| In light of the recent earthquakes
in China which have resulted in as many as 50,000 deaths thus far, Boycott
Watch has investigated building codes in China and spoke to engineers to get a
consensus of what safety issues may exist, if any, in the new buildings China
has constructed for the Olympics.
considering building practices in China, it is important to note the safety
standards China adheres to when manufacturing goods for export, as well as
Chinese consumer protection practices. With the high number of reports of
dangerous levels of lead and other hazardous chemicals found in Chinese goods
exported to the U.S., China essentially has zero safety standards, as Chinese
manufacturers only comply with cosmetic requirements. While China may claim to
have consumer protection laws in place, such laws may as well not exist since
they are not being enforced.
Essentially, China does
not care about Americans or even their own people. Recent articles in The Wall
Street Journal have exposed the fact that Chinese farms, in many cases, exist
in the shadows of factories which spew out dangerous chemicals that leach into
the food supply, and many of those foods find their way to the U.S., and in
many cases are untested for wide range of contaminants which have been
discovered not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but by private
As for U.S. Olympic tourists
who will naturally eat the local fare as opposed to dragging a suitcase of food
from home, they may later be in for a surprise at their doctor's office because
of what they really ate on that trip. While Americans like to complain about
the U.S.F.D.A., the fact is that China has proved the value of such protections
here in the U.S.
Getting back to the Olympic venues,
China is far behind the world when it comes to safe building standards. While
there have been many reports of people being killed constructing the Olympic
venues, China has consistently denied access to such information so we really
do not know the full story. What we do know is that these accidents are covered
over, thus safety issues are not in the open or a concern of China. As long as
China does not care about their own workers, one has to wonder about the
general safety standards for spectators in the buildings.
Much of the criticism related to China's death toll
from the recent earthquake stems from lax building code standards and a rush to
construct in the affected region. There is an eerie parallel related to the
Beijing Olympics - China is in fact rushing to complete sporting arenas, thus
triggering questions about what corners may have been cut, coupled with the
fact that China has virtually zero experience with such structures.
The U.S. has learned many lessons from our
engineering mistakes, and far more from materials research. Engineers will tell
you part of what they do is figure out how to do the most with the least amount
of materials. When engineers make mistakes, or especially when construction
companies try to cut corners, the people who pay the ultimate price are the
innocent people who are expecting to have a wonderful experience.
In sporting venues, we have seen roofs collapse in
US arenas. In Europe, we have seen bleachers collapse. The new arenas in China
will not have been tested with the weight of the spectators, not to mention if
they all stand at once, thus suddenly shifting weight. Another concern is the
ability of people to exit quickly in the event of an actual emergency -
efficient exit strategies are crucial in stadium designs dating back to the
Roman Coliseum. Insufficient exists have lead to deaths in panics related to
fires in night clubs in the U.S. over the past few years. The famous Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 is on the mind of every engineer and
firefighter in the U.S., as locked doors directly resulted in 146 deaths.
One of the most horrific recent engineering failures
is the Kansas City Hyatt Hotel walkway disaster in 1981. An engineering and
construction error resulted in the death of 114 people, and that was after
considerable planning and safety checks. While engineering mistakes resulting
in deaths will happen from time to time, U.S. engineers have learned from
mistakes over the years and have decades of shared experience to prevent future
China is rushing to complete the Olympic
arenas, many of which may never host sporting events again, ever. China has,
therefore, many reasons to cut costs, thus cutting corners. Even if China
learned safety lessons from the recent earthquake, it is too late for China to
implement any substantial safety changes in time for the summer Olympics.
Adding to the safety concerns, we recently learned that China simply does not
have the equipment necessary to facilitate a proper earthquake rescue, thus
opening additional questions about China's ability to respond to a natural
disaster at the Olympics, or even worse, a terrorist attack.
If China is constructing Olympic venues with the
same care they put into the children's toys they export to the U.S., not to
mention their other recent earthquake recovery history, there is simply no
reason Americans should trust China to build safe structures for the Olympics,
not to mention China's inability to respond to an actual emergency. If
anything, China's coming out party will potentially be a major disaster.
The Chinese government needs bring international
engineers and safety experts to China to immediately inspect the Olympic
facilities. Barring that, it is better to cancel the Olympics if safety
concerns exist rather than risk lives over trinkets on ribbons, silver, gold