The Olympic Reduction

Meghan Kokoski, Mikayla Murphy, Kimberly Yu, Kevin Zhang

The Beijing air quality data shows that there was a drastic increase in air quality during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. We wanted to tell this story because although Beijing normally has poor and sometimes even dangerous air quality, they were able to increase air quality to safe levels while hosting the Olympic Games. This change did not occur naturally and was a direct result of government intervention. The data does not show a permanent improvement in the air quality in Beijing, but it does prove that through laws and the will of the government, there can be a noticeable change in air quality.

We wanted to demonstrate the changes Beijing made during the Olympics in the hopes of encouraging better policy to protect air quality. Our audience is the inhabitants of Los Angeles, particularly those interested in health and environmental issues. A larger scale of the sketch would be set up in a public setting in the city of Los Angeles. We would play the part of an activist for clean air, using our data sculpture to show how government can play a large role in creating clean air. In addition to the physical model, the accompanying screen would specify the clean air improvements in Beijing made during the Olympics, as well as the adverse effects each pollutant has on the environment and one’s health. Ultimately, the data visualization would encourage participants to push their government officials to implement policies promoting cleaner air.

Los Angeles is an appropriate location for our visualization because it often has unsafe levels of air pollution and has the worst air quality of any large city in the US. They are also in contention to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, so people will relate to the Olympic rings.

We started by analyzing the Beijing air quality data provided by the US State Department and noticed an unusual increase in air quality in August. Based on the timeline, we hypothesized that it may have been related to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Intrigued, we did some additional research and found a study conducted by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University which looked at specific levels of pollutants before and during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Our physical model is based on the information in this study.