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How China Got Blue Skies in Time for the Olympics

Ailing Eileen Gu of Team China performs a trick ahead of the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final in Beijing, on Feb. 8, 2022. 

Ailing Eileen Gu of Team China performs a trick ahead of the Women's Freestyle Skiing Freeski Big Air Final in Beijing, on Feb. 8, 2022. 

Photographer: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

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Beijing (AP) -- The blue skies greeting Olympic athletes here this month are a stark change from just a decade ago when the city’s choking air pollution was dubbed an “Airpocalypse” and blamed for scaring off tourists.

Beijing’s air still has a long way to go, but is measurably better than past years when smog often made it difficult to see nearby buildings and people wore masks to protect themselves from pollution, not COVID-19. The city's notorious pollution also made news in 2016, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of himself jogging in the haze through Tiananmen Square with a smile on his face. Some mused on social media that he was trying to ingratiate himself with Chinese authorities.