IOC analyses Beijing air quality data
With the health of athletes who participate in the Olympic Games being of the utmost importance to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the IOC’s Medical Commission has been appraising the air quality in the Chinese capital.
Over the past weeks, an analysis has been made of a set of data – including temperature, wind, humidity and SO2, NO2, CO, Ozone and PM10 readings – which were taken by the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau from 8 to 29 August 2007 and given to the IOC. The data have been evaluated on the basis of the WHO 2005 interim target standards. The findings indicate that, at Games time one year out, the health of athletes was largely not impaired. This finding is upheld by the fact that no health issues related to air quality were reported to the IOC by any of the team physicians who looked after athletes competing during the August 2007 test events. Nor were any such problems reported at the IAAF Junior World Championships that were held in August 2006. Moreover, measures are continuously being taken by the Chinese authorities which can be expected to improve the air quality further when compared with 2006 and 2007.
For outdoor endurance events that include minimum one hour continuous physical efforts at high level – urban road cycling, mountain bike, marathon, marathon swimming, triathlon and road walk - the IOC Medical Commission’s findings indicated that there may be some risk. The IOC will, therefore, be working together with the relevant International Federations in order to put in place procedures which will allow a “plan B” to be activated for such events if necessary. The procedure will include daily monitoring of air quality and weather conditions at the venue, a reporting process from the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau to the IOC and relevant sports Federation, and a joint IOC-sports Federation decision to postpone the event if necessary.
Commenting on the Medical Commission’s appraisal, Chairman Arne Ljungqvist said, “As with all Olympic Games, we want to ensure that air quality risks are mitigated and that measures are put into place to protect the health of the athletes. The health and safety of the competing athletes is of the utmost importance. The IOC Medical Commission is satisfied with the outcome of its analysis of the data of the August 2007 test events provided by the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau. Analysis of air quality data to date indicates that the health of the vast majority of athletes competing in the 2008 Olympic Games will not be impaired. These findings are supported by this analysis, and by the fact that no health issues related to air quality were reported to BOCOG or the IOC by any team physicians looking after athletes who competed in the August 2007 test events. Nor were any air quality-related problems reported at the IAAF Junior World Championships that were held in Beijing in August 2006. It may be that some events will not be conducted under optimal conditions - which is the reality of sports competitions - and that we may not see records broken in Beijing. However, the Games are more about competing in the Olympic spirit, than about breaking records. For a few sports where we do see a possible risk, we will monitor the situation daily during Games time, and take whatever decisions are needed at the time to ensure the athletes’ health is protected. The IOC is confident that measures already put in place, plus those planned by Beijing organisers and city authorities, will continue to improve the city’s air quality leading up to – and during – the Games.”