Top Swede Says Beijing Pollution No Threat To Athletes

Sweden’s Arne Ljungqvist, the International Olympic Committee’s top medical official, has acknowledged that athletes in outdoor endurance events, could face some risks from pollution and performances might be affected and some events postponed.

The IOC carried out a study into air quality in Bejing last August and found that Athletes were not ”largely impaired.”

Ljungqvist said that air quality was ”less than ideal” but said conditions were better than expected following an evaluation of air quality data supplied by Beijing organizers.

Famous marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie has already pulled out of the marathon because he was worried the pollution would exacerbate his asthma. He’ll compete in the 10,000 metres instead.

The endurance events which Ljungqvist believes will be affected, include cycling, the triathlon and long distance swimming. The IOC has begun work on a ”Plan B” for such events if needed.

”It may be that some events will not be conducted under optimal conditions - which is the reality of sports competitions - and that we may not see records broken in Beijing,” said Ljungqvist.

”However, the Games are more about competing in the Olympic spirit than about breaking records.”

”For a few sports where we do see a possible risk, we will monitor the situation daily during Games time, and take whatever decisions are needed at the time to ensure the athletes’ health is protected.

”The IOC is confident that measures already put in place, plus those planned by Beijing organisers and city authorities, will continue to improve the city’s air quality leading up to and during the Games.”

To help ease pollution during the Olympics, Chinese officials are considering factory shutdowns and temporary bans on people using cars.