Posted by: Joe English | March 22, 2008

Racing: Kenya says air quality not a problem in Beijing; will field a team for the Olympics

NAIROBI, March 21 (Xinhua) — Kenya will send a team to participate in the marathon competition of the Beijing Olympic Games, said the head of the Kenya National Olympic Committee following a statement from the Ethipoian world marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie that he intends to opt out of the marathon in Beijing.

“It is an individual decision up to himself (Gebrselassie). We will send Kenyan runners for the marathon competition of the Beijing Olympics. It will have no problem,” said Dr Kipchoge Keino, IOC member and also Chairman of Kenya National Olympic Committee, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Thursday.

Gebrselassie, who won two Olympic gold medals in 10,000 meters in Atlanta and Athens, told western media on March 10 that he will not compete in the Beijing Olympic marathon because the city’s air pollution may damage his health. But the Ethiopian runner said he would still take part in the 10,000 meters of the global sports fiesta.

“I have gone to Beijing several times and never experienced anything. We wish the weather condition will be good during the Games and I am sure the Chinese government and people will make all the possible efforts to make the Olympics a success, including the air quality,” said the former Olympic gold medalist.

An analysis of Bejing’s air quality indicates that the health of the vast majority of athletes competing in the summer Olympic Games will not be impaired, said the IOC on Monday after studying a set of air quality data taken by the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau in August 2007.

As a former world-class runner, Keino understood well the desire of athletes. “Athletes have prepared for the Olympics for four years and they are looking forward to participating into the Games,” he said.

The chairman has said Kenya has nearly 50 to 60 athletes who have been qualified to attend the Olympics. They have been training hard in the past four years, aiming at better performance in Beijing.

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