Chinese Admit Smog Could Alter Schedule,the pollution levels have been increasing over the last few days
The admission, the one the Chinese did not want to hear, finally came on Saturday. The smog hanging over Beijing is getting so bad that the International Olympic Committee may have to consider postponing or shifting events. That point hasn't been reached yet, but Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said Saturday that Beijing is "struggling at the moment to keep within the range of the weather conditions that they have committed for the quality for the athletes." He said Beijing needs the luck of some wind and rain over the next few days to clear... snip
"At the moment, the International Olympic Committee, (the Beijing organizing committee) and the whole Olympic movement are clearly watching the numbers," said Steiner.
"As you know, there has been a lot of talk about WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines, and about national standards. At the moment . . . the pollution levels have been increasing over the last few days but likely to stabilize.
"At this moment in time, the IOC is in charge of determining at what point an event might have to postponed or shifted.
"That circumstance has not yet arisen according to the data," he continued.
"For all intents and purposes, the data that is available to me right now indicates that according to national standards and WHO guidelines, in terms of the intermediate steps for a developing nation, it's currently being met by the conditions that are in place for athletes here."
Wang Wei, chief spokesman for the Beijing Olympics, said air quality was assessed Friday night after the opening ceremonies and approved.
"That's why we had all 18 sports (on Saturday)," he said.
Giselle Davies of the IOC said they were comfortable with the 72-hour projection and confident the athletes could compete without fear for their health.
Steiner understood the concerns of athletes.
"I think any athlete should not be blamed for being concerned about this issue," he said. "You know, you come here, you want to win the gold medal. This is the one day perhaps when you are going to perform better than ever. Obviously you want ideal conditions.
"But the truth is, across the world, environment is becoming a challenge for us as human beings, and I only need to remind you that air pollution is not an issue unique to Beijing."