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Beijing Traffic Reduced Ahead of Olympics

Beijing has cut in half the number of automobiles allowed on the road in preparation for the Summer Olympic Games. The temporary measure is part of attempts to clean up the city's heavily polluted air ahead of the August Games. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Beijing's streets were unusually quiet Sunday as authorities took steps to force about half of automobiles off the road.

The city began enforcing a rule that allows only vehicles with even-numbered license plates on the streets on alternating days with odd-numbered vehicles.

The limitation is expected to prevent about half of Beijing's more than three million cars from adding exhaust to the city's already heavily polluted air.

Taxi drivers are not affected by the ban and warmly welcomed the traffic restriction.

This taxi driver says the longer the ban lasts the better for them. He says there are no traffic jams so they can drive faster and business is more efficient.

China's state media reports drivers who violate the ban will pay 100 yuan, or about $15, as a fine.

The draconian measure will last two months, just through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and is part of wider steps to clean up the city's normally smoggy air and speed up traffic.

Beijing, at the beginning of the month, banned 300,000 heavy-polluting trucks from the roads. The city and nearby provinces have also halted construction projects and heavy-polluting factories.

Heavily polluted air during the Olympics would be a huge embarrassment to China.

Many Olympic athletes decided to train outside of Beijing and some plan to wear face masks while in the city to avoid the effects of pollution.

The International Olympic Committee has said they may have to postpone long distance endurance events if air pollution is too heavy.

The man considered the world's best distance runner, Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, has already said he would not run in the marathon in Beijing because of the pollution.

Chinese authorities say the controls on cars will push an additional four million passengers to use public transport.

On Saturday Beijing opened three new city trains to help ease traffic congestion.