Is the air quality at the Beijing airport really that bad? The New York Times has the story (and some photos):
The masks they wore were specially designed by and issued to them by the United States Olympic Committee. The U.S.O.C.’s lead exercise physiologist, Randy Wilber, had advised U.S. Olympians to wear the masks on the plane and as soon as they stepped foot in Beijing.
Two of the cyclists wore the masks on the plane. The other two put on the masks when they arrived at the airport.
“This is really a surprise because I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal,” said one of the cyclists, Mike Friedman. “Why we wore the masks is simple: pollution. When you train your whole life for something, dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s, why wouldn’t you be better safe than sorry?
“They have pollution in Los Angeles, and if the Olympics were in Los Angeles, we would probably wear these masks, too.”
But U.S.O.C. officials were apparently unhappy with that choice, reprimanding the cyclists for walking off the plane wearing the masks, two of the team members said.
To be fair, they aren’t the first people we’ve seen wearing masks on planes and in airports — that was during SARS — but when we initially saw the footage at the airport on BBC, we thought the cyclists looked rather silly. At least wait until you’re about to step outside, or were there more cameras inside?
Hope they brought extras. We bet lots of people would buy them as Olympic souvenirs.
US cyclists provoke Beijing smog row (The Telegraph)