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IOC official dismisses worries over Beijing air pollution
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A senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official dismissed worries over air pollution in Beijing and reaffirmed confidence that the local organizers will ensure healthy atmosphere for athletes and spectators during the 2008 Summer Olympics.


R. Kevan Gosper, Vice-Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Beijing Games and an IOC member, said air quality had frequently been a concern in previous games but most were properly addressed.


"Ever since I've been on the IOC: in the 1984 Los Angeles games, we were worried about pollution because they had few public transport and most were motor cars, and at the 1988 Seoul Games we were also worried because it was an industrial city," he said, adding that the similar worries emerged in the run up to the 2004 Athens games.


But he stressed that every time they found ways through the problems.


Gosper was in Beijing for the Swimming China Open, a debut tournament of the Water Cube, an iconic Olympic venue near the national stadium "Bird's Nest".


Describing the Water Cube as "breathtaking", Gosper said Beijing was lucky to have the two flagship venues, and athletes from all over the world would also be lucky to compete here.


He said all preparations for the games had been going on smoothly, including measures to curb pollution.


"The Beijing authorities have been spending a lot of money on air quality, both as part of Beijing's needs as well as the games' needs," said the Australian.


Statistics show that from 1998 to 2006, Beijing invested 120 billion yuan (about US$16 billion) to improve its environment, and in 2006 alone, the investment topped 25 billion yuan. The municipality has shut down pollutant-emitting factories, enhanced supervision for the construction sites, and is vigorously expanding its public transportation system.


The Olympics involves many parties, including the IOC, the international federations, the municipality, and the national Olympic committees, Gosper said.


"This is like a big ship with a lot of people work with hammers in their hands, or like an orchestra, and everyone knows the rule," he said.


Just as Beijing has learnt from previous games like in Sydney and Athens, it will also have expertise to share with London, host of the 2012 Olympics, he added.


(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)

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