Games events to be delayed if pollution rises

Beijing’s air quality is ”better than we have feared” but the International Olympic Committee is prepared to postpone some long-duration events if pollution levels rise, IOC President Jacques Rogge said on Monday.

”We have been reassured by recent findings, we have analysed different pollutants in Beijing, we have looked at these analysis of the last year and the recent analysis and the situation is better than we have feared,” Rogge told Reuters during a visit to Trinidad.

”This is not to say there could not be problems here and there,” he said.

Rogge said certain outdoor events lasting more than one hour could be postponed during the August Summer Games if pollution levels exceed certain thresholds, which he called unlikely.

”Everything that is under one hour of continuous high intensity effort is not a problem. Every indoor sport is without problem. Every sport up to one hour is OK,” Rogge said.

”Above one hour, which means this is the marathon, this is the triathlon, this is the road bike and the mountain bike and the long distance swimming, if the pollution levels are too high on that day we’ll just postpone the competition for a couple of hours until the pollution is at an acceptable level,” he said.

Rogge said there had been similar delays in other Olympic games when there was too much wind or too much snow.

Pollution concerns intensified when marathon world record-holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia withdrew from the marathon at the Beijing Olympics because he feared the city’s polluted air was a threat to his health. He suffers from exercise-induced asthma.

”I can only say to the athletes that their health is not in danger. I am saying they can compete in Beijing without any problems,” Rogge said.

”For those athletes with particular permanent conditions such as asthma, it would be up to the teams to decide whether they want to let them compete or not.” – Reuters

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