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China's National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, and the National Aquatics Centre, known as the Water Cube, left, were seen through pollution on Thursday. ((Greg Baker/Associated Press))

Beijing's Olympic village, built to house 16,000 athletes from around the world, was officially opened on Sunday, but the air quality didn't co-operate.

Despite drastic measures to cut pollution, the ceremonies were overshadowed by the familiar Beijing smog, the CBC's Steve Futterman reports.

The government hopes there will be a noticeable change before the games begin 12 days from now, exposing the lungs of some of the world's finest athletes to the city's air.

But it is hard to see a difference a week after officials imposed restrictions that took nearly  half the cars off the road, Futterman said.

The Olympic village is a complex of highrise apartments with its own library, health clinic and fire station. After the games, the apartments will sell for $500,000 to $1 million each.

On Saturday, Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau, took an optimistic view of the smog problem.

Air quality had been deemed acceptable during four of six days since measures to reduce air pollution were taken the previous Sunday, he told reporters.

But the smog was bad enough in the last two days to warrant health alerts for seniors, children and those with breathing ailments such as asthma.

Du guaranteed the air quality would be acceptable for the duration of the Olympics, which begin Aug. 8.

Aside from the limits on driving, Beijing has closed factories, shut power plants and halted construction projects in a drive to make the air temporarily safer to breathe.