Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing is such a “mixture of disgusting weather and air pollution” that two Olympic middle-distance champions from Athens 2004 have announced their intention to ditch certain competitions.
Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, gold medallist in the men's 10,000 metres and silver medallist in the 5,000 metres in Athens in 2004, winner in the 10,000 metres in last month's world championships in Osaka, said he plans to compete in only one event at the Beijing games next summer.
“"This time around, I will only race in one discipline,” said the 25-year-old world record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres after competing in the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix meeting on Friday.
Compatriot Meseret Defar, Athens women's 5,000 metres champion, said she considered a double entry in Beijing, 5,000 and 10,000 metre races, but decided in the end to “stick to the 5,000 metres,” adding that she “will also have to change [. . . her] exercise regime and routines radically to better prepare for the tough situation we can expect in Beijing.”
The possible effects of Beijing's heavy air pollution, coupled with oppressive summer heat, have caused widespread concern in the international sports community. Endurance athletes stand to be among the most affected by the conditions.
International Olympics Committee president Jacques Rogge has gone so far as to suggest rescheduling disciplines in this category in the event of the situation proving unbearable.
Experts are divided over how best to prepare competitors for the conditions. Some call for a longer stay in Beijing ahead of the games to let athletes gradually settle in and become accustomed to the environment, while others favour a minimal-exposure approach, keeping athletes away from the hazards until immediately before competition.
Both Defar and Bekele apparently are proponents of the latter approach.
In the meantime Special Olympics for the Mentally Disabled opened today in Shanghai.
In China there are about 13 million mentally disabled people, who do not easily fit in a highly competitive society. Many parents end up giving up their disabled children in quest for the one perfect child.
Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday morning visited an educational facility for the mentally disabled where he said that society as a whole must pay more attention to the physical and mentally disabled.