An important message was delivered today by high ranking Beijing Olympic officials: don't drink the tap water in Beijing next summer unless you're within the Olympic village. In a nutshell, this was the city's attempt in order to "guarantee water safety" - don't drink it. The city has spent billions trying to clean up the city, and these gargantuan efforts still haven't been enough to provide potable drinking water for all. Attention bottled water companies: stake your positions now!
"The quality of the water provided by the water plants is safe enough," said Bi Xiaogang, vice director general of the Beijing Water Management Bureau. "The water is contaminated during the secondary supply process, in the transfer of water. Therefore it is not safe to drink from the tap," Bi said. "We are still working on upgrading the secondary facilities. But in the Olympic Village we will provide safe drinking water from the tap."
What's most disturbing (aside from the fact that it must be assumed that billions of China's residents don't drink potable water) is that this announcement comes so early out from the games. Based on far out they've given the warning, it shows how far behind they are in their efforts, and how little of a chance they have of succeeding.
The battle to provide clean drinking water is just part of the infrastructure upgrades the city has attempted to improve. Others include new subways, highways, and skyscrapers. As much as $160 billion has been spent by the city to bring it up to Olympic standards.
But there's also a battle that you can't put a price on: the effort to improve the behavior of the local residents. This effort has involved coaxing taxi drivers to be polite, teaching people how to line up, and of course, getting people to stop their habit of spitting. Spitting I get, but isn't forming lines a valuable skill taught in the Chinese version of kindergarten?
Great importance, huh? $160 billion and no clean drinking water? Get back to work!
"The 2008 Olympics Games are a national event," Bi said. "Ensuring the water supply is something that the Communist Party of Beijing and the government of Beijing attach great importance to."