Beijing is putting in a Herculean effort to clean up its air before the Olympics. Barely 11 days before one of the world’s most dangerously-polluted cities hosts half a million visitors and athletes for the most controversial Games in recent history, its architecturally-iconic stadiums are shrouded in smog despite a recent $17 billion environmental clean-up.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has long warned that outdoor endurance events may be postponed if air quality poses respiratory health risks.
Already, the British team has said it will bring facemasks for its athletes, while Australia’s atheletes will skip the opening ceremony to reduce their exposure to pollution. Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie will skip the marathon.
Most Indians bound for Beijing are not really worried, though. Thrower Harwant Kaur said: “As far as throws events are concerned, the high level of pollution is not going to have much impact on performance. But it might affect the performance of long-distance runners where more endurance is required… we will know the actual situation once we reach.”
On Monday, authorities warned citizens to brace for emergency plans that could take more traffic off roads, shut down construction sites and factories in Beijing and nearby cities, if air quality does not improve during the Games from August 8-24.
From July 20-September 20, only half of the city’s 3.3 million private vehicles are allowed to hit roads.