Smog, the Equalizer for Olympic Athletes

posted by Rainforest Action Network

China’s already taken 90% of its 3 million cars off the road in Beijing in order to reduce air pollution for the Olympics, but that still isn’t enough for them to hit “safe” levels of pollution each day of the games.

What I heard on NPR this morning was mind-blowing on a number of levels, but the bottom line is that ATHLETES CAN’T BREATHE BECAUSE THE AIR IS SO SMOGGY. So, the Chinese government has been doing and continues to do all sorts of things to reduce air pollution (the list can be found on NPR’s site). Maybe seeing the slight improvement in air quality will cause the people of Beijing to demand cleaner air all the time, not just when the world’s watching. But meanwhile, even WITH all the reductions, it’s still not clean enough for the athletes to breathe. Not to mention longterm health effects.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“You can really feel the particulate stuff getting into your lungs,” Shoemaker says. “After the race, when we tried to talk or laugh or cough, it was pretty tough. You could feel it in your lungs. There was a burning.”

Shoemaker says it was even challenging to simply stand on the sidelines while his teammates raced in the women’s event.

“Trying to cheer was almost impossible, because we just couldn’t take deep breaths,” he says.

They’re offering gas masks to the athletes to wear between their events. That picture will be worth a thousand words for sure.

This quote is a little troubling, too:

“I think of it [the smog] as an equalizer,” he says. “I think a lot of the athletes may be physically or psychologically affected more than I would be, and I tend to do better in races where the conditions are tougher.”