World Toilet Summit: A Flush of Excitement

ByABC News
November 22, 2004, 4:49 PM

Nov. 16, 2004 — -- Get ready for some potty talk: Bathroom experts from 15 countries are gathering in Beijing for the World Toilet Summit in the hope of making every trip to a public restroom a more pleasurable experience.

Toilets play a big role in China's future. As the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing is trying to improve the state of its commodes. Most public toilets there are squat-style pits that scare the daylights out of Westerners. Visitors are warned to expect a lack of running water and to bring their own toilet paper.

Hoping to attract more tourists, the city has spent nearly $5 million in recent years. Among the projects: issuing a star-rating system for restrooms, so that visitors can plan bathroom breaks and avoid the worst.

"Toilets represent the level of development of a country or region,'' says Yu Debin, deputy director of Beijing's Municipal Bureau of Tourism.

Nearby Tianjin has launched a "Toilet Renovation Project" that aims to renovate 1 million local latrines and bring flushing, indoor comfort to rural residents.

Now, just as world leaders gather to discuss acceptable levels of pollution, toilet experts are gathering to bridge cultural gaps and answer one of the most basic questions of the human condition: What is a clean and decent bathroom?

The three-day conference, which has been dubbed "World Toilet Day," begins Wednesday and ends Nov. 19. Need a reason to celebrate? Take a look at some of the more amazing new bathroom products, and some of the stranger trends in public restrooms.