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Clean-up Continues as Algae Shrinks in Olympic Water

Troops, fishermen and volunteers continued to clean up the seawater at the Olympic sailing venue in Qingdao on Tuesday as the density of the green weed shrank to 1.37 percent from 32 percent over the past 10 days.

As of Monday afternoon, the coverage of algae in the 49.48-square-kilometer Olympic sailing venue was reduced to 0.679 square kilometers, according to the North China Sea Branch of the State Oceanic Administration.

Ten days ago, on June 28, 15.86 sq km of the guarded sea area was covered by algae.

"As the algae bloom has subsided, most cleaners are still 'searching' for algae," said Wang Yiqiu, an official with the Qingdao oceanic and fishery bureau.

In the past two weeks, more than 130,000 soldiers and volunteers worked furiously at the site, removing more than 50 tons of algae from the water.

Wang himself works at least 10 hours a day, patrolling on the beach and shouting into his walkie-talkie to dispatch some 500 fishing boats within his jurisdiction to clean up newly detected algae bloom in the Olympic waters.

Altogether 2,085 vessels were at work on Monday, searching and removing algae. Fishermen who had been seasonally laid off by the summer fishing ban were now to be paid by the government for their new job, said Wang.

"Most of these vessels will be standing by throughout the sailing event for potential algae blooms during the Games," he said.

The sailing competitions are scheduled for August 9-23.

On Tuesday, workers are set to complete a 32,000-meter enclosure in the sea to keep algae out of the venue. About half of the enclosure was completed as of midday on Monday.

The Qingdao government has vowed to clear up the sailing event venue before July 15.

Volunteers at work

Zhao Shumei, 81, is probably the oldest algae-cleaning volunteer in Qingdao.

For a week, she has taken a bus to the No. 3 seaside bathing site in downtown Qingdao early in the morning and has put together pieces of algae washed onto the beach with a harrow so that other cleaners may easily collect them.

The hunchbacked old woman could certainly not work as fast as the young, and she was almost always drenched to the skin. "I'm just doing as much as I can. Together, we'll clean it all up," she said.

Shortly after their final test at school, Li Yanran, 15 and her cousin Ge Xuanxi, 7, joined the algae removing campaign. They collected algae from the sea and put it into plastic bags, which they emptied on the beach for other volunteers to take away. In the busiest days they worked from morning until late in the afternoon, bringing lunchboxes and bottled water.

Many Qingdao citizens voluntarily joined the cleaning campaign, bringing tools ranging from shoulder poles to spades and harrows to improve efficiency.

"What we can do is very limited," said Yuan Chengben, a 58-year-old worker. "But as citizens of Qingdao we're fulfilling our obligations."

Yuan and his wife brought a self-made shoulder pole, with which they carried baskets of algae to the beach.

Training continues

On Monday, 308 athletes and coaches from 29 countries and regions were preparing for the Games in Qingdao.

"It's fine," said Michael John from the Australian team. He said his team didn't have to deliberately avoid contact with the seawater and the training went well.

Zhao Jian, a press officer with the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Committee, said the committee had not received any complaints over water quality.

By Monday, the clinic at the training base for the Olympic sailing event had not received any reports of skin or stomach irritations.

To prevent stomach irritations and allergies in the city known for its beer and seafood, the Qingdao health authority has handed out manuals on food safety, with health tips for the athletes and coaches.

Croatian sailor Marin Lovrovic agreed the algae in the water had been reduced greatly, saying "We'll concentrate on the training and hope you'll all watch our performances."

(Xinhua News Agency July 8, 2008)

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