IOC chief says daily pollution tests for Beijing Games

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New York, Nov 2: International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge said that a monitoring system would be set up in Beijing to gauge whether air pollution warranted delaying events at next year's Games.

Events that involve endurance, such as the marathon or cycling distance races, could be delayed for a few hours or until another day, Rogge told reporter yesterday.

Outlining how officials would monitor air quality, the IOC president said: ''Together with the Chinese we are setting up a whole series of test sites, more than 20 in Beijing will give us information online.

''The idea is in the middle of the night, in the early hours, an assessment will be made every day, an analysis to see whether a threshold is broken.

''If that is the case we will discuss it with the relevant international federation.

''Staying and residing in Beijing for young athletes in good health is not an issue. It's not a danger issue.

''The only possibility that could be a danger for health is sustained exposure to air pollution in long-distance endurance sports.

''During a marathon for more than two hours, riding a bicycle race for five to six hours -- that could be a danger hazard and then we would postpone the race.'' Though pollution remained a question mark, Rogge forecast a successful Games.

''I think you will hold your breath and will be breathless -- not by pollution but by the quality of the events,'' he said.

With China's burgeoning economic growth, pollution levels in Beijing have risen dramatically since 2001 when the city was awarded the 2008 Olympics, Rogge said.

BEIJING QUESTIONED

''People sometimes ask us, 'Why the hell did you give the Games to Beijing in 2001?' ''The conditions in Beijing according to the World Health Organization standards was OK,'' Rogge said. ''Between 2001 and 2007 the industrial production of China has risen 80 percent -- almost double -- and that has made a difference.

''In 2001 they had almost 1.5 million cars in the city. Today they have 4.5 million.

''This is something no one could foresee, not even the most optimistic Chinese could foresee that.'' Rogge said delaying competition because of conditions was not unusual at an Olympics, where events could be affected by too much wind or a lack of wind, steamy heat or cold temperatures.

Reuters
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