08/07/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Chinese Olympic titan looks to sky, fearing rain

by Wang Zhicheng
Atmospheric conditions are worrying the organizers just hours before the inaugural ceremony for the games. At risk, some of the performances of what has been announced to be the most spectacular opening ever. For some time, China has been funding experiments to "control the weather".

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The major concerns for the organizers of the Beijing Olympics don't stop with terrorism or with the fierce protests of pro-Tibet activists or evangelical Protestants: above all, there is the weather. If it is raining at 8:08 tomorrow night, what has been announced to be the most spectacular and beautiful ceremony in the history of the Olympics will be ruined in a moment. Some parts of the performance - like the part that has thousands of acrobats "flying" through the air like phoenixes - will have to be canceled.

The city's meteorological office continues to look to the sky expectantly and with concern. For almost two hours yesterday, representatives of the office met with journalists, trying to give assurances. They say that there is a 41% possibility of rain, but in the early evening; otherwise - and this is this morning's updated prediction - the weather tomorrow will be cloudy, with temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade, and humidity at 70%.

There are rumors of large-scale Chinese projects capable of modifying the weather: by causing it to rain before the time for the ceremony; bringing winds to sweep away the clouds; shutting down all of the cars in the city to improve air quality. The fact remains that years of titanic efforts to show the world China's greatness are hanging by the slimmest of threads, the will of heaven, before which even the most powerful titans must bow their heads.

Titanism is one of the characteristics of the era of Mao, whose great projects of industrialization (the great leap forward) and flood control measures led to the greatest disasters in the country's recent history, leaving tens of millions dead.

Titanism is also the background of these Olympics, which are supposed to show the world the image of a powerful, modern, efficient, all-encompassing China.

But the weather is making a mockery of this brilliant image. This morning, Beijing woke to a blanket of dim fog, a sickly sun in the sky, and a pollution level almost twice the standard set by the World Health Organization. The Beijing Olympic Committee is still afraid that some of the athletes might come out tomorrow night wearing masks to protect their lungs.

The operation to present a clean image has succeeded above all in one aspect: in eliminating beggars and migrant workers from the city. After bringing them to build the wonders of the Olympic Village and the capital's breathtaking skyscrapers, they've been sent on their way. The absence of migrants is felt above all by the ordinary people: at the neighborhood markets there is no fresh fruit or vegetables, provisions typically sought out by these low-cost manual workers.

There is not a single poor person or worker among the torchbearers: they are all leading personalities, athletes of worldwide fame, party officials, managers of Chinese, Hong Kong, Taiwanese, foreign companies . . . Not a single ordinary citizen of Beijing. Even though these are the "Beijing" Olympics, the people of Beijing are being advised by posters and flyers to remain at home "to avoid causing problems for the foreign guests".

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