wildfires. It appears to be the same color and density. What our smoke felt like was somebody sitting on your chest every time you tried to exert yourself.

    As a former resident of San Francisco I can say that whatever that mist is it’s not fog. Fog is clean and cooling and welcomed by endurance athletes as it helps them cool down and work harder.

  10. 10 selena
    August 5, 2008 at 20:10

    A doctor for the Canadian Olympic Team was interviewed on CBC TV today. He said he was not worried about smog but he was very worried about the heat.

  11. 11 bernadette nairobi
    August 7, 2008 at 18:42

    i feel we should look at the positive aspects of what China has done in the last while, rather than looking for every opportunity we can to criticise them. They don’t like crtiscism, it puts their back up. A somewhat ususal human reaction!!They have tried really hard to put on a good show for the world. The olympic committee has has eight years to oversee and encourage the clean up for the Olympics and beefing about the mist at this point is a bit late in the day,. I visited China a couple of years ago and found the Chinese people wonderfully warm and welcoming. Let us not judge lets just accept China for what she is at the moment not what we want her to be. We are not so perfect, Now let the games begin!!!!!!!
    bernadett Nairobi

  12. August 7, 2008 at 22:27

    Smog apart, which is under potential human control, the so-called “fine dust” factor has been in China ever since the Gobi desert and the arid inner Mongolia to the north have been subject to wind erosion down the centuries. China has made huge strides in reforesting the north but it will be quite long before this source of pollution can be brought under control, if ever. It is perhaps part and parcel of life in China. Masks perhaps can help outside and air conditioning inside living quarters seems to be the only hope, for those who can afford it.

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