Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on March 27, 2008
It’s another blow to the Beijing Olympics. Only this time it’s not political, it’s pollutional. Ethiopia’s world record marathoner Haile Gebrselassie announced that he won’t be competing in his normal events in this summer’s games because he’s concerned that Beijing’s pollution will exacerbate his asthma.
According to Reuters, the athlete said, “The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42-km in my current condition.” Gebrselassie, who competed in 1996, 2000 and 2004, says he’s not pulling out altogether — he still plans on competing in the 10,000 meter race.
A spokesperson for the Olympics Committee says the city’s pollution has been tested and that the results were not concerning. “From the test events that have taken place so far the levels have been satisfactory,” Reuters quoted the committee as saying. Gebrselassie, however, feels that the levels of pollutants are indeed hazardous and will affect the performances of all the athletes who compete.
Are his concerns founded? In 2005, The Guardian labeled Beijing the “air pollution capital of world” – and in November of that year, authorities advised citizens to stay inside as large amounts of smog gas and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) coated the air.
It seems the Beijing games just can’t get a break. Last month director Stephen Spielberg withdrew his participation, saying he disagreed with China’s lack of action to stop the atrocities in Darfur.
While it’s unlikely that the games will be relocated, what’s not known is whether or not this is the beginning of a large smog-filled snowball.