August 6, 2008 / 5:07 AM / 11 years ago

Beijing smog? I'm off for a smoke

BEIJING (Reuters) - Some athletes fret about the Beijing smog. Others say, relax and have a cigarette.

While many Olympians meditate or listen to music to calm their pre-competition nerves, several weightlifters training in Beijing Tuesday tried to lighten up by lighting up.

“I’d say 70 out of a 100 athletes in the Olympic village smoke,” said Italian weightlifter Giorgio de Luca, perhaps exaggerating a little.

The lifter, looking happy and relaxed in shorts and green flip-flops, was winding down after a gym session with a coffee and a cigarette. He cheerfully ignored the mildly disapproving glances from his coach.

Smoking is banned in most parts of the Olympic Village, but there are designated smoking areas and some athletes even sneak out on to the balcony for a quick puff, de Luca said.

Two North Korean coaches and an athlete wandered over to the ashtray outside the gym and lit up, sharing a few laughs after a tough work-out.

Asked if smoking hurt his athletic performance, de Luca shrugged and grinned: “I always say, ‘I’m not an athlete, I’m a normal guy with a passion for weightlifting.’”

Editing by Steve Ginsburg

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