Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Britain’s Athletes To Wear Air Filters At China’s Olympics

EXCLUSIVE Britain’s athletes to wear air filters at China’s smog-filled Olympics

By Nick Owens With Dick Jones Nick.Owens@Sundaymirror.Co.Uk 2/03/2008 Sunday Mirror UK

British athletes are to wear face masks at the China Olympics to protect them from Beijing’s smog.

Under Olympic rules they will have to remove them before their event begins – but they will be allowed to use them during warm-ups.

And the British Olympic Association is now trying to get officials to allow its athletes to wear the special air filters during heats.

Beijing has the world’s most toxic air – 12 times the “safe” level set by the World Health Organisation.

A source said: “There is a concern among British athletes about the terrible air in Beijing. The International Association of Athletics Federations have the final say on whether they can be worn once events start. If the rule is changed many British athletes will be keeping them on.”

The masks have been designed with the help of experts at the University of Exeter and have a mouthpiece allowing athletes to breathe in through a filter.

Britain’s best hope, marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, road-tested the mask during a training camp in South Africa. It has also been tried out by our 5,000-metre hopeful Mo Farah.

The move comes after all Britain’s track and field athletes refused to train in the Chinese capital.

To avoid the smog, they have set up training camps in Macau, close to Hong Kong. Our swimmers followed suit by training in Osaka, Japan.

The only athletes who have tried to train in Beijing are the US boxing team. But they found they could only jog outside for 30 minutes at a time. They had to train in their hotel while a new camp was found outside Beijing.

Coach Frank Filberto said: “They were coughing, wheezing and couldn’t breathe. Boxers are probably the fittest athletes in the world, which sends out a clear message about the scale of the problem.”

Duncan McFarlane, sports professor at Hong Kong University, said: “I am not sure wearing masks will help.

“It will be uncomfortable and the athletes will really struggle to get enough clean air for them to be able to perform at their best.”

The Chinese government has set up a website to report daily pollution levels.

Information is fed on to it from eight air-monitoring machines situated across Beijing.

Last week they announced the monitors showed air quality had improved in the capital.

But environmental campaigner Steven Andrews says the figures are distorted because the monitors have been moved to less-polluted areas of the city.

He said: “The reality is there has been a huge cover-up going on. Athletes really won’t know the full extent of the pollution problem.”

China has the top 16 most polluted cities in the world. An astonishing 750,000 people a year die from illnesses related to breathing in its foul, fume-filled air.

China is the world’s second biggest producer of carbon dioxide – contributing 16 per cent of total emissions. The only country producing more is the US.

The country burns more than two billion tonnes of “dirty” coal a year for cooking and heating, creating toxic clouds of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

More than 2,000 new cars take to the roads of Beijing EVERY DAY. But last year 1.2m old ones were ordered OFF the road due to high emission levels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *