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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Beijing smog a dilemma

    As Olympians from all over the world get set to compete for their respective counties in Beijing this week – including nearly three dozen with Wildcat ties – one thing may be a factor more than anything else, standing in the way of patriotic and athletic greatness.

    Not political turmoil and certainly not a lack of competitive spirit. Rather, smog could be an issue.

    Yes, smog. Smoke + Fog. But this isn’t your average Los Angeles smog, which is dominant because of the millions of personal vehicles in the city. No, this is thick, cloudy, dirty Chinese smog, which is filled with lead, other heavy metals and dioxins – a toxic compound that could translate to cancer over time. It’s the Big Mac of pollution, but certainly not as tasty.

    The smog is so abundant in Beijing that it’s even present indoors -ÿthe only place where it absolutely shouldn’t be. It’s like a 12-year-old in a gentleman’s club.

    When the Australian swim team trained for the first time at Beijing’s Water Cube on Monday, there was a cloud of haze hovering between the pool and the roof. Which is kind of a big deal, considering oxygen is the most important part of swimming, next to the Speedo.

    The air -ÿor lack thereof – has gotten on the last nerve of land Olympians as well. The men’s marathon world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie ofEthiopia, has dropped out because of his concern with the environment. American triathlete Julie Ertel has both asthma and allergies.

    “”I’ve tried my different asthma medicines and my different allergy medicines,”” Ertel told National Public Radio, “”and I’m trying to find the perfect combination that helps me breathe the best.””

    It’s truly a shame that those who haven’t trained for Beijing by running behind a city bus are having to drop out the Olympics or switch up their medications. This is what these athletes live for, and now, because of filthy environmental elements, some dreams are being held for another four years.

    But then again, that’s the beauty of the Olympics. Whichever athletes find it within themselves to shine through political stress, fear, jetlag or – in this case – smog, will earn personal and patriotic glory on a global scale.

    But to level the playing field, so to speak, Chinese officials are doing their best to manipulate the air quality – which was five times over the safety limit up to a month ago -ÿto make it more comfortable for the Olympians. The drive time of the city’s 3.3 billion cars has been cut down by allowing the cars with license plates ending in an odd number to drive one day and those ending with even numbers to drive the next day. This alternative system, along with the early closing of local factories, is supposed to limit the pollution. Fares for public transportation have also been cut down slightly.

    This is not an easy thing to do, financially.

    Beijing’s government said it has spent around $20 billion to improve its air quality. And though the price tag is high, there really is no substitute to making an event that happens once every four years the best that it can be.

    – Lance Madden is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.

    arizona.edu.

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