In early July 2008, news agencies worldwide reported on a vast algal bloom that was threatening the upcoming Olympic sailing events in Qingdao, China. The identity of the culpable alga, however, remained undiscussed. We have identified the alga that caused the bloom by means of morphological and molecular data, including sequence data of the plastid encoded large subunit ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase gene (rbcL) and the nuclear encoded rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region. The bloom-forming alga falls within the morphological limits of the green seaweed Ulva prolifera O.F. Müller (‘Enteromorpha prolifera (O.F. Müller) J. Agardh’) but our phylogenetic analyses show that it forms a clade with representatives of the Ulva linza-procera-prolifera (LPP) complex. The Chinese rbcL sequences are identical to those of specimens collected from Japan, New Zealand, Finland and Portugal, suggesting that the taxon is widely distributed. rDNA ITS sequences showed a close affinity with Japanese isolates of the species complex. The Qingdao bloom is a typical illustration of a green tide, which occurs increasingly along several coasts worldwide.