With a year to go until the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, athletes are taking their training to the next level, and preparing all they can to bring home a medal. As prepared as they may be, there's one element to the Beijing games that they can't train for. Pollution.
Beijing is heavily polluted. Air pollution levels in the city are almost five times higher than the World Health Organization's recommended safety level. The city is a mess - pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter are constants, while sulfate and carbon regularly float in the air.
The air pollution is a problem for all involved, but it's also a tricky matter for the athletes coming for the games. Do they stay away as long as possible, or should they come in early and get used to it?
"We know how to train for heat and humidity, but not a lot of research has been done on running in the polluted atmosphere we think we'll find in Beijing," Kyle O'Brien, an American marathoner who ran at the track and field world championship in Osaka, said Tuesday.Chinese officials are doing their part to rid the city of the pollution, spending billions to close factories and build subways. Other countries are taking measures of their own to protect their athletes. Australia is planning to send a medical team of 80 to the games, which comes to about one doctor per 6 athletes. Others are just making do. Masaaki Sugita, an exercise physiologist with Japan's athletics governing body was in Beijing earlier this month, and witnessed archers wearing masks at one event.
Chinese officials have a pollution problem, but it shouldn't just be about the Olympic games. While they're scurrying to make things better for their international guests, shouldn't they have done this years ago? The Olympians will come and go, but its their own citizens that are truly suffering from the pollution. The athletes may be the ones complaining, but perhaps someone should stand up for those without a voice too. The Chinese people.