The New York Times reports on how Beijing’s pollution cost a top event one of the top athletes in the world.
Pollution in Beijing will deprive the Summer Olympics of an international star in one of the Games’ marquee events.
Haile Gebrselassie, the world-record holder in the marathon and perhaps distance running’s biggest name, said Monday that he would not compete in the marathon at the Olympics in August because of concerns about the effects of the city’s pollution, heat and humidity. He said he still hoped to run in Beijing in the 10,000 meters.
“The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometers in my current condition,” he said in a telephone interview with Reuters.
When China was granted the Olympics by the I.O.C., they committed to stopping pollution and maintaining a certain number of blue sky days in the lead-up to the Games. As you can tell from that picture, taken last July, Beijing still has major air problems. And remember, that picture is eight months old and now a top marathoner is withdrawing, suggesting that the air quality is still unquestionably bad in Beijing. You would think that losing an athlete of Gebrselassie’s profile would cause the I.O.C. to respond. Athletes don’t think they’re safe to compete in Beijing. The I.O.C. should do something about it immediately – move the Games to a part of the world that can and should accommodate them.