London, July 6 : Pollution surrounding Beijing's Olympic stadium can be five times worse than levels reckoned safe by the World Health Organisation, according to reports.
According to pollution tests, British athletes will face a tough time if the pollution levels continue to rise in the Olympic city.
Following the reports, Chinese officials have said that they can no longer guarantee that the air quality will match international standards.
With just five weeks to go before the start of the Beijing Games, tests conducted outside the national stadium - known as the Bird's Nest - and at Tiananmen Square, the starting point of the marathon, showed the air is thick with particulate pollution.
Even the Chinese government's official air pollution index - which monitors a range of pollutants, including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide - is running at double the level recommended by the WHO. "We made a commitment to ensure air quality for the Olympic Games . . . as for whether we have reached the goal, that will be examined after the event," Times Online quoted Du Shaozhong, deputy director of Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau, as saying.
The British team is taking no chances and will train in Macau on the southern coast until the last minute to minimize athletes' exposure to Beijing's smog.
The average reading at the stadium was 780,000 particles per litre of air. Even factoring in a 25 percent margin of error for humidity levels exaggerating the readings, this is more than five times the amount deemed safe by the WHO. The organisation considers 105,000 particles per litre of air a health risk.