Beijing urges residents to stay home during the Games

BEIJING: Beijing will urge residents to work from home and ask government offices and businesses to stagger their operating hours to ease chronic smog and traffic problems during the Olympics, state press said yesterday.

“As a lot of Olympic competitions will be held at night, we will urge companies to stop work early so that crowds going to matches are not travelling at the same time people get off work,” the Beijing News quoted traffic official Zhou Zhengyu as saying.

“In order to alleviate traffic, we would also like to see those companies with the right working conditions to allow their people to work online and to hold more video and telephone conferences.”

Companies and government offices should also encourage people to take their annual leave during the August 8-24 Games, he said.

Beijing is one of the world's most polluted cities. Vehicle emissions from its 3.3mil cars are largely to blame.

Poor air quality represents one of the biggest challenges to the successful staging of the Beijing Olympics.

The capital has already announced it will ban more than one million cars from the streets during the Games to curb pollution and traffic.

Cars with odd and even-numbered license plates will be ruled off the roads on alternate days for two months starting July 20, the city government said last month.

The plan will result in the number of daily passenger trips aboard public transport rising by about four million to more than 21mil, Zhou said last month.

Subway traffic alone will rise by 1.2mil passenger trips per day, Zhou told the Beijing News.

Beijing would also set up special lanes dedicated to official Games vehicles on its ring roads and airport freeway, the paper said.

International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge has warned that endurance events, such as the marathon, may be postponed to protect athletes from the effects of Beijing's notorious pollution. – AFP

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