Please rain on my parade

Hallelujah! When I drew my curtains this morning, I could see the Beijing television tower, a good 10 km (six miles) from my bedroom window. Five days of smog had cleared overnight.

When I stepped onto my balcony I understood why. A fitful breeze was blowing, which had not only cleared the air but cooled it. The steaming sludge we have been breathing in Beijing for the last few days had gone.

And as I write, the rain is pelting down in sheets fierce enough to make people outside run for cover, even if they have umbrellas. More good news for the Olympic organizers, who have - ironically - been praying for bad weather.

Because bad weather makes for better air. Wind and rain is just what BOCOG needs to clean the city’s pollution out of the atmosphere. It seems strange that the authorities should be hoping for just the sort of weather that would ruin any other major outdoors event, and of course they don’t want this to happen too often.

But the Chinese government has done just about everything it can do to reduce pollution, like closing factories within a 100 km radius of the capital, banning citizens from driving every other day and shutting down building sites.

It has a few more cards up its sleeve: the official China Daily newspaper reported yesterday that the authorities were prepared to order as many as 90 per cent of private vehicles off the roads if the situation requires it. But in the end, it is going to come down to the weather.

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