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Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008


Better air quality lifting spirits

BEIJING — There's been a concerted effort to reduce pollution in Beijing and surrounding areas. These efforts are paying off.

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Beijing's air quality in August is the best it's been since August 1998, the China Environmental Monitoring Center has reported.

Cleaner air can improve people's collective moods as well. On Friday and Saturday, there were clear blue skies near National Stadium and the Water Cube and most people were in an upbeat mood.

On Sunday, a long queue of taxis, more than 300 meters in length, lined up on one of the main thoroughfares near the Fencing Hall of National Convention Center. Taxi drivers waited patiently for the next person or group requesting a ride.

Some cabbies sat in their cabs with the engines running. Others turned their engines off and popped the gear shift into park, and when it was their turn to proceed forward toward the front of the line, they shifted the stick into neural and pushed the car forward.

Little steps like these can make a big difference over time. The cabbies will make their arm muscles stronger as well.

* * * * *

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"Ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the national anthem of Slovenia," the stadium announcer said on Sunday night moments after Primoz Kozmus picked up the gold medal in the men's hammer throw.

Yes, it was the first time I had ever heard those words. (I'm glad I was able to clear that up for you.)

The national anthem of each gold medalist's home country is played at the Olympic Games during the awards ceremonies.

Millions are quite familiar with China's national anthem now, but the anthems of Jamaica, Mongolia, Indonesia, Azerbaijan and North Korea, for instance, have also been played.

I hope to hear the Togo national anthem before the Closing Ceremony.

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