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Air fit for Olympics: IOC report
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Air quality in the capital this August will be good enough for Olympians during the Beijing Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said after a study by its medical commission.

"We find that the competitions, although not necessarily under ideal conditions at every moment ... will be good for athletes to compete during the Beijing Games," Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC's medical commission, said on Monday.

The commission studied and collected data on the city's air quality from an Olympic pre-run event last August.

Ljungqvist also said that athletes would not need to compete with face masks, while those with asthma would not need to take "any particular precautions or actions" but would have to be aware of problems that similarly arise "in any place on earth".

The IOC said four independent scientists conducted the study, using data collected between August 8 and 29 last year, a matching period to this year's Games, from the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.

Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing environmental authority, welcomed the evaluation as "reflecting the truth", adding that the index of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, major pollutants in the air, has been effectively controlled within World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

On the most polluted days, however, the intensity of particulates arising from industrial waste in the capital still failed to meet national standard or WHO guidelines, officials said.

Ozone, another source of pollution that may harm asthma sufferers, is also excluded from the national air quality index.

"With previous efforts and temporary measures, there will be little doubt that the air quality during the Olympics will meet IOC standards," Du said, adding that Beijing's cleanup efforts would continue.

Already, the capital's long-term approach to improving air quality has seen coal-burning industries being relocated out of built-up areas. Beijing and neighboring provincial authorities have also said that they will temporarily take 70 percent of their vehicles off roads and shut down coal-burning plants for about two months, prior to the opening ceremony of the Olympics and ending with the Paralympics.

For outdoor endurance events such as urban road cycling, marathons, marathon swimming and triathlons, the medical commission found that there may be some risks involved, pending air quality and weather conditions.

Ljungqvist said the IOC and the relevant international federations will monitor the conditions and it is up to the IOC executive board and coordinating commission to decide if any contingency plans or postponements are necessary.

"Air pollution has not been an issue until this time. But we have been in polluted places earlier without paying attention or making any analysis at all," he said.

Ljungqvist said the data turned out to be better than he expected and he believed that Beijng in August would be free from pollution worries.

Agencies contributed to the story

(China Daily March 19, 2008)

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