Imagine being an athlete who is about to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games. As you train outside, days on end, you're certain you are prepared to compete. But now imagine that as you train, you smoke two packs of cigarettes.
Although this sounds crazy, that is the reality athletes are going to face when they travel to Beijing, China to compete in the Games this summer. Beijing is known to be one of the world's worst polluted cities. With the rise of industrialization and economic growth, the city's polluted environment is creating turmoil for residents and visitors.
Rarely do citizens wake up to blue skies. Rather, they walk amongst a toxic gray cloud. With this issue at hand, athletes are worried the pollution will prevent them from performing their best. The concern is that the air could lead to respiratory problems making it harder to breathe and could interfere with athletic performance.
Rarely do citizens wake up to blue skies. Rather, they walk amongst a toxic gray cloud. With this issue at hand, athletes are worried the pollution will prevent them from performing their best.
When Beijing landed the OK to host the Games in 2001, they promised officials a "Green Olympics" and began taking environmental initiatives to help better the air quality.
However, the Beijing skyline only has one office building that qualifies under international and national energy efficient standards as a green building.
With an estimated 12 million residents, more than three million vehicles, urban sewage and the highly industrialized city, members of the International Olympic Committee are weary that the city can improve pollution before the Olympic deadline.
As China has become one of the world's economic powers, one of their greatest strengths has now become one of their greatest downfalls.
Not only is the air pollution harming citizens but the amount of toxic chemicals China releases in to the air each day is contributing to global warming.
Members of the Committee and city officials are working towards making the "Green Olympics" a sure fit. Though it's not certain, officials have discussed shutting down factories three weeks prior to the Games and through the duration of them as well as restricting traffic to promote breathable air.
There have also been rumors of athletes sitting out on this year's Games because of health risks and teams have talks of bringing their own food and water for the entire duration of the Games. Air quality has been improving in Beijing but IOC officials are concerned that the pollution may have not been solved without the Olympics on their way.
Moreover, they are worried about the quality after the Games end, fearing the city may go in to an urban boom. Even now, there have been studies done that suggest air pollution is causing major health problems.
A study done in 2003 warned that the air pollution could be a major contributor to premature deaths related to chronic pulmonary disease. Another study showed that on highly polluted days, the number of hospital visits increased. The World Health Organization also estimated that diseases caused by indoor and outdoor pollution kills 656,000 Chinese citizens each year.
The outcome is still unknown as to how good the air quality will be come this summer. Beijing officials are hopeful and working towards eliminating pollution progressively, bringing blue skies to the skyline once again. With the Games in mind, people hope that China can eliminate some pollution beforehand but hope for more improvement after they have ended.