IOC to Keep Air-Quality Numbers Under Wraps
Saturday, August 16, 2008
BEIJING, Aug. 15 -- The International Olympic Committee will not publish the air-quality data it receives during the Summer Games after reaching an agreement with Chinese authorities.
Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC's medical commission, said Chinese officials did not demand that the information be kept private, but both parties agreed it should be considered "an interior affair for the purpose of rescheduling competitions."
"We will not publish anything during the Beijing Games," Ljungqvist said Friday in a telephone interview. "We are not authorized to. . . . When I talked already with Beijing authorities, we agreed it's not for us to go out and make public air-quality data. That is for the authorities to do.
"In my view, it's a perfectly normal agreement. As a scientist, you do not publish data obtained by others. You use it for the purpose that is agreed upon. . . . I have a very great difficulty understanding all the fuss around this."
Ljungqvist said air quality has been satisfactory since the Olympics began Aug. 8 and that the IOC's medical commission had not recommended that any events be postponed. Kenneth Fitch, a medical commission member and expert in respiratory medicine, said the IOC was "very happy with" the air quality but declined to comment further.
"I haven't gotten any authority to speak on the air quality," he said by phone from his hotel room.
The issue of air quality has dogged organizers since Beijing was awarded the Games in 2001. The Chinese government has taken dramatic steps to clean the air for these Games by closing factories and ordering cars off the road. Even so, IOC President Jacques Rogge announced earlier this summer that the IOC would monitor the air quality at 27 stations around Beijing daily and consider cancellations or postponements for outdoor endurance events.
The IOC has not monitored air quality at any previous Olympics.
Despite the thick fog that covered Beijing for most of the first week of competition, few athletes have complained about the conditions and sport officials have described the air quality as good. Clear blue skies showed up across Beijing on Friday for the first time in about 10 days.
Ljungqvist said members of the IOC medical commission have received daily reports from Chinese authorities on five measures of pollution -- ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and PM10, a measure of particulate matter -- as well as heat, humidity and wind readings.
The Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau makes public readings of three of the five pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM10) on a Web site ( http:/
Though Ljungqvist declined to spell out the specific conditions under which the IOC would postpone events -- he said the medical commission had determined no specific baseline for air quality -- he said none of the air-quality data the IOC has received since the start of the Games has failed to meet the World Health Organization's "interim" air-quality targets.