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March 18th, 2008:

Nick Willis Confident Beijing’s Pollution Won’t Be A Problem

Athletics: Nick Willis Confident Beijing’s Pollution Won’t Be A Problem

18-Mar 18:12 – Nick Willis – TV3

One of our big hopes in Beijing is not letting the threat of pollution get to him.

Commonwealth Games 1500 metre gold medallist Nick Willis reckons it will not be such a big problem come the games in August.

He had a leisurely stride-out around Oriental Parade today but by August Nick Willis hopes to be travelling like the Orient Express over 1500 metres in Beijing – where he’s rated a medal contender.

“it has really been in the last three years or so since the world record holder Hicham el Gharrouj retired and since he left everybody thinks they’ve got a chance at winning, the event has real depth – in fact there probably 20 guys who have a chance of medalling in Beijing.”

Willis has an open mind over research into Beijing’s pollution.

“A run for an hour in those conditions is like smoking ten cigarettes – I’m not sure I believe that, it’s a bit of an exaggeration.”

But while the Commonwealth Games gold medallist won’t take any chances, choosing to stay in Hong Kong until just two days before his event, he is confident the Chinese will do their best.

“I think that when it comes down to it china is going to do a miracle and pull out an amazing way to clear up their system when they shut down all their cars and stuff right up to the Games – I mean they’ve got so much riding on this.”

While he is back home, Willis is concentrating on his speed work aiming to improve on his personal best over 100 metres.

While he is not planning a rematch with his good friend Waldrom, Willis plans to run a number of 800 metre races in his build-up to Beijing – but the 1500 will remain his specialist event.

Protest Call To Residents

Olga Wong – Updated on Mar 18, 2008 – SCMP

An environmental group is asking residents of a Mid-Levels development to request that a developer lower the density of a proposed two-tower, 50-storey project before they sell their flats to the consortium.

Merry Terrace in Seymour Road – five 14-storey buildings – will be turned into the 50-storey redevelopment if most of the flat owners agree to sell. Reports said most residents had agreed to sell to the consortium, formed by Shun Tak Holdings and New World Development.

Green Sense said the redevelopment – and a neighbouring site owned by Swire – would worsen traffic and air pollution. Gabrielle Ho Ka-po, of Green Sense, said the organisation had written to Merry Terrace residents hoping they would help ease development stress in Mid-Levels.

The Shun Tak-New World consortium is believed to have acquired the bid for HK$3.95 billion. Shun Tak Holdings would not confirm yesterday whether the company had acquired the bid.

Given a plot ratio of nine, a plan for the redevelopment – two 44-storey buildings with six-level podiums – was approved last November.

“The developer is willing to pay a handsome price because it will profit from building the giant towers,” said Ms Ho.

IOC Sends Mixed Signals On Pollution

Officials say Beijing unfairly targeted but also that some athletes will be at risk Peter Simpson and Martin Zhou in Beijing – Updated on Mar 18, 2008 – SCMP

Beijing has been unfairly targeted over its notorious pollution, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) medical chief claimed yesterday – and in the next breath admitted some athletes will be at risk during the Games.

IOC Medical Commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist warned asthma sufferers to be on their guard and ruled out records being broken because of the suffocating smog and humidity cocktail threat.

Competitors in endurance events were most at risk, he said, before applauding under-siege Beijing for its huge clean-up campaign.

“Beijing has probably been unfairly targeted [over its pollution battle]. It’s probably fair to say that,” he said. “But we did identify four outdoor events that include a minimum of one hour continuous physical effort at high level [including the marathon, cycling and triathlon], where the findings indicate there may be some risk. They’d be associated with prolonged high-risk respiratory functions. [Athletes] may breathe a lot of air that may be polluted. We may not see world records in unfavourable conditions.”

The IOC examined data taken by Games organisers Bocog and the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau at some of last year’s test events, which took place during the planned Olympic period, August 8-29. Some endurance events could be rescheduled if daily monitoring carried out by several independent groups declared wind, humidity and pollution to be damaging to health, Ljungqvist said during a teleconference from Sweden

“People with asthma may suffer more than others,” he conceded.

When asked if endurance competitors with asthma should follow the example set by fellow sufferer and multiple Olympic champion, Haile Gebrselassie, who is to snub the marathon on health grounds, Ljungqvist said: “Gebrselassie’s decision is a private one but I would not say his example should be the gold standard for others.

“Our experience and data do not support that this will become a problem for the vast majority of athletes participating in Beijing.”

Ljungqvist said rescheduling an event would not be a new thing, citing a tennis match at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona that was stopped because of the heat. But he added: “This is the first time air pollution has become an issue.”

Various claims from international environmentalists that mainland authorities were falsifying their figures forced the IOC to launch an unprecedented probe a few weeks ago. For the first time in Olympic history IOC chiefs demanded Bocog hand over findings from the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau for independent examination.

The results left the IOC “full of confidence” in Beijing’s air cleaning and record keeping, Ljungqvist said.

However, he did not offer any figures to back the new mood – and he refused to name the four independent pollution experts who gave Beijing a healthy air quality report. Such omissions are likely to ensure some suspicion remains.

However, the IOC’s thumbs up will come as a welcome respite from the Tibet storm that has engulfed the games’ final preparations.

The deputy head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, Du Shaozhong, said the IOC’s findings proved “conclusively” that his department and Bocog were cleaning up the air with transparency.

“I can assure athletes we are doing our best and we still have five months to go. During this time, we are confident of making all the events fit for all competitors,” he said.

Light Pollution in Hong Kong

SCMP – 18th March

Why is it that, when so much fuss is being made regarding reducing pollution in Hong Kong and saving electricity so that we can save the environment, a large insurance company like Fortis is allowed to erect a gigantic neon sign in Tai Koo Shing that shines directly into the apartments of Westland Gardens and Splendid Place, not only destroying our privacy and right to a relaxing evening at home, but also being bad for the environment?

I cannot understand how Hong Kong can on the one hand pretend to care about the environment, but on the other hand let companies do something like this. If Fortis needs to display such a huge neon sign, why not do it in the central business district, away from residents? Many residents have been totally affected by Fortis’ selfish marketing, finding it difficult to relax at night and have a good night’s sleep – vital factors to maintaining a healthy body and mind.

Even though many residents have contacted the marketing department and begged to have the neon sign switched off, there has been no co-operation from Fortis. How long does one have to suffer?

K. Mane, Quarry Bay

Lung Cancer Is The No1 Killer Disease On The Mainland

Lung cancer is the No1 killer disease on the mainland. In 2005 about 500,000 people were found to have lung cancer and the number is growing by 26.9 per cent annually. Medical experts attribute the high rate of lung cancer primarily to air pollution and widespread smoking (two out of three Chinese men smoke). Unchecked, the number of lung cancer patients on the mainland is projected to hit 1 million by 2025.