It's well known that Beijing is struggling to improve its air quality before the Olympics. That should be more than apparent from the satellite image above. China is considering shutting down some construction during the Games and and trying to get some 1 million cars off the road. Right now, Beijing's air is six times more polluted than the air in Tokyo - and Tokyo has terrible pollution. In October, the International Olympic Committee even said some of the Olympic events may be rescheduled if pollution is particularly bad.
There's even an argument floating around right now that we're not going to see any world records set at these 2008 Games - due entirely to pollution.
One study, to be published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, tested college athletes with six-minute bike rides in two environments—one with very little pollution, and one with quite a bit. Then each group was asked to take another bike ride three days later in the same environment. Researchers found that heart rates didn't vary too much from one ride to the next, but subjects in the high-pollution conditions had 5 percent less power on the second test. The study's authors believe these students breathed in pollutants in the first ride and started to develop inflammation in their lungs as a result. Three days later, they had a harder time pedaling.
You can certainly bet this is why so many Olympic teams aren't staying anywhere near Beijing.
But just as an example of what's going on, here are two pictures of the same location in Tianjin, which is near Beijing and will be an Olympic host city, only two days apart. It's pretty stunning.
I like how the tower on the left disappears faster than Matt Leinart after a positive pregnancy test.
As much as we make fun of this pollution problem, I've got to admit, it's a real serious problem. And even though the American team will be based in Korea and only fly athletes in for their events, I'd still have them bring gas masks. Just in case.
Pics from China Hope Live