Will we find out later that the black masks were some kind of political statement that these American athletes wanted to make? Were they really just concerned about the pollution?
US cyclists arrived in Beijing yesterday and many of them were wearing the above, almost Hannibal Lectoresque masks to "protect" themselves from the pollution. It should be noted, of course, that the picture was taken INSIDE and, at last check, there is no smog in the Beijing Airport, indeed the air is very clean.
Air quality isn't exactly great today and continues to be the top story in all the Western media, as it will be unless things get better fast. There is still hope, but the Opening Ceremony is now little more than 48 hours away and the first events (women's soccer) are about to kick off in less than an hour. However, these athletes were INSIDE a building, only to be quickly whisked onto a bus and then driven to the Olympic Village, surely they would spend a combined total of less than 15 minutes outside.
So why the masks? It's just a slap in the face of the host country and totally needless. Yes, the air looks bad, but its hardly harmful and there's absolutely no need for these cyclists to be wearing masks. Then again, maybe you believe the IOC's medical chief who claims that the air is misty, not polluted (the Chinese government should hire this guy to do their international PR immediately), but I don't. I cycle in Beijing on a daily basis and I've never worn a mask, it's just not necessary.
Unless, of course, the masks were meant as a political statement attacking the Chinese government. I could believe this, the masks were black and they were covering their mouths, but why not make mention of this. If they wait until after the Games when they are back in the US to tell us the meaning of their "protest", will anybody care at that point?
It's simply embarrassing, let's hope no other Americans do something this stupid.
The US cyclists have (rightly) apologized publicly.