Face Masks Won't Help in Beijing ... They Are Just Useless, Says Rogge ; Olympic Chief Brands Smog-Busting Aid a 'Fad' as Organisers Fear More Athletes Could Follow Haile Gebrselassie out of Games Marathon. EXCLUSIVE
Beard, Matthew, The Evening Standard (London, England)
JACQUES ROGGE has told athletes not to wear controversial anti- smog face masks at the Beijing Olympics because they are "totally useless".
The president of the International Olympic Committee spoke out as concerns over the capital city's air pollution intensified after Ethiopian long-distance runner Haile Gebrselassie an asthmatic withdrew from the marathon.
Rogge told the Standard that the latest pollution data from China had convinced the IOC's medical commission that competitors would gain no advantage from the masks, which he considers a fad.
The IOC's findings will be examined by the British Olympic Association, who sparked a row by having special face masks developed for possible use by British Olympic athletes. Unlike team bosses from America, Canada and Australia, the BOA have not ruled out their athletes using the masks a move that has dismayed the Beijing organisers.
Rogge said: "The unanimous report of our medical commission is that the masks are not efficient. The use of masks in competition fall under the rules of the federations and some will not allow it. Others will be ambivalent. I recommend the athletes not to wear masks because our experts say they are not efficient. They can do whatever they want but I'm telling them it's totally useless." Greatest concern surrounds the health of marathon runners, including Gebrselassie (left) and women's world record holder Paula Radcliffe, who will have to conquer her exercise-induced asthma to win an elusive Olympic medal. Rogge said: "The prospects of competing in Beijing are not bad.
There will be a couple of events maybe with potential for needing to postpone for another hour but it will be quite limited. The marathon is a potential question mark, depending on the weather." The controversial nature of the IOC's choice of China as hosts was highlighted last month when Steven Spielberg quit as opening ceremony consultant over the Government's involvement in Darfur. But Rogge insisted the IOC was not endorsing controversial aspects of the Chinese regime.
"It would be extremely unfair to say that the Olympic Games endorse any political system in the world. …