2008 Hong Kong Olympics….err Beijing Olympics?

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Okay, so I felt pretty dumb for constantly being corrected about where the Olympics were being held. It has been in my mind the 2008 Olympics were being held in Hong Kong. Much to my surprise, they are in fact officially being held in Beijing.

I received a link to the new controversy surrounding the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, coined “Olympic Haze”. On June 23rd, 2008, ESPN published a story about the Olympic Haze of Beijing and the horrible air quality of the city. Interestingly, I found that although the games are being held August 8th, suddenly a little over a month BEFORE the Olympics there is concern about the air quality and its effects on the athletes.

Hmmmm. Isn’t that something that would have been considered, well, before they chose a city? American human athletes are going to be given special masks to help with the detrimental effects the pollution in Beijing has on their lungs. I’m unsure if these masks are to be worn during competition or just prior to the athletes’ event, but suddenly athletes are voicing their concerns and previous experience competing in the icky Beijing air.

After being corrected on numerous occasions that the 2008 Olympics were in Beijing and NOT Hong Kong, my first thought was “I wouldn’t send my horse into that smog, and I can’t imagine any other rider would either.”

And here we have it; the equestrian events ARE being held in Hong Kong where there is less pollution. The FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale), the BOCOG (Beijing Committee for the Olympic Games), and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) worked together to come to the decision to hold the equestrian events in Hong Kong rather than Beijing.

Why?

Well, concerns of infectious disease contraction from the China horse population initiated the planning. But in 2005, the Hong Kong location was already in the works with disease being a concern, Beijing pollution woes up for consideration, and the proximity to the Hong Kong airport suggested easier equine transportation. Funny how the FEI was on top of the horses’ abilities to withstand the climate (including the air quality) for the 2008 Olympics, but apparently no one considered the human athletes ability to withstand smog.

Well, at least I realized WHY I would think the Olympics were in Hong Kong; the equestrian events are the only part of the Olympics that I have any interest in. Not really knowing why the Olympics were being held in two different cities, I just assumed the equestrian events were the lowest interest so who cared if they are in the same city.

Too wrong!

It’s almost hard to feel bad for the human athletes only because if the equestrian venues had taken air pollution into consideration AND made arrangements, why then didn’t the IOC take human athletes health into consideration? Is it because human athletes aren’t worth money? I’m sure each of the Olympic horses has a big price tag of liability attached!

I’m happy to hear these provisions were made, with a first ever Olympic air-conditioned training arena. I bet that would have been nice for the 1996 Hotlanta Olympic Games.

While I’m sure it will be sad to see, as American athletes have experienced in Beijing in the past, vomiting during competition, and dropping out due to exhaustion, I am happy to hear the equestrian athletes (both horse and human) will be in a better environment to compete healthily and comfortably.

Thank you FEI for your forethought. Sorry humans!