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Olympians worried about Beijing's smog

Latest update : 2008-07-29

Despite Chinese efforts to curb Beijing's thick air pollution, more and more international athletes are considering wearing face masks during the Olympic Games.

TOKYO - Japanese athletes may don masks made for construction workers to cope with air pollution during the Beijing Olympics, a doctor affiliated with the Japanese Olympic Committee said on Tuesday.

More and more athletes from around the world are considering wearing face masks for the Games, despite official promises of clearer skies in Beijing and warnings that pictures of masked competitors could embarrass host China.

"Our previous research shows the amount of dust in the air is high in Beijing, and that may affect some of the Japanese athletes," Takao Akama, the committee's medical adviser, told Reuters.

Marathon runners and bicyclists might not be the only ones who opt to use the masks during competition.

"Some athletes are sensitive, so we have decided to have those pollution masks ready for any member of the Japanese Olympic team who would like to use one," said Akama, a physician at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Koken Ltd, the company that makes the mask, has supplied the committee with 500 industrial-strength masks, designed for use on construction sites. Japan's team has almost 600 members.

Beijing's air pollution, a sometimes acrid mix of construction dust, vehicle exhaust and factory and power plant fumes, has been one of the biggest worries for Games organisers.

On Tuesday, state media quoted Beijing authorities as saying sauna-like weather trapping hazy pollution in the Olympic host city would not last throughout the games in August. Chinese officials have repeatedly said there is no need for foreign athletes to bring masks. Beijing is also considering additional pollution controls if the air stays too dirty.

Date created : 2008-07-29

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