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Beijing air clears in time for dress rehearsal

Beijing held a full Olympic opening ceremony dress rehearsals on Saturday, with skies overhead finally clear of pollution. $18 billion has been spent on cleaning up the air, including taking cars off the roads and closing factories.

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BEIJING - Olympic host city Beijing was bathed in blue skies on Sunday as official pollution levels stayed low while late-summer heat climbed five days before the Games open.

 

A week after the city was cloaked in a humid haze trapping fumes and dust, rains and breezes have cleared the air, easing worries for now about Olympic Games athletes suffering in smog.

 

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (www.bjepb.gov.cn) said air quality was "good" in the 24 hours up to midday Saturday, with the main pollution worry -- tiny particulate matter -- at what China considers acceptable levels.

 

The city meteorological bureau (www.bjmb.gov.cn) forecast a top temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday, with a light breeze continuing to hold down pollution. It forecast similar rain-free conditions for Monday.

 

Pollution fears have dogged the build-up to China's biggest ever international event. About half of Beijing's 3.3 million cars are off the road, $18 billion has been spent on clean-up measures, and manufacturers around the city have closed down.

 

But fetid haze could return, and many of the more than 10,000 athletes are still delaying their arrival for the Aug. 8-24 Games until the last minute to avoid bad air.

 

The glaring sunlight may also increase ozone levels, a pollutant not measured by the city's official air quality index. At high levels, ozone can affect breathing.

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