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Eleven days to clean air? Olympic host says yes.

Chinese officials say recent antipollution rules are helping. Critics question their data.

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Beijing: Idyllic posters around the city show some blue sky, as officials rush to improve air quality ahead of the Olympics.

Oded Balilty/AP

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As in the past four days, a heavy haze hung over Beijing Sunday, cutting visibility to a quarter mile.

Eleven days before the Games open, pollution levels exceeding China’s official standards are continuing to cause Olympic organizers concern. With Beijing’s air quality expected to be a key element in the Games’ success, time is running short.

Conditions are “not good,” the deputy head of Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau, Du Shaozhong, said Friday. To ensure progress “we will have to keep taking the measures that have been put into place.” Weather factors in, too, he added.

Tough steps implemented since June are bearing fruit, and “we are confident of fulfilling the commitments we have made to the international community,” the deputy head of Beijing’s municipal government, Li Wei, told reporters Friday.

Doubts persist, however. “The reality is that the air is still awful,” says Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who has studied Beijing’s pollution statistics over several years. The official records include “manipulated data” to show progress, he charges.

For the past four days, according to figures from the national environmental protection bureau, the capital’s air pollution index (API) has been above the ceiling of 100 that China sets as acceptable.

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