NOCs discuss air quality in Beijing
Exactly four months before the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, delegations from 205 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) learnt today about the IOC’s latest appraisal of the air quality in the Chinese capital. On the occasion of the XVI General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) currently taking place in Beijing, IOC Medical Director Patrick Schamasch explained the results of an analysis of a set of data which were taken during last summer’s test events.
The data included temperature, wind, humidity and SO2, NO2, CO, Ozone and PM10 readings, which were taken by the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau from 8 to 29 August 2007. Subsequently, the IOC Medical Commission evaluated the data on the basis of the WHO 2005 interim target standards. The findings indicate that, at Games time one year out, the health of athletes was largely not impaired. This finding is upheld by the fact that no health issues related to air quality were reported to the IOC by any of the team physicians who looked after athletes competing during the August 2007 test events. Nor were any such problems reported at the IAAF Junior World Championships that were held in August 2006. Moreover, measures are continuously being taken by the Chinese authorities which can be expected to improve the air quality further when compared with 2006 and 2007.
Procedures to protect the athletes
For outdoor endurance events that include minimum one-hour continuous physical efforts at high level – urban road cycling, mountain biking, marathon, marathon swimming, triathlon and road walk - the IOC Medical Commission’s findings indicated that there may be some risk. The IOC will, therefore, be working together with the relevant International Federations in order to put in place procedures which will allow a “plan B” to be activated for such events if necessary. Schamasch explained that the procedure will include daily monitoring of air quality and weather conditions at the venue, a reporting process from the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau to the IOC and relevant sports Federations, and a joint IOC-Sports Federation decision to postpone the event if necessary. He concluded: “Be ensured that the health and safety of the competing athletes is of the utmost importance for us”.
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