Beijing organizers provide air pollution findings

LAUSANNE, Switzerland &

Beijing organizers provided the IOC with results of recent air quality tests to help gauge how pollution will affect Olympic athletes.

China is trying improve the quality of Beijing's air, and the International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said it might reschedule events if smog levels are too high.

The issue was reviewed by the IOC executive board during a video conference with Beijing organizers today, less than eight months before the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

Gilbert Felli, the IOC's Olympic Games executive director, said the Beijing committee turned over the findings from August when pollution-reduction measures were in place, including the removal of about 1.3 million of the city's — million cars from the road.

"We have just received the numbers," Felli said. "We have not analyzed them yet. We are trying to understand ... how this type of air quality could affect the athletes."

Felli said the data will be used to assess the possible risks and form part of contingency plans for the Olympics.

"If at the end of the day, you know you have a risk and then apply your contingency and your numbers are not better, you may have to decide to work on the rescheduling of the competition if necessary," he said. "We cannot plan the level of pollution before."

Australian sports physicians, including IOC medical commission member Dr. Ken Fitch, had accused the Chinese of holding back data. Fitch questioned Chinese claims that the measures resulted in a pollution reduction of 15 percent to 20 percent.

The readings should offer details of small particle and ozone levels and how pollution varies through the day. Micro-particles associated with air pollution can potentially trigger asthma attacks and cause heart problems among athletes in endurance events.

Felli said the contingency also covers reducing traffic, closing industrial plants and halting some construction work during the games.

Felli and Hein Verbruggen, who heads the IOC commission monitoring Beijing's preparations, will travel to the Chinese capital before the end of he year for further talks on pollution and other matters.

Also, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said the board agreed on the framework for blogging by athletes during the Beijing Games.

The board also reviewed preparations for the 2012 London Olympics, and Davies said the IOC was "very comfortable and confident with how the games are going."

Felli said discussions are continuing on possibly moving some London venues. The canoe-kayak course could be switched because of contamination at the original site, and fencing may be switched from a planned temporary venue to another facility.

"If there's a change we do it for the best, not for the worst," Felli said.

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