Where the Grass is Greener


The Telegraph has a funny story today about city landscape officials in Chengdu spray painting the grass green.

In China’s sprawling smog-blanketed cities, life can sometimes seem a little grey. But Chengdu’s officials hit upon an easy solution to cheer up their city’s appearance: specifically, a chemical solution called Top Green Turf Greening Agent.

Chinese reporters filmed workers from Chengdu’s municipal landscaping department as they busily painted the grassy verges of the city’s roads with a fluorescent green spray.

“Two workers were spraying the grass, turning the yellow grass into green. Were they painting the grass?” said He Tao, a Chengdu resident, to the China Daily newspaper. “Wouldn’t that pollute the environment?”

Not according to Mr Yang, a salesman for Top Green, the makers of the dye.

“It is absolutely not toxic. It is just a green dye. We have been selling it to the Chengdu government for at least five or six years, and we have lots of other government clients, like the city of Tianjin, and many north western provinces. And we also sell it to golf courses,” he said.

I laughed out loud because it brought back memories of  February 2001 when Beijing was pulling out all the stops to win its bid to host the 2008 Olympics. The IOC was coming to town for it’s final inspection tour of the city and everything was getting spruced up. Buildings along the Ring Roads were being painted (the sides that were visible to the road, anyway) and factories had been shut down to clean out the air. Making a good impression on the committee had become the government’s top prioirity.

In the week before the IOC came to town, I was with some friends at the Tiananmen Square, and we thought it odd that, in the middle of a cold Beijing winter, the grass in the Square was green. So we walked over to check it out, and sure enough, it had been painted. As we made our way out of the square, towards the west, we also noticed that the grassy areas along the road had been painted as well.

The next day I jokingly mentioned to a Chinese friend what I had seen — spray painted grass — and her response was “how clever.” We looked at each other in mutual incomprehension.

We all know that 5 months later the IOC chose Beijing to be the host city for the 2008 Olympic Games.

It must have been the painted grass.