Air pollution remains concern - IOC

Updated: 2007-10-25 19:53

BEIJING -- Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s Coordination Commission for the 2008 Games, said Thursday Beijing's air pollution remains a concern but the issue can be adequately addressed to ensure the success of next year's Olympic Games.

"The issue of the air quality remains a concern. But it's a joint concern, not only for us on behalf of the athletes, but also for BOCOG," Verbruggen told a press conference when they ended a three-day inspection of Beijing's preparations.

Verbruggen said that the IOC had been well aware of the air pollution issue as early as seven years ago when Beijing was bidding for the Games and that since then the issue had been extensively addressed.

"We can only say that six years later, they (BOCOG) lived up to their commitments," he said. "There is, as far as we are concerned, no blame to be addressed on BOCOG."

When it bid to host the Olympics, Beijing promised to spend US$12. 3 billion and carry out 130 measures to improve the city's environment and one of the three pillars of the Games is " Green Olympics".

Measures such as the relocation of heavy-polluted industry out of the city, a switch to the use of gas from coal in homes and the phasing out of old public transport vehicles have made inroads into the problem, but the economic boom and rampant vehicle growth have caused more problems.

A four-day test this summer to remove about 1.3 million vehicles daily from the streets met with success. A similar plan is likely to be adopted during the Olympics, according to BOCOG's executive vice president Jiang Xiaoyu.

"We are confident that this issue can be adequately addressed for the athletes, but it remains a point that has to be followed continuously," said Verbruggen.

IOC president Jacques Rogge twice warned in the past three months that air pollution might force some events to be moved, but Verbruggen ruled out that possibility, instead saying events might be rescheduled only if weather conditions do not support competitions.

"If no wind, you can't sail. You have to wait," said Verbruggen. "It is a normal, standard procedure that we have."

This visit is the second-to-the-last by IOC's coordination commission before the games open on August 8. The final official visit is set for April, although Verbruggen and others come more frequently.

Verbruggen also said the 19 test events held so far this year had been largely successful.

"We have received an extremely good feedback from athletes and international federations as to the quality of the organization of the test events. That is very promising," said Verbruggen.

"There is, of course, a number of suggestions and advices come out on our side to the BOCOG people. But as usual, they have already begun to address them," he added.

With the Games is less than 10 months away, Verbruggen said that as far as the preparations for the Games is concerned, the IOC still sees a lot of green lights.

"We certainly have a number of points that we are in contact with BOCOG on a day-to-day basis that have to be looked after, but there is nothing that is of any risk or danger for the organization of next year's games," he said.

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