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Beijing Olympics: Maybe There's Hope Yet

As the Olympics come closer, the attitude towards Beijing’s air quality becomes more optimistic. According to the top medical officer of the IOC, the air quality in Beijing is better than expected. However, there is still some risk for athletes who will be competing in endurance events this summer. According to Hein Verbruggen, the chairman of the IOC coordination commission, there is a small chance that athletes can suffer health damages if they are competing in events that last longer than an hour (for example, the marathon or the cycling race). And some athletes are still concerned: Haile Gebrselassie, a marathon runner with asthma, has stated that he will not compete this time because of the pollution. But on a better note, research has shown that there is virtually no risk for athletes competing in events that will last less than an hour.

Several issues have been discussed on how bad the pollution is in Beijing. The question is, was air pollution this big of an issue to prior Olympic cities? Kevan Gosper, the IOC press commission chief, stated that at every games he’s been an administer for since 1984, there have been concerns about air quality. Information was found on the past three summer Olympic locations: Athens, Sydney, and Atlanta. The table below displays what was found:

former Olymics.JPG
Based on the research, Athens had a lot of issues similar to the ones Beijing faces; in fact the Olympic committee strongly considered choosing a new city. Their air pollution was not up to par, like Beijing’s, but they still managed to pull it off. Sydney and Atlanta didn’t have as extreme of air pollution problems, but all previous cities took similar efforts that Beijing is taking. In the articles read, each city reduced transportation and green house emissions in preparation for the athletes. After looking a little into the history of the summer Olympic cities, it appears that Beijing isn’t alone in struggling to achieve air quality standards for holding the summer games. Gosper is confident that, like cities in previous years, Beijing will pull through it time.

There are several things that Beijing will do to try to minimize air pollution before the Olympics. They will take about half of the 2.5 million cars off the roads. When testing the proposed auto restriction system, there was a noticeable improvement in air quality. Also, industrial activity in Beijing and surrounding regions will be restricted prior to and during the Games.

Residents of Beijing have been noticing an improvement in air quality in the city, so the city seems to be making progress toward its goal of a “green Olympics.? Hopefully all events will be able to take place as planned, with no harm to any of the competitors.


Nice article - I like the hopeful aspect. Certainly other cities have pulled it off. I hope that the citizens of Beijing see long term improvement because of this

I wonder how the air pollution compares to Athens - what are the ground ozone levels on a typical day in both places?

They say one hour events are the biggest worry, but what happens when the athletes stay in the Beijing area for a long duration of time?

I wonder what affects the citizens of Beijing show. It seems that they must be severely suffering if only one hour will cause damage to an athelete.

I sort of feel like the people of Beijing have adapted to the atmosphere, but if one of us were to go over there, we would have a hard time breathing or participating in athletic activity.

I believe the athletes are taking precautions for when their not participating such as wearing masks. The precautions should help them not have physical damage.

From this posting and your last one, it seems like China is on the right track for a long term reduction. Maybe the citizens will notice the reduction in smog and health problems and work harder to clean up the air. It would be interesting to see some numbers comparing the polution before and after the transportation restriction.

Well it is exciting to hear that efforts in Beijing are producing some results. I would like to think that the athletes would be safe due to the effects of the Chinese government to clean the air, but if studies show that harm may come to those participating in events lasting longer than 1 hour, its becomes hard to imaging why those athletes would choose to put themselves at risk. Hopefully, the on going efforts will reduce/eliminate that risk.

I have been reading about the one hour time limit to exposure to minimize the respitory symptoms. What are the olympic officials going to do about the marathon runners? This sounds a little far fetched but would it be feasible to have the runners wear respirators to shield themselves from the pollution? Maybe this wound hinder their running abilities. I'm not sure. Just a thought.