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Fearing smog, Aussie runners to skip opening ceremonies

Guang Niu/Getty Images Australia’s track and field athletes won’t be marching in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics due to fears that prolonged exposure to Beijing’s smog could negatively affect their performance. Instead, the athletes will fly up from their training camp in Hong Kong a few days before their events are scheduled. Beijing ...

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BEIJING - APRIL 30: A participant is shrouded in smog as he takes part in the long-distance race outside the National Stadium, also known as the 'Bird's Nest' on April 30, 2008 in Beijing, China. Chinese authorities are organizing various events including a long-distance race to celebrate the 100 day countdown to the 2008 Olympic Games. (Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images)

Guang Niu/Getty Images

Australia’s track and field athletes won’t be marching in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics due to fears that prolonged exposure to Beijing’s smog could negatively affect their performance. Instead, the athletes will fly up from their training camp in Hong Kong a few days before their events are scheduled. Beijing has vowed to bring down pollution levels before the games begin, but the performance manager of Athletics Australia believes the smog poses a serious health risk for Australian athletes:

We have had athletes come back from a recent test event and one athlete has got 10 days off training because of a respiratory problem,” he told ABC radio. “We don’t want our athletes to be undertaking that sort of risk.”

If skipping the ceremonies is perceived as giving the Australians even the slightest competitive advantage, it’s hard to imagine that other countries won’t follow suit.

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