Beach Cleanup, Olympic-style

The Olympic spirit is alive and well in Qingdao … but six weeks ago, it was uncertain whether this coastal city in east China would in fact be clean enough to serve as the official sailing venue for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

At the end of June, Qingdao was suffering from an outbreak of thick algae that affected 5,000 square miles along the city’s coastline – too thick even for boats to cut through.  Experts say the “algal bloom” is likely the result of recent heavy rains, pollution and climate change.

Algae on the coastine of Qingdao.  AP photograph.

Here’s the bright side to the story:  Agent 350 (our own Earthkeeper Hero), was in China to witness the algae outbreak – as well as the subsequent cleanup effort by more than ten thousand local residents.  You can read Agent 350’s account of the experience here.

Chinese fishing boats have cleared 100,000 tons of algae.  EPA photograph.

Whether the Qingdao cleanup effort came about as the result of Olympic pride (or shame), or because of government mandate or Olympic committee pressure – one thing’s for certain: the result is a testament to the limitless power and potential of engaged citizens.  An estimated one thousand fishing boats helped to remove more than 100,000 tons of algae from Qingdao’s waters … restoring the city’s harbor in time for the Olympic fleets to safely sail.

Our thanks to the Guardian website for sharing these and other inspiring images of the Qingdao cleanup.

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