LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) – London‘s poor air quality could
cause problems for Olympic athletes trying to break world
records if a summer heat wave continues, British scientists said
on Thursday as levels of pollution hit their highest levels
The London Olympics has struggled with an array of teething
problems in the run up to the Games, from security and transport
concerns to the threat of union strikes. At one stage, even
chilly wet weather looked like it might spoil the show.
But on the eve of the Games, temperatures and levels of
ozone pollution have soared, breaking a World Health
Organisation guideline and potentially causing breathing
difficulties for athletes, King’s College University researchers
” won’t be able to get enough oxygen in the body
to perform at the highest level. What that means is they
probably won’t be breaking any records under these conditions,”
Professor Frank Kelly, Director of King’s College London’s
Environmental Research Group, told Reuters.
“They’re not ideal for athletics and certainly not for long
distance events,” he added.
The British government issued an air quality warning for
ozone levels on Wednesday after ozone concentration in parts of
southern England reached over 190 micrograms per cubic metre.
The World Health Organisation guideline is 100.
Athletes are thought to be especially vulnerable because
they breathe in lots of air very quickly over many hours, said
Dr Gary Fuller, a senior lecturer in air quality measurement at
Even non-Olympians may notice the pollution levels.
“Probably about 20 percent of the healthy population will
feel some tightening of the chest as they go about daily normal
activities,” said Kelly.
“If people are involved in any sort of exercise, they’re
probably going to feel even more effects.”
Government officials said most people were not affected by
short term peaks in ozone but those with existing heart or lung
conditions may experience increased symptoms.
The increase in ozone levels was caused by searing
temperatures heating up traffic and industrial pollutants and
the hot air re-circulating slowly across densely populated south
east England and western Europe.
A cooler front is expected to arrive in Britain in time for
the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on Friday.
(Reporting By Sophie Kirby; editing by Toby Davis)