Beijing's air not 'ideal' according to the IOC

There are only 143 days to go until the Beijing Olympics as a quick click on the official site will tell you. But it seems that every day leading up to Beijing 2008 is punctuated by a new controversy. We've already had Steven Spielberg resign as artistic advisor, Haile Gebrselassie's decision to pull out of the marathon due to fear's over air pollution and now the protests in Tibet.

Just to add a bit of fuel to the fire the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has admitted today that athletes taking part in endurance events may be at risk due to Beijing's problems with air pollution. An IOC report into the level of pollution in Beijing has concluded that athletes are not "largely impaired" by the conditions. Not exactly reassuring news there chaps.

Speaking to Auntie the IOC's Arne Ljungqvist said, "Athletes may breathe a lot of air that may be polluted. We may not see world records in unfavourable conditions." Real slick PR work there guys. Is Alister Campbell on board by any chance?

In 2007 both the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme produced alarming reports on the poor quality of Beijing's air. The reports showed that the problem is at its worst during the summer, the period in which the Olympics will take place.

The IOC is primarily concerned about athletes competing in events such as cycling, mountain biking, the marathon runners and long-distance swimming. The health risks to competitors is considered so high that the IOC is putting a contingency plan into place. The quality of Beijing's air will be monitored throughout and if deemed necessary certain events will be postponed.

The air pollution problems in China have been accentuated by the country's rapid industrial growth over the last decade. The Chinese government has outlined a number of measures to try and reduce air pollution problems in the lead up to Beijing 2008, including temporary factory closures and a ban on using cars. Unfortunately it may all be too little too late.

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