In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games showcased the healthiest, strongest, most athletically adept individuals competing for their city-state in honor of Zeus. Today, that tradition is kept alive at the 2012 Olympic games in London. However, today’s athletes have one major obstacle in their way as they go for gold that the Greeks didn’t: air pollution.
On the eve of the Olympic Games, temperatures and levels of ozone pollution are at an all-time high in London. This is likely a direct result of the high summer temperatures heating up traffic and industrial pollutants, as well as the hot air re-circulating slowly across densely populated southeast England and western Europe. As a result, ozone concentration in parts of southern England spiked so high that they broke The World Health Organization guideline of 100, reaching over 190 micrograms per cubic meter and forcing the British government to issue an air quality warning. While most Londoners and tourists won’t be affected, those with heart and lung problems may experience increased symptoms and should take precautions. What does this mean for our modern day Apollos and Athenas?
According to King’s College University researchers, if temperatures remain high and air quality remains poor throughout the games, the hazardous air pollution can potentially cause breathing difficulties for some outdoor athletes. The research suggests that these athletes may not be able to get enough oxygen in the body to perform at the highest level, making it increasingly difficult for them to break any world records in these conditions. This is especially true for long distance runners, as they are made especially vulnerable by breathing in lots of air very quickly over many hours. Though we can only hope for cooler temperatures to alleviate the air quality for these athletes during the games, air pollution is a serious worldwide issue.
While this news about air quality is both alarming and disappointing, the Olympic Games provide a world stage for all countries to take note of the problem. Dangerous air pollution is a global crisis that needs a global solution.