Something familiar, something new

For several days skies have looked better and better in Beijing, and last night I rashly declared to friends that I thought the corner had been turned.

Well, maybe there are a few corners ahead. Here's the view just now,11am, July 16, 2008. Way better than it's been in the very recent past, but still some room for improvement with only 23 days to go:

Here's the new angle: An article today in the China Daily, the English-language vehicle for official views, took a much more tentative tone about Olympic "weather" than I'd seen before.

"Weather," in the context of the Olympics, has been taken to mean both the chance of thunderstorms during the August 8 opening ceremony and the more general question of how athletes will handle Beijing's air. Virtually all official statements had been very confident on both points. The much-publicized Chinese rain-making systems would force storm clouds to dump out their water someplace other than over the city, and serious if last-minute cleanup efforts would make the air acceptable for athletes by opening day. (I went into the cleanup plans in some detail in last month's article in the Atlantic.)

Today's China Daily article says something more along the lines of: Hey, we're doing our best, but some challenges are bigger than we are.

"Thunderstorms, heavy rain, high temperatures, muggy skies and even hailstorms could be a problem," said Chen, who is also director of the Olympic Weather Service Center....

[Rainmaking] technology can only prevent light rainfall, [someone else] said. It is powerless against thick, widely spread, huge mass of clouds.

High temperature might be considered a foreseeable risk for an event held in the hottest part of the year. "Muggy skies" is one way of referring to the air-quality question. The article explains that global warming has made all these challenges harder to deal with, which is true enough. The point for now is the lack of the certain, confident, can-do tone about weather issues, compared with previous statements that I've seen.

But me, I'm still a can-do thinker. I still would bet that, after the sweeping shutdown measures that will start in four days, we'll see blue skies! Soon enough we'll know.