Bummed Out in Beijing: Jams, Evictions and Other Pre-Olympic Blues

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Spot the empty lane

In reference to my post below (Rainy Beijing) in which I wondered about the effect vehicle controls on Beijing’s long suffering commuters, please see here for a Reuters story which describes how the capital’s main subway line ground to a halt because of the crush of passengers. Today is the first working day of the alternating ban on odd-even license plates and traffic is noticeably lighter, as you’d expect with half the cars off the road. As you can see from the picture above though, the designation of the outside lane on ring roads as Olympic-only has jammed up the other two lanes to the usual crawl.

On the theme of Olympic silliness meanwhile, we had our first visit at my apartment from the police today to inspect our passports and make sure we were legal. It was a pretty desultory effort. My wife was out on an errand that required her to take her passport but the police didn’t seem to notice or care, despite clearly having consulted a list of residents. I live in the compound that is was originally reserved for diplomats and journalists (foreigners were given permission to live anywhere in the city five years ago) and still houses the offices and homes of many reporters, so you’d think the police would be somewhat flexible. On Friday though the main gate was blocked for an age by no less than three police cars and up to 20 coppers trying to deal with an extremely irate camera crew who were refused permission to bring their equipment into the compound. For extreme pre-Olympic idiocy however, my colleague Jane Macartney of the London Times had an experience that is surely top of the list: she was thrown out of her house. See her account of here. Let’s hope things won’t continue to deteriorate as the Games get closer.