Thursday, September 6, 2007

Weak winds of the east

China's Olympic wind woes
By Jonathan Adams
Newsweek 'Why It Matters' blog, August 16, 2007

They can make it rain in Beijing, but can they make the wind blow in Qingdao?

The answer is no -- at least judging by the opening day of the 2007 Qingdao International Regatta, a test event for the Olympic sailing races that will be held here next August. Chinese authorities have boasted of their ability to provide clear skies for the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing next year with technology to empty rain clouds. But in this picturesque coastal city on Wednesday, six of the eight scheduled races were cancelled due to light winds.

That disappointed Chinese spectators, many of them sporting Coca-Cola paper hats and waving red People's Republic of China flags. They'd paid to watch the races from picnic benches at the impressive Olympic sailing center here. But the fact is that Qingdao's winds just aren't that strong compared to similar Western venues, particularly in August. Average August wind speeds here are about 5 meters per second -- over the minimum required for racing by international rules, but short of the ideal, 7 to 8 mps.

Which raises the question of why the northern China city was chosen to host Olympic sailing in the first place. Speaking to a small pack of foreign journalists, Qingdao Vice Mayor Zang Aimin defended the selection, saying the city's wind conditions were not bad compared to those in other Chinese cities that vied for hosting rights, such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dalian. But she acknowledged that wimpy winds are a challenge. "Of course, it's a problem for European and U.S. athletes," she said with a cheerful smile. "They'll have to adapt to the winds of China."

No comments: