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More Promises Of Cleaner Air For Beijing

Reuters in Beijing – Updated on Mar 12, 2008

Authorities reiterated their promise of clean air for this year’s Beijing Olympics again on Wednesday, two days after marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie said he would not compete in the race because of fears about pollution.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said air in Beijing, notoriously polluted by construction dust, car fumes and industrial and power emissions, would only improve.

“The air quality will only get better and better in Beijing,” Mr Yang told a news conference. “I believe athletes will have more chance to break records in Beijing if they cannot do it in other places.”

Zhang Lijun, deputy chief of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said on Tuesday he had full confidence in anti-pollution plans drawn up for the capital and five surrounding provinces.

Ethiopia’s Gebrselassie, an asthmatic who holds the world record for the 42km distance, withdrew from the Beijing Games marathon on Monday because of fears for his health.

He was the latest in a long line of athletes and officials who have expressed concern about air conditions in the city.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said last year that events such as the marathons and distance cycling could be rescheduled if conditions were too bad.

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