Britain considering Beijing 'smog-masks'

Discussion on health consequences of air particulates

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Britain considering Beijing 'smog-masks'

Postby Wilberforce » Fri Feb 15, 2008 12:03 am

Britain considering Beijing 'smog-masks'

Thu Feb 14, 7:19 PM

LONDON (AFP) - The British Olympic Association will authorise its athletes to wear anti-pollution masks
if they feel they are necessary during the Olympic Games in Beijing in August.

Officials in the United States, Australia and Canada have indicated that their athletes will not be using
masks during competition. But BOA chief executive Simon Clegg refused to rule out a move that would
be extremely embarrassing for China.

"This is a competitive issue," Clegg told The Times newspaper. "We are in the business of trying to win
medals and beat our competitors.

"We are all hopeful that the Chinese authorities will have addressed this issue by August so the athletes
are not put in a position where the measures we have put in place have to be deployed.

"But we are in the business of providing our athletes with competitive advantage. We need to put in place
whatever strategies are appropriate to ensure that we give our athletes the best chance of delivering."

However, a BOA spokesman stressed later Thursday a decision on whether its athletes would wear masks
had still to be taken.

"It is absolutely not the case that we have taken any decision to wear masks in competition in Beijing," he
said. "The development work that has been undertaken is entirely focused on providing athletes with a range
of support and advice to help in their preparations."

Britain's former Commonwealth 1500 metres gold medallist Michael East said he was uncertain about the
potential benefits of 'smog-masks'.

"I doubt whether it would be advantageous and I think I would feel uncomfortable wearing one," he said. "I am
sure you may get local runners using them and I suppose if the physiologists say they are advantageous,
I might consider it. "But for the moment, I have to say my answer is 'no'."

Beijing's mayor, Guo Jinlong, admitted last month that the sprawling, traffic-choked city faced a massive task
in trying to bring pollution down to bearable levels in time for the Games.

The International Olympic Committee has warned that endurance events such as the marathon could be
postponed or cancelled to protect competitors if air-quality standards are not met.

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