Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Biggest Threat to Paula Is the Smog; Cloudy Forecast: Paula Radcliffe (Far Left) Will Find the Smog in Beijing Tough, Which Is Why Some Athletes (above) Will Wear Face Masks, like Local Residents (Left)

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Biggest Threat to Paula Is the Smog; Cloudy Forecast: Paula Radcliffe (Far Left) Will Find the Smog in Beijing Tough, Which Is Why Some Athletes (above) Will Wear Face Masks, like Local Residents (Left)

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN EDWARDS

ONE OF the stories set to run and run through the Games is the air quality.

We've already seen the greatest distance runner of all time, Haile Gebrselassie, pull out of the marathon because of it, and that tells you everything you need to know about how seriously the athletes are viewing this.

I'm sure that when the International Olympic Committee decided to award the Games to Beijing seven years ago, the assumption was that the air quality would be much better than it is.

One of the factors that was foremost in our bid for London 2012 was that the needs of the athletes should be foremost as a host city we had a duty of care to them.

And so it is certainly a big disappointment that the air quality isn't better, because it is the hopes and dreams of athletes that are at stake here.

Even some of the shorter, more explosive events might suffer in track and field if you are in the stadium for a couple of hours on a particularly bad day.

And if you are prone to some sort of respiratory problem, then the concerns are even more pronounced. So spare a thought for Paula Radcliffe lining up for a marathon is a fearsome task even in the most ideal of conditions.

Not just in terms of the vagaries of sport but how you physically respond to pushing your body into the red zone.

It's like a Formula One car which is right on the performance limit and it only takes the slightest little thing to tip it over the edge and it all goes horribly wrong.

For Paula this is her last chance of winning an Olympic gold medal and it's not anywhere near the ideal scenario for the most important event of her sporting life.

In terms of whose responsibility this is, I think it's hard to point fingers.

Clearly the IOC have no jurisdiction over the industrial development of China which is what is causing the problems.

And in the end, the blame game helps no one, but I'd very much support the athletes' rights to take whatever precautions they deem appropriate to make sure the are not unduly affected.

And so however unpalatable face masks might appear, they may just be a necessary evil in Beijing.

Probably the nearest I've come to these sort of conditions was in qualifying for the world championships in Seville in 1999.

The sun was still beating down the track in early evening and the temperature was up to 45 degrees.

I remember coming off the track and putting ice packs on my head. I felt physically shaken and the heat definitely played on my mind.

Two days later I came third in the final it was cooler and I certainly couldn't blame the climate for not winning.

The other story to run and run is whether China is the right host for the Games. …

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