The Beijing Smog Saga Continues…

July 15, 2008

Following our article yesterday ‘Drastic Measures in Attempt to Cut Pollution in Beijing’,  Stephen Fox of Sante Fe Sun News asked us to please help in getting the word out, again, about this very serious problem. Rogge’s air pollution ‘cheer’ from Lausanne, Switzerland, in which he dismissed all of these concerns appears to be premature, please read on: 

Jacques Rogge and Olympic Committee: Please

move Marathon, Triathlon, and Cycling out of

Beijing’s Deadly Air Pollution! Request from

Stephen Fox, Managing Editor Santa Fe Sun News

Carbon Monoxide, Industrial Pollution,Lead,Particulate Matter, Ozone

Santa Fe, New Mexico 7/10/2008 06:23 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

Let’s see: what will come next in the unfolding disaster for Olympians planning to compete in endurance events in the Beijing smog?

Last March, world champion marathoner Haile Gebrselassie pulled out of the Olympic Marathon competition. This was a serious blow to the Beijing Olympics, but very lately, their seems to be an awakening of journalists all over the world concerning air pollution, different from the earlier challenges concerning repression and genocide that have been posed by Tibet activists and Tibet supporters in so many so-called “civilized” nations like France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressing grave reservations about even going to the Olympics. Most notable of these journalists is Ireland’s Clifford Coonan writing for The Independent, who asks the sad and very obvious question concerning the Olympics being held in Beijing: WHY ARE WE ASKING THIS NOW instead of years ago when Beijing was “selected“?

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge vowed to postpone endurance events (marathon, road walks, road cycling, triathlon) if poor air quality presents a risk to athletes, but this won’t make it, Jacques, and deep down you and everyone else in the world knows it: you must move AT LEAST the whole set of the above events to different cleaner venues, and maybe a few other events, out of Beijing altogether. At this point, the IOC merely advises that athletes competing for an hour continually “may be at risk.” What a gift for understatement!

[Nothing much was put to rest by George Bush sanguinely remarking that if he were not to show up at the Opening Ceremonies, it would be an “affront” to the Chinese people. Curious, isn’t that: he has never once appeared to worry about any affronts to the people of any nation, not even the one whose Presidency he is about to leave.]

Gebrselassie said he could not compete in the Olympic marathon because Beijing’s air pollution would damage his health, although he will run the  10,000 meter race within the Olympic Stadium, hopefully to make it less damaging to his lungs. “The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42k in my current condition [asthma],” he told Reuters, adding that pollution “would be a hazard to athletes, seriously.”

Obviously, the International Olympic Committee should move the Olympic marathon to a cleaner venue. So what if it enrages a few Chinese officials? Moving them out of Beijing is the only way to protect the health of the marathoners, the triathletes, and the long distance cyclists!


Growing up on a farm in Ethiopia, Haile Gebrselassie ran ten K’s to school each day and another ten kilometres going home. As an adult, he ran with his left arm bent, the effect of years spent running with books under his arm. By the time of the 1996 Olympics, Gebrselassie was the world record holder at 10,000m and the twice defending world champion. Kenyan Cross-country champion Paul Tergat became a serious challenge. Tergat and Gebrselassie pulled ahead of the field after 8000m. Gebreselassie then surged ahead to win by six metres.

The two marathoners renewed their rivalry at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when they left everyone behind; again, Tergat led as they entered the final lap, and the finish was even closer, until the very last step, the most exciting finish in Olympic history.

At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, Gebrselassie finished 5th in the 10,000m. Now, in 2008, I conclude that Haile doesn’t want to hurt his chances in the marathon in 2012 in London because of the foul air in Beijing. His marathon record is 2hr 4 min 26 sec.

Australian Rob de Castella ran 42km in the hot L.A. 1984 smog. During the race in that yellow smog Los Angelinos know so well, his eye had swollen shut. This smog also had devastating effects on the women’s race. In video beamed around the world, Swiss marathoner Gabriele Andersen-Scheiss staggered across the finish line, where she collapsed.

De Castella thinks these kinds of scenes will occur again in August. “The conditions will be very, very cruel, and in an event like the marathon it is so tough. I think we will see a huge attrition rate in Beijing, and it’s going to take its toll on athletes.” He remembers L.A. as “a shocker and not only because I only finished fifth. There was a huge amount of concern about the pollution levels leading up to it and a lot of athletes were talking about boycotting the marathon, but at the end of the day athletes will walk over broken glass to get to the start line.”

De Castella entered that race as the world’s champion marathoner, but Los Angeles’ smog killed his chances for even a Bronze; the race was run in the afternoon, so marathoners could come to the finish line just before the closing ceremony. “I suffered considerably,” de Castella said. “By the finish, my right eye had swollen up so I was hardly able to see out of it. I think that was a direct result of the pollution; the swelling went down after a couple of days, but given what happened to my eye you have to wonder what was going on with my other functions. One never knows for certain how much of an effect those pollutants are going to have, but some individuals are more susceptible than others. If all things were equal the best athlete would still win, but any athlete with any respiratory sensitivity will be much more severely affected.”

Regarding Haile Gebrselassie opting out of the road race:”It’s sad for the fans and it’s even sadder for him. If he won an Olympic marathon gold medal to go with his other medals he would go down as the greatest distance runner the world has seen, but the Olympic Games hosts are never chosen to provide the best conditions for the marathon.”

In Beijing, the marathon will start at 7:30 in the morning. Now that is some really great planning, folks…..


To read more of this article please go to: http://www.transworldnews.com/NewsStory.aspx?id=52987&ret=AccountDtl.aspx

Stephen Fox occasionally goes on a long mountain run, like the one between Telluride and Ouray, called the Imogene Pass Marathon over the highest mountain pass in the United States, over 13000 feet, where there is one point where you have to jump across a 10 feet wide rouring mountain creek rushing by about 40 miles an hour, and if you fail, you would be soon falling over a 300 foot cliff in a beautiful waterfall. Still, he would rather have such conditions than the certain doom and the doubtlessly shorter life after running a marathon in Beijing’s carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ozone. At 60, he now prefers the Mountain Bike in the mountains above Santa Fe.


One comment

  1. here is an update, from Tuesday:

    Bravo for Australia Opting Out of Olympic Ceremonies and Out of Beijing’s Deadly Smog!

    I just finished a major article, which I would like to share with you [title: Australia Only Nation Taking Seriously Medical Effects of Events like Marathon, Triathlon, and Cycling in Beijing Smog; Training Camp in Hong Kong, Athletes Flown in Just for Event, and Hats off to Australia, the Only Participating Nation that Seems to Realize what Smog Does to Mitochondria, Lungs, and Nervous Systems!]. It is posted at Transworldnews.com, and was written in appreciation for Australia’s Olympic Committee removing training camps to Hong Kong, to protect athletes’ health, flying them in only for the events themselves. Somebody DOWN UNDER understands how smog can kill and injure endurance athletes!

    This is posted at:


    I would be grateful if you could send it on to friends, athletes, family, and colleagues interested in health and in international relations.

    Within that article is Jacques Rogge’s contact information, so you can, if you agree with removing Marathon, Triathlon, and Cycling from Beijing Smog, communicate directly to the top leaders in the International Olympic Committee (Rogge is the President of the IOC, whose comments recently in Lausanne Switzerland denying concerns on smog and athletes’ health amount to the kind of approach the swindlers and soothsayers took in the “Emperor’s New Clothes.”

    Please let me hear from you soon!

    Stephen Fox, Managing Editor Santa Fe Sun News

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