Four U.S. Olympic cyclists had to apologize to Chinese officials after wearing smog masks when they arrived in Bejing at the airport. I can see these masks as toeing the line between what athletes should be doing in Bejing, and what they shouldn’t be doing. Now, wearing masks, especially for aerobically inclined athletes, in a city that can often look like this, is understandable.
However, gratuitously wearing them at the airports, or other areas where they may not be necessary, can be viewed as a subtle political statement about the backwardness of the host nation (their inability to regulate pollution or even a response to China’s insistence on controlling the image of Beijing). Any thoughts?