Beijing events may be rescheduled
International Olympic Committee says events such as the marathon may be rescheduled.
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2008 12:34 GMT

There's something in the air in Beijing, but in
this case it's only confetti [GALLO/GETTY]

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that endurance events at the Beijing Olympics could pose a health risk if they are staged on heavily polluted days, and that it was prepared to reschedule such events due to the air quality.
Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC coordination commission, said there was a small chance of athletes suffering some damage to their health if they took part in events lasting longer than an hour, such as the marathon and cycling road races.
Beijing is one of the most polluted cities in the world and, despite a $17.12 billion clean-up over the last decade, air quality remains a concern for many athletes coming to the Olympics.

"There can be a risk, but it's not big, for endurance events that last longer than an hour," Verbruggen told Reuters on the sidelines of the final inspection of preparations for the Games.

"We might delay certain events for a couple of days."

Hein Verbruggen
"In that case, we are developing a Plan B.

"We might delay certain events for a couple of days. But to do that it must be very bad."

Organisers could face a dilemma if pollution levels are too high to stage the men's marathon on the final day of competition.

For events that take less than an hour to complete, Verbruggen said there was no chance of any damage to the health of an athlete.

"The Chinese together with our medical commission have done an excellent job," the Dutchman added.

"They have scientifically proved there is no risk for the wide majority of sports."

Contingency plans

Kevan Gosper, IOC press commission chief, said Beijing's investment had already delivered better air quality and he was confident that contingency plans would be effective.

"At Games' time, they've got many levers to pull... they've given us a great list of details of what they propose to do," Gosper said.

"Every Games I've been to as an administrator since 1984, we've worried about air quality... in all cases, things turned out to be normal."

Beijing plans to take about half of its 3.5 million cars off the roads and partially shut down industry in the capital and five surrounding provinces for two months for the Olympics and Paralympics.

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