Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, January 25, 2008

Olympic Teams Preparing for Beijing Smog

Below is an excerpt from the New York Times, describing how Olympic teams from various countries are preparing to deal with the renown smog in Beijing. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Olympic Teams Vying to Defeat Beijing’s Smog

COLORADO SPRINGS — As the lead exercise physiologist for the United States Olympic Committee, Randy Wilber has been fielding one bizarre question after another from American athletes training for the Beijing Games.

Should I run behind a bus and breathe in the exhaust? Should I train on the highway during rush hour? Is there any way to acclimate myself to pollution?

Mr. Wilber answers those questions with a steadfast, “No.”

“We have to be extremely careful and steer them in the right direction because the mind-set of the elite athlete is to do anything it takes to get that advantage,” he said. “If they thought locking themselves in the garage with the car running would help them win a gold medal, I’m sure they would do it. Our job, obviously, is to prevent that.”

Mr. Wilber, a 53-year-old scientist based here at the United States Olympic Training Center, has spent most of the past two years vying with his counterparts from other nations to devise smarter, safer ways for athletes to face Beijing’s noxious air.

To protect the athletes, Mr. Wilber is encouraging them to train elsewhere and arrive in Beijing at the last possible moment. He is also testing possible Olympians to see if they qualify for an International Olympic Committee exemption to use an asthma inhaler. And, in what may be a controversial recommendation, Mr. Wilber is urging all the athletes to wear specially designed masks over their noses and mouths from the minute they step foot in Beijing until they begin competing.

His multipronged strategy could give the United States team an advantage over teams from less-prepared countries. But the plan has a downside: it runs the risk of offending the host country, creating political tension.

Chinese officials say the air in Beijing, one of the most polluted cities in the world, will not be an issue when China’s first Olympic Games start Aug. 8. They plan to limit vehicle use, close factories and do everything in their power to bring blue skies to Beijing. Jacques Rogge, the I.O.C. president, said he was confident the air would be clean because Chinese officials “are not going to let down the world.”

Mr. Rogge and Peter Ueberroth, the U.S.O.C. chairman, recalled that pollution was a concern before the Summer Games in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 2004 in Athens, but that the air quality was not a problem when competition began.

But with the Olympics less than seven months away, scientists are skeptical about the air quality for these Summer Games. Olympic teams around the world are preparing for the worst.

Pollution levels on a typical day in Beijing, some researchers say, are nearly five times above World Health Organization standards for safety. The marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie, who has allergies, and the world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player, Justine Henin, who has asthma, have expressed reservations about competing in the Olympics for fear that pollution will exacerbate their breathing problems.

Some athletes who competed in Olympic test events last year complained that the foul air made it difficult to breathe and caused upper-respiratory infections and nausea. Colby Pearce, 35, an Olympic hopeful in track cycling from Boulder, Colo., said he saw smog floating inside the velodrome in Beijing. His throat became scratchy and he developed bronchitis, he said, because of air pollution.

“When you are coughing up black mucus, you have to stop for a second and say: ‘O.K., I get it. This is a really, really bad problem we’re looking at,’ ” he said.

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