Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Australian doctors say China holding back pollution data

AP , SYDNEY

Chinese organizers have been reluctant to release the findings of air pollution tests conducted 12 months out from next year's Summer Games, medical advisers to Australia's Olympic team said yesterday.

Chinese authorities took air quality readings at Beijing in August when a number of pollution-reduction measures were in place, including the removal of about 1.3 million of the city's 3 million cars from the road.

Australian sports officials have flagged Beijing's notorious smog as a major potential factor that could affect the performance of athletes at next year's Olympics.

Australian sports physician Ken Fitch questioned Chinese claims that the measures resulted in a 15 percent to 20 percent reduction in air pollution.

"I find it difficult to see that level in reduction in pollution as claimed," Fitch told an Olympic health and medical forum in Sydney yesterday.

Fitch said outside analysts had made repeated requests for details of small particle and ozone levels -- crucial for asthma sufferers -- and associated data like how pollution varies through the day, but these had not been forthcoming.

"We've got to have the information before we can be as happy as we'd like to be," said Fitch, who has been associated with Australia's Olympic campaigns since Munich in 1972.

He hopes to get more details when he and other members of the IOC medical commission meet officials from the Beijing organizing committee, BOCOG, at Monaco late next week.

Micro-particles associated with air pollution can potentially trigger asthma attacks, and cause heart problems among athletes in endurance events like the marathon, triathlon, cycling road race and race walks.

As a precaution against possible high levels of air pollution, the Australian Olympic Committee is advising its athletes to arrive in Beijing as late as possible, around four or five days before competition, and to spend as much time as possible acclimatizing before the Games.

Fitch said he is confident that Beijing will do everything possible to control pollution.

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