Beijing Olympics

A cyclist wearing a face mask cycles through polluted air in Lanzhou, in China's
western Gansu Province, in this Dec. 5, 2006 ,file photo. (AP)

Face Masks May Help Olympians Breathe Easier, But Could Insult Hosts in Beijing

July 21, 2008 11:13 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The USOC is distributing high-tech masks to Olympians to help them combat Beijing’s polluted air, a possible setback in China’s efforts to enhance its image for the Games.

30-Second Summary

Chinese officials say the masks, which have been given to over 600 U.S. Olympians, are unecessary, because the country has taken measures to ensure the city’s air is cleaner by August.

“When people come to this environment and get acclimated, they’ll see they won’t need” a mask, said Jeff Ruffolo, senior adviser to the Beijing Olympic Committee.

But some athletes are happy to have the mask. Triathlete Jarrod Shoemaker said poor air quality during past atheletic events in China made him feel “like someone was standing on his chest,” reports The Wall Street Journal. He plans on wearing the mask in August.

The problem is the insult factor toward the Chinese, the Olympic hosts. “When you’re walking around with a mask on, you’re basically saying, ‘You guys stink,’” said Scott Schnitzspahn, performance director of the U.S. triathlon team.

Air quality isn’t the only regional issue that has come up as China attempts, like host nations often do, to clean up in time for the international attention the Olympics bring. For instance, Beijing’s efforts to sanitize the city and make it more welcoming to outsiders include removing dog meat from the menus of designated Olympic restaurants.

Healthwise, the city is attempting to limit pollution by allowing driverson the roads only every other day, and will be opening new subway and rail lines this week. Additionally, recycling centers have been shut down and garbage pickers driven out—measures Beijing officials claim are necessary to ensure the health of Olympic visitors.

Some residents, however, are concerned that the new Beijing is false, as the societal elements deemed undesirable give the city part of its character and charm.

Headline Link: ‘Olympic Athletes Wearing Masks Could Cause China to Lose Face’

Background: Beijing buckles down on pollution

Related Topics: A laundry list of changes in Beijing

Audio: ‘Is China’s Approach to the Olympics too Strict?’


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