Beijing won the bid for the 2008 Olympics in part because of its pledge to champion energy efficiency, green building practices, and clean technologies. With an eye-catching, energy-saving aquatics center and a smattering of solar panels installed on many of the new facilities, the city got off to a roaring start. But after seven years (and billions of dollars) spent preparing for the Games, has the notoriously smog-ridden capital become an "ecological city," as promised? Not quite. Watch for these innovations--and missed opportunities--when you tune in this summer.
DESIGN The glowing "Water Cube" aquatics center will recycle water and heat the pool with solar power. Its bubbly, translucent shell, plus tubelike skylights throughout its corridors and parking structures, will reduce energy needs by taking full advantage of natural light. The "Bird's Nest" stadium (pictured during construction, above) will capture rainwater (if any falls in August) for irrigation.
ENERGY Solar energy will warm shower water in the Athletes Village and help power stadiums for soccer, track, and softball events. State media estimate a new 33-turbine wind farm will generate up to 100 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and provide up to 20 percent of the energy needed for the Games.
AIR Some of Beijing's dirtiest coal-fired power plants and factories have been shut down to improve air quality--only to be replaced with new ones outside the city. Chinese officials have required other polluters to close temporarily during the summer. So while athletes may breathe a bit easier, residents will continue to face loads of sulfur dioxide and other pollutants.
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