IOC will reschedule Beijing events affected by pollution

LAUSANNE, Switzerland Tue Dec 11, 2007 9:47am EST

Motorists turn their headlamps on as they drive through thick smog in Beijing October 26, 2007. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

Motorists turn their headlamps on as they drive through thick smog in Beijing October 26, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Claro Cortes IV

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will reschedule events at next year's Beijing Games if polluted air in the Chinese capital is a threat to the athletes.

"If...you know you have a risk and then apply your contingency and your (air quality) numbers are not better, you may have to decide to work on the rescheduling of the competition if necessary," Olympic Games Executive director Gilbert Felli told reporters on Tuesday.

Felli, who said any rescheduling would be decided just prior to or during the Games, was speaking after a progress report delivered by the Beijing organizing committee by video.

Doubts persist that Beijing organizers are aware of what they need to do to solve the problem despite assurances that contingency plans are being drawn up based on the results of trials last August, when 1.3 million cars were banned from the city's roads for four days.

Other plans include halting busy construction during the Olympics as well as shutting down polluting plants.

Felli said the latest figures on Beijing's air quality had been sent to the IOC which had yet to analyze them.

"We have just received now the numbers. We have not analyzed them," he said. "We are trying to understand with a medical commission how this type of air quality could affect the athletes."

"The Chinese reassessed this morning that they still have to finalize some of the work promised during the bid and contingency plans at the time of the Games if it (air quality) is not as we wish."

About 1,000 new cars hit the capital's streets every day.

Local Olympic organizers have pegged Beijing's efforts to improve air quality to its "blue sky day" quota, referring to a targeted number of days with acceptable levels of pollution, a process dismissed by experts as unscientific.

A campaign launched on Monday called "guard the blue sky" would involve inspectors cracking down on dusty construction sites, uncovered trucks and outdoor kebab vendors to "guarantee the smooth achievement" of the 2007 target of 244 blue sky days, the Beijing Morning Post said.

The city has already poured about 120 billion yuan ($16 billion) in environmental programs for the Games, dismantling dirty factories and stripping thousands of high-polluting taxis and buses from the roads. The Games start on August 8.

(Writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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