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06 Aug 2008
IOC News

IOC Statement: Air Quality during the Beijing Olympic Games

The following statement was made by Professor Arne Ljungqvist at the IOC press conference at the Beijing Main Press Centre on 5 August 2008. The statement follows the report that Professor Ljungqvist gave to the IOC members at the 120th IOC Session, which is being held in Beijing from 5 to 7 August, in his capacity as Chairman of the IOC Medical Commission.
For the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the health and wellbeing of the competing athletes (and participants / spectators) is of the utmost importance.
For the last seven years, BOCOG has been working closely with local authorities – which include the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BEPB) and the Ministry of Environment (MOE) – to ensure that air quality at Games time will be adequate for Olympic sports events.  To do this requires that risks are mitigated, measures are in place, monitoring is regular and consistent, and analysis is constant.
In keeping with international standards, air quality in Beijing is measured using the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s 2005 interim target standards, which include SO2, NO2, CO, Ozone and PM10 readings. These targets serve as baseline measurements of air quality data during the Games competition events in order to make the best decisions for the health and well-being of competing athletes. The BEPB measures and captures data hourly over 24 hours.  These data, along with readings in temperature, wind and humidity, are communicated to the IOC’s Medical Commission.  The readings give the IOC a view over a 72-hour period, with a high degree of certainty regarding air quality conditions for the first 24 hours of that period.
The IOC will make all competition decisions, working with the relevant sports federations and BOCOG to take all the measures necessary to make sure that athletes’ health is protected.  If necessary, a decision to move to a “Plan B” procedure will be made in agreement with the relevant federation.
As of 27 July, Beijing has measures in place, which will remain for the duration of the Games. This has resulted in a general trend of air pollution levels going down.  The measures have included taking 50% of the city’s 3.3 million vehicles off the road, halting construction and closing some factories in the capital and surrounding provinces. This fall in air pollution levels is consistent with analysis of data gathered last year, when similar measures were taken during Beijing’s August 2007 test events.
One of the major news agencies, which is conducting its own pollution-level measurements, has just reported that, on 1 August, Beijing’s particulate matter measurements were lower than New York City’s on the same day.
Air quality measurement and analysis at the Summer Games in Beijing is unprecedented. It is the first time that the IOC, along with the Organising Committee, is analysing data (in this case from the BEPB) and undertaking extensive air quality measures to assess general standards of health. This step by the IOC is reflective of a general increase in worldwide awareness of environmental issues.
It is being reported that scientists from around the world are now saying that the data being collected in Beijing during the Games may have much larger ramifications beyond the Games. Furthermore, if China’s efforts can be shown to have a major impact, these scientists believe that other countries with large cities which have air quality issues can learn from this and should consider taking similar action.
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