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IOC official downplays air quality concerns
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A senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official on Tuesday played down concerns about Beijing's air quality, saying that the possibilities of rescheduling outdoor endurance events would be low.

With exactly 10 days to go before the Beijing Games opens on Aug. 8, the organizers still face a daunting challenge - the weather. A whole week of hot and humid weather with no rainfall and a persistent haze dampened people's mood and undermined a newly-built confidence in the city's air quality.

When asked about the likelihood of rescheduling endurance events, IOC's Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli said, "Now, we don't feel it necessary."

He added that the IOC would continue to monitor the air quality and take decisions accordingly.

Felli said the low visibility doesn't necessarily mean the air quality is bad.

"Most of the people see the fog, they say it's pollution. But we know here it's not pollution. It's mist, a fact of the nature," Felli told Xinhua during an exclusive interview.

Felli expected the air quality to be up to par with more rains in the coming days.

"Probably more rains will come, and it will get better," he said.

Felli, who has spent the past three weeks inspecting Beijing and other co-host cities including Qingdao, Shanghai and Tianjin, spoke highly of their preparations.

"We could see in different cities a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of quality work has been done... We feel that everything is ready," said Felli.

"But it's always the same, you have to wait for people to come, because your plan for transport, your plan for accommodation, all these issues can be verified only when people are here. Before you see it on paper," he added.

Felli, who was also a member of the IOC inspection team that has visited Beijing regularly since the city was awarded the games, said that he has mixed feelings as the Games approach.

"It's always an (mixture of) excitement and nervousness 10 days before the games, mainly when you are responsible for the operations, because you want to make sure that everybody is happy and you don't have flaws on your system. So it's always tense, but, of course, excitement," he said.

The organizers are working around the clock on the opening ceremony, but the content of the opening ceremony is still a closely guarded secret.

"I think it's a good thing to keep it as a secret," said Felli.

"I know some people in the IOC administration could go and request to see the rehearsal of the opening ceremony, but they don't want to go, because they want to be surprised on Aug. 8."

"As it's a secret, I am not going to tell you anything," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2008)

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