Beijing Olympic organizers guarantee good air quality
Beijing Olympic officials have assured athletes that the city skies will be clear for the Games, but at the same time are acknowledging that they need more time to cut smog for it to be really effective.
Well, they don't really have much more time.
The deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Environment Protection Bureau told reporters on Saturday that air quality has been deemed acceptable for four days since measures to reduce air pollution were implemented last Sunday.
Du Shaozhong said, however, that air pollution has been serious enough in the last two days to warrant health alerts for seniors, children and those with breathing ailments such as asthma.
Beijing has closed factories and limited car use in order cut to down on smog.
Du is confident that there is still enough time before the games starts for the emmission-reduction measures to have a significant impact and he has guaranteed the air quality would be acceptable for the Olympics.
According to The Wall Street Journal's 'Beijing Air Quality' meter, the air currently contains 'slight pollution'.
Athletes could still be competiting in thick soot, smog and dangerous ozone levels. Beijing's air quality is ranked among the world's worst.
These environmental conditions are alarming athletes, doctors, and other health advocates, who are questioning how Beijing's air quality will affect the Olympic athletes' performance -- along with the short-term health of competitors, who have been training years for this event.
"It's like living in the middle of a construction zone," says Bob Lanier, MD, a Fort Worth-based allergy and asthma specialist who visits Beijing several times a year. "It's like any big city. I think that when athletes get off the plane they're going to be really paranoid, because it has been really bad."
Australia has already announced that they are banning their track and field runners from marching in the opening ceremony due to concerns over air quality.
But are these legitimate worries or overcautious measures? Lanier, who holds an academic appointment at Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, says the city's air-quality conditions during the past few years in the city have gone from "terrible" to "not so bad." He says in terms of air quality, there are worse places to hold such an event that are closer to home.
"If you had the choice of holding the Olympics in L.A. or Beijing, I'd probably choose Beijing," he says.
China does however, have 16 of the 20 most polluted cities on Earth according to the World Bank.
During the games, traffic will be very limited and construction has already been stopped.
Spectators also have to worry at the games as they won't have the same medical attendants at their disposal as the athletes do. The environment of the city will be challenging if spectators suffer from asthma as the oppressive heat and humidity in the city will only make air quality worse.
All eyes are on Beijing - but a lot of them are looking up to the skies.