Fears about the impact of pollution on the performance of athletes in the upcoming London Olympics have heightened as government agencies appear poised to issue a smog alert for the British capital. In the lead up to what organizers have attempted to tout as the “greenest Olympics ever,” Clean Air London has cautioned that a combination of high temperatures, sunshine and increased traffic congestion could create a “perfect storm” of smog this weekend.
The Guardian explains that the British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) rated Ozone levels in Olympic Park at a 6 on a scale of 1-10 earlier this week. If that level climbs one point higher—to 7—then a smog alert will be issued, with air quality potentially impacting the health and performance of competitors. These conditions prompted Simon Birkett of the campaign group Clean Air in London to suggest that “[r]egrettably, we have a perfect storm for smog this week with strong sunshine, very low wind speeds, easterly winds and the prospect of severe traffic congestion as the Olympic lanes begin operating from Wednesday.”
Gary Fuller, an air quality expert at King’s College London explained to the Guardian “Athletes are thought to be especially vulnerable to the effects of ground level ozone and other air pollutants because they are breathing in very high volumes of air… [i]t’s something that might affect their performance on the day.”
Indeed, in the lead up to the Olympics London City officials have been concerned about pollution levels in the British capital—one of the most polluted cities in Europe. Mayor Boris Johnson, in a rather implausibly absurd move was accused of attempting to manipulate pollution readings earlier this year. Clean Air London believe that Johnson suggested municipal trucks spray saline solution over some of the city’s busier streets to dampen dust particles in the air.
But as the games approach, the last few months saw increased concerns that Olympic athletes could be impacted by high smog levels, but only if there were an unseasonably long stretch of warm, sunny weather. What appears likely under current conditions, according to the Guardian, is a dense, unpleasant smog over the opening ceremonies, followed by rain and a temperature drop that will improve conditions in the next week.
Via The Guardian