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Effects of Environmental Pollution on Olympic Athletes

A thick layer of smog covers the Olympic logo.
Beijing

The Olympic Games are a time for athletes to prove who's swifter, higher, stronger. But what happens when factors out of the athlete's control come into play, affecting their ability to play their sport? Kidzworld takes a look at how Beijing's environmental pollution is impacting Olympic athletes.

Air Pollution

According to World Health Organization standards, Beijing's air pollution has been off the charts, with three times the recommended level of pollutants. Pollution is especially toxic to athletes' lungs, who breathe in large volumes of air when exercising and could experience symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, asthma, and even serious heart problems. At highest risk are athletes competing in high endurance events like cycling and marathon running, since it could severely hurt their chances of beating a world record. In order to minimize their exposure to the thick smog, many athletes are waiting until the last minute to arrive in Beijing. As well, US athletes are taking extra precautions by wearing protective masks so they don't breathe in unnecessary dust.

Water Pollution

Not only is the air thick and smoggy, but one third of China's Yellow Sea is covered with blue-green algae. It isn't harmful by itself (it absorbs carbon dioxide), but it's nasty for the athletes who have to sail through it! Since late May, the coastline of Qingdao, the co-host city for the Games, has been coated with the blooming algae. More than 10,000 soldiers and city volunteers have been scooping it out of the ocean to clean it up by 08/08/08. Unfortunately, nearly 200,000 tonnes of the green stuff are now buried at garbage dumps in the city.

Cracking Down on Pollution

Beijing officials have taken drastic steps to improve air quality, such as shutting down city construction sites, closing coal-fired power plants, steel mills and cement plants, pulling half the city's 3.3 million vehicles off the road, and closing more than 150 gas stations and oil depots. And during the Olympics, there will be an odd-even license plate policy, which means that cars with even-numbered plates will drive on one day and those with odd-numbered plates will drive on the next. Hopefully, these measures will cut emissions and air pollutants to help the 2008 Summer Olympics run smoothly!

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