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China aims to control weather, T-shirts, body paint for glitch-free Olympics
CanWest News Service[Thursday, July 17, 2008 00:45]
Aileen McCabe, Asia Correspondent

SHANGHAI - God said let it rain. The Chinese said "bu yao."

The country's top meteorologists confirm they are on track to stop light showers from interfering with the Olympic opening ceremonies on Aug. 8.

But a full-blown downpour with thunder and lightning may just be beyond China's storied expertise.

A woman with an umbrella walks past an ad for the Olympics on a rainy day in Beijing on Monday. Concerns exist that rain, which is common in early August in the Chinese capital, might ruin the opening ceremony at the roofless Bird's Nest National Stadium Aug. 8. (David Grey/Reuters)
A woman with an umbrella walks past an ad for the Olympics on a rainy day in Beijing on Monday. Concerns exist that rain, which is common in early August in the Chinese capital, might ruin the opening ceremony at the roofless Bird's Nest National Stadium Aug. 8. (David Grey/Reuters)
"Artificial weather modification could be useful when a drizzle occurs," Chen Zhenlin, vice-president of the Chinese Meteorological Administration, told reporters. "But in the case of heavy rainfall, no one can help."

There is a 41 per cent chance it will rain on Beijing's opening parade and gala, so since 2003 China has been working to perfect "weather modification," salting clouds and such - with limited result.

As for temperatures, the Chinese appear to be relying on wishful thinking rather than high tech solutions.

The official literature distributed to reporters says the average Beijing temperature in August is 25 C. That is the 30 year average, to be exact, and not only fails to take into account global warming, but also the impact 30 years of rapid industrialization, pollution and growth have on climate.

Most guidebooks peg the August temperatures in Beijing at 30 C - and most residents swear they are higher.

Suffice to say, for the rest of this week temperatures there are forecast to top 30 every day.

Chen said his analysis showed "extreme high temperatures" are not likely, but he admitted a heat wave is not impossible. Nor are thunderstorms or hail storms, he said.

The weather, however, is about the only thing the Chinese don't have under full control as they put the finishing touches on their Olympic dream.

Their relentless effort to neutralize any threat of terrorism, any hint of dissent, any spark of protest and even any show of bad taste has guaranteed - as far as is humanly possible - a trouble free Olympics.

Who, for instance, would have thought to ban spectators bringing crossbows to the Games? The Chinese did. Although why they didn't mention longbows, too, is anyone's guess.

In a booklet for spectators published this week the list of no-nos is lengthy and in many cases fairly easily enforced. The prohibition on bringing all banners, leaflets and flags of countries not participating in the Games into Olympic venues, for instance, should be fairly simple to police.

But ensuring that slogans on T-shirts, the colours used for body paint and the designs of temporary tattoos don't violate the ban on religious and political demonstrations could be much, much tougher to do.

The Australia Tibet Council this week offered the country's athletes and people travelling to the Games free green and yellow tees that say "I support human rights," as well as badges, stickers and temporary tattoos of the Tibetan flag.

The council said it would provide the protests kits "in confidence," but warned: "(There is) no doubt that athletes who choose to make public statements over Tibet may face consequences."

It is fairly obvious that "I Love New York" T-shirts will be more acceptable leisure wear at the Olympics than ones saying "I Love Tibet."

But what about the "I Love China" T-shirts that are all the rage here now?

Anyone who wears one - and a lot of young people are this summer - knows the message is a highly nationalistic rebuke to the West for the protests that marred the Olympic Torch relay on its journey around the world.

China has recruited an 80,000-strong army of volunteers to help Olympic visitors and ensure they abide by the rules. They've been trained to smile and be helpful, but rumour has it they have also been armed with red stickers to cover offensive shirts and tattoos.

Given the degree of political savvy and language skill that will require - what exactly are the national colours of Sudan - the lasting visual memory of the Beijing Olympics could easily be a sea of big red dots.
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