Air quality in the capital city of Beijing is so poor that many Olympic athletes are concerned for their health. Over 3.29 million cars are registered in the city, and starting July 20, officials hope to engage a program that will take 45% of those cars off the road on alternate days, banning cars based on the final digit in their license plate number.

The two-week stay of the Summer Olympics from August 9-24 will be followed by another two weeks for the Paralympics in September, both events adding nearly 1,000 cars to the congestion clogging the city, reports Automotive News. Widely recognized as one of the most polluted cities in the world, Beijing is taking its task of hosting the Olympics seriously.

"The realisation of air quality standards and smooth, safe traffic conditions is our solemn pledge to the international community," said the city's government in a letter published in a Chinese daily.

The majority of Beijing's 12 million metro-area residents oppose the even-odd car ban for obvious reasons, but with air pollution levels five times worse than the World Health Organization's minimum standards for safety, it's clear that the city must take decisive action if it hopes to have any impact in the short time remaining until the Games. As a form of compensation for the inconvenience, the citizens affected by the ban will be exempted from three full months of road and vehicle taxes, at an expense to the city government of 1.3 billion yuan.

The city has already banned car painting and repairs in a similar effort to clean up the local atmosphere.